By Karen Billing
A new kind of hair salon has blown into Del Mar Highlands Town Center. Open since June 15, the new Drybar does no color, no cuts, just blowouts for a flat rate of $35, wash included, something owner Alli Webb calls “affordable luxury.”
The success of the Drybar concept has been head spinning for the Los Angeles-based Webb. In a little over a year since opening the first shop, she now has nine locations in four states with franchise offers pouring in. Coming to San Diego was a no-brainer, Webb said, and Carmel Valley seemed like a perfect fit.
“I’m really grateful, the whole experience has been very humbling. We’ve just grown by leaps and bounds and I didn’t see any of it coming,” Webb said. “It’s truly been a whirlwind, I feel lucky, blessed, overwhelmed, ecstatic, you name it,”
A hairstylist for more than 15 years, Webb had also worked in fashion and PR before becoming a stay-at-home mom to her two sons. Craving a change and some adult conversation, she started her own business called Straight-at-Home in 2008, making blowout house calls.
“Accidentally, the business took off,” Webb said.
She got so busy running all over town that she decided it might make more sense to open up a shop, just offering blowouts. With help from her brother Michael Landan and husband Cameron, she opened the first Drybar in Brentwood in February 2010.
A full waiting list meant a need for more locations. In six months she opened her second Drybar in Studio City, followed by West Hollywood; Pacific Palisades; Newport Beach; San Francisco; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Dallas, a New York City location under construction; and San Diego.
“I wish I could clone myself,” said Webb of wanting to be at all locations all the time. “We are on target to open 15 stores by the end of the year and continue to roll them out.”
Drybar’s concept came out of a kind of necessity. Webb has a naturally curly head of hair and ever since she was a little girl her mother blew it straight for her.
“At a very early age I developed an obsession with getting my hair blown out and straight,” Webb said.
She thought for sure that Drybar would appeal mostly to women wanting to tame their curls but she soon discovered that every woman wants what their hair doesn’t do, women with straight hair want curls, and women with flat hair want volume. As such, her target demographic became “women with hair.”
The look of Drybar is ultra-modern and chic, feminine but not too girly. The interiors are crisp and cleanly white with splashes of happy yellow. The décor carries all the way into the bathroom—Webb didn’t want it to be an “afterthought,” it is decorated with beautiful textured wallpaper and vintage photos.
Blowout styles are ordered like drinks at the bar: The Straight Up, their signature blowout; The Mai Tai, messy and beachy; Southern Comfort, big hair with lots of volume; Cosmopolitan, loose curls; or the Manhattan, sleek and smooth. For girls under 10, there’s also the Shirley Temple, sweet curls for $24.
Up-dos can be done for an additional cost and clients can also add on a Floater, a 10-minute scalp massage during the shampoo.
Women sit at the bar for their blowouts and unlike the average salon, there are no mirrors in front of stylist chairs. The unusual set-up is a nod to Webb’s mobile business, where she’d often be doing hair in someone’s kitchen and when finished the woman would run to check out how their hair had turned out. She could hear them gasp and marvel when they saw their look for the first time and wanted a way to recreate that moment: “The big reveal” as she calls it.
“Not being in front of a mirror, it becomes more of a social experience. The client doesn’t have the pressure of staring at themselves in the mirror,” Webb said.
Complimentary coffee, tea, spa water, wine or champagne is served and women can “zone out,” watching a guilty pleasure chick flick on the flat screen or quite literally recharge — there are iPhone docking stations that have been built into the bar for clients to charge up their phones or listen to music.
“It really makes women more confident, that’s the interesting and amazing part of the whole thing,” said Webb, noting that she watches women come in with their hair pulled up in a messy bun or tucked under a hat and then leave with fabulous hair and a certain strut. “You almost don’t recognize them when they walk out…We sell happiness and confidence, it’s not just a blowout.”
Drybar offers monthly memberships and Bartabs, a package of blowouts with savings. The store is open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m., seven days a week, and appointments can be easily booked online at
- For more information call 1-877-DRYBAR-9.
The Del Mar Highlands Town Center is at 12925 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA 92130.