As a salon owner decades ago, Glen Dow noticed his employees required more education than what was being provided by beauty schools.
That prompted him to open the Glen Dow Academy in 1969. He designed his own lesson plans and established high standards through instruction with a focus on customer service.
“The cosmetology business is definitely 100% a personal service business,” Dow said. “You have to be able to work with people, whether they are students or customers, with a desire to make them happy and satisfy what they are there for.”
Those principles still stand today at the Glen Dow Academy, the oldest accredited beauty school in the state. The school celebrates its 50th anniversary this month with an open house event July 22-26 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
A team effort between instructors, staff and students has ensured the beauty school’s longevity, said Jennifer Von Doehren, Dow’s daughter and CEO of Glen Dow Academy.
“The student is our client, and we are really passionate about vocational education,” she said. “We are helping people make a career choice and enabling them to be successful in the future.”
From airman to beauty school founder
Dow, an Ohio native, joined the Air Force after high school. He was assigned to Fairchild Air Force Base and moved to Spokane in 1948. He served as a clerk on the base for more than four years, according to a 1968 Spokane Daily Chronicle article.
Dow married Betty Archambault in 1952, and once he was discharged from the military, the couple moved back to Ohio, where he earned a master barber’s license from Riggs LaMar Institute in Akron.
When the couple returned to Spokane in the mid-1950s, Dow realized barbering wouldn’t support his family and enrolled in the Morris School of Beauty. After graduating in 1956, Dow worked as a stylist at the Bon Marché and the Crescent department stores before opening Glen’s Salon near downtown Spokane. He also established a second salon on Spokane’s North Side.
When the building at 317 W. Riverside Ave. was advertised for sale, Dow purchased it and opened Glen Dow Academy.
Dow subsequently purchased an adjacent property at 309 W. Riverside Ave. in 1984 from the Sons of Norway and moved the cosmetology school to the F.C. Robertson and Raznik buildings, which are now more than a century old and listed on the state and national historic registers.
The 20,000-square-foot beauty school spans three floors with a waiting room, clinics, six classrooms, waxing, facial, nail and pedicure rooms, a library, auditorium and offices.
“We remodeled and invested in that building and have been there ever since,” Dow said.
Dow retired in 2007 and sold the beauty school to his son Martin, who operated it until his death in 2016. It is now owned by Martin’s children and operated by Von Doehren.
Dow said it’s rewarding to have dependable staff overseeing Glen Dow Academy.
“When my son was alive, he did a wonderful job with management of the school,” he said, adding he’s thankful for the assistance from many former students who are now instructors. “I’m very lucky to have them.”
Evolving with trends
Glen Dow Academy has more than 100 students currently enrolled in cosmetology, esthetics, master esthetics, manicuring and licensed educator courses. More than 10,000 stylists have graduated from the cosmetology school since it opened 50 years ago.
In the 1970s, curriculum focused on haircuts and perms, said Pamela Burwell Craig, a graduate and former director of Glen Dow Academy.
“Everybody wanted a feathered haircut and a wash-and-wear perm,” she said.
By the mid-1980s and 1990s, customers gravitated toward more hair color. Glen Dow Academy was the first school in Spokane to teach foil hair coloring, Burwell Craig said.
Dow regularly sent all of his instructors to hair shows in Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas and New York City to stay up to date on industry trends, she added.
“If you aren’t on top of what the latest thing is and ahead of what’s popular right now, then you are going to find yourself out of business real quick,” Burwell Craig said. “You have to innovate in our industry or you are behind.”
Glen Dow students also take courses in business management, fiscal responsibility and retail product knowledge.
“We teach students the skills that we know would make them successful if they run their own business,” Von Doehren said.
Becoming a “day maker”
Glen Dow Academy provides salon services for more than 100 clients daily, some of which are repeat customers.
Betty Long, 89, has been going to Glen Dow Academy’s salon once a week for close to 20 years.
“It’s because they do such good work,” she said. “They did wonders for me.”
Burwell Craig said the beauty industry is amazing because stylists become a “day maker” for their clients, who often visit a salon to uplift their mood or for self-care.
“Even in tough economic times, like in 2008, our business boomed,” she said. “People buy lipstick, buy perfume and get their hair done, even in the worst economic times, because it makes them feel good and smell good.”
She added that Glen Dow Academy saw an uptick in enrollment during the Great Recession.
“People want to learn a trade they have control over,” she said. “Somebody can’t downsize you. You have your skills in your hand and you can go anywhere.”
Employment of barbers, hairstylists and cosmetologists is projected to increase 13% by 2026. More than 10,600 barbers and stylists work in Washington state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A couple of years ago, interest waned in cosmetology jobs as more students gravitated toward esthetics, which involves cosmetic skin-care treatments such as waxing, makeup, facials and eyelash extensions. But now, enrollment in the cosmetology program is again picking up. A recent job fair at Glen Dow Academy drew more than 17 salons looking for hairstylists, Burwell Craig said.
Burwell Craig said the most rewarding aspect of being an instructor is providing students with job skills.
“You will have students that come in and don’t have the job skills they need. They don’t have the creative skills they need for a career, and then they graduate with those skills and go on to buy cars, buy homes and educate their children,” she said. “It’s not just about seeing them graduate, but to go on and become successful.”
The future of Glen Dow
Burwell Craig said people may have the perception that the beauty industry is superficial, but that’s not the case.
“This isn’t the look-good industry, it’s the feel-good industry,” she said. “People who are successful in this business long term are people who deeply care about other people.”
Von Doehren said her father would find it rewarding that students are still able to learn a trade that could lead them to become a business owner or be successful with making people feel good about themselves.
“I think it’s been a wonderful run, and businesses around us have been very supportive and helpful,” she said, referring to Glen Dow Academy’s longstanding presence in Spokane. “It’s been a really good 50 years, and we look forward to another 50 years.”
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