Jennifer Von Doehren never planned to work in the beauty industry, let alone take over operation of her father’s cosmetology school, Glen Dow Academy. That was a task her brother, Martin Dow, gladly took on.
But when her brother died in 2016, her 88-year-old father was not capable of handling the estate, “so I was given the task,” Von Doehren said.
Now, eight years and six potential buyers later, Glen Dow Academy will close its doors for good.
Von Doehren’s father, Glen Dow, opened Glen Dow Academy with his wife, Betty, in 1969 when they decided the stylists at their two salons needed more education. Glen Dow retired in 2007 and sold the school to his son.
In its 55 years of operation, “thousands and thousands of students have graduated through our school,” Von Doehren said.
Von Doehren took on the business after a 40-year career as a middle and high school teacher. She had never worked in the industry.
“So this was a whole new endeavor that I took over,” she said.
Von Doehren eventually looked to sell Glen Dow Academy. The process wasn’t easy.
“It took a couple of years to get the dust to settle, and then we proceeded down the path of ‘How do you sell a technical school?’ There’s not a map out there.”
Von Doehren had a buyer as recent as mid-January, but the deal didn’t work out.
“The requirements for someone to get an accredited trade school are large. The accreditation process for a new buyer … those hurdles are pretty daunting today,” she said.
More than being unable to secure a buyer, Von Doehren said a variety of factors led to the decision to close.
Requirements for accreditation, like graduation rate and job placement quotas, are tough, Von Doehren said, and though they’ve been meeting standards every year, “it’s just gotten more and more difficult.”
Extended closures during the COVID-19 pandemic followed by lasting restrictions did“a real number on the beauty business,” Von Doehren said.
“And so it’s taken us a while to bounce back, and enrollments are down,” she said.
“It’s a perfect storm out there, and it just got more and more difficult as I progressed that I just can’t balance everything,” she said. “At my age, I’m 71 years old, I wanted to enjoy these years.”
Still, Von Doehren said closing Glen Dow Academy has been “very emotional” for her.
“I can’t tell somebody, ‘We’re closing up your school’ without feeling emotion. You can’t tell a staff member ‘I’m sorry, your job is going to have to go away’ without feeling emotional,” she said.
Amie McGuire-McCall, a 2010 Glen Dow graduate, was surprised when she found out the school was closing.
McGuire-McCall said her time at the school “absolutely” prepared her for a career in the beauty industry.
“I have amazing memories, and I had a great education and made amazing friendships and learned really important life lessons,” she said.
Glen Dow Academy’s Facebook post announcing its closure had over two hundred comments. Many were from former students expressing their sadness about the news and their gratitude for the education they received at the school.
Von Doehren shared some comments with her father, now 94.
“He cried. He just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “He’s very emotional about all these stories, and it just really warms his heart.”
Glen Dow Academy will be fully closed March 8. The school is no longer offering services to customers and will graduate its last group of students in February. All remaining students will be able to transfer to Studio Beauty School in Spokane Valley, which has waived its transfer fee for Glen Dow students.
The property, 309 W. Riverside Ave. in downtown Spokane, is owned by Glen Dow and will be put up for sale, Von Doehren said.