When I first sat down with the wife/husband team of Jennifer and Shawn Smith, to discuss their sensational new salon on Delaware Avenue, I was not aware of how the art of hair styling has now come full circle in Buffalo.
Do you recall women’s hair styles from the 50s and 60s? That was a time when the art of “hair dressing” was considered a fashionable way of life for many women who wouldn’t think of leaving the house without a coiffed pompadour, pixie, or bouffant. And fashion attitudes matched the hairstyles – it was a time when Jackie Kennedy was rocking her broaches, belted cocktail dresses, cloches, and iconic oversized glasses.
According to the Smiths, of SMITH + CO HAIRDRESSING, the lost art of hair styling is now making a comeback. In fact, the couple recently closed their salon in Williamsville, the town where they have been cutting and styling hair for decades, to take advantage of a brilliant, and recently freed up, space at 441 Delaware Avenue.
Shawn calls his return to the city “our forever move”. Incredibly, as they were knocking down walls of the former frame shop (Avenue Frame) to build out their dream space, they discovered a couple of perfectly preserved retail bags from Richard’s Salon, which, it turned out, was considered one of the most in-vogue hairdressers in Buffalo back in the day. Yes, you heard me right – hairdressers. If you think that the term sounds dated, it’s because, well, it is. “Nobody has used that term for years, but SMITH + CO is proudly bringing it back,” said Shawn.
“It was once a big deal to get your hair done in downtown Buffalo,” Shawn explained. “We wanted to bring that same sort of sentiment back. Hair has gotten lazy over the years. But now we’re seeing that young professionals want to be more sophisticated. At the same time, we’re seeing some of the wildest coloring with ladies in their 60’s. People are no longer simply blending in – the lost art of hairdressing is making a comeback.”
As Shawn was talking of the return of fashionable looks, Jen pointed out that it’s just as important that clients are able to sustain the hairdos. “It’s important that clients walk out looking perfect, but they must be able to replicate that same look day after day. We hold all of our stylists accountable – each one of our stylists is trained in every department, which means that they have close relationships with their clients. We are also able to tell clients ‘no’ if we feel that what they want will damage their hair – having healthy hair is just as important as having great looking hair.”
SMITH + CO’s move into Schneider Development’s art deco building presented an opportunity to expand into a salonfront that is three times the size of their last digs. “Jen designed the space in about ten minutes,” noted Shawn, who acknowledged that she had full control over the look and feel of the salon. “We have 8 stations, six stylists, and one assistant. One of the reasons that we decided to move downtown (midtown) is that a lot of our clients were already coming from the city. This location is centrally located for us. We also felt that for those living in the suburbs, coming into the city should be an experience, like it once was.”
For Jen, decorating the salon was a no brainer – the space spoke to her immediately. She decided to play off the art deco design of the building, as we can readily see with the dramatic wallpaper and the lighting. “We wanted something that was ’boutiquey’ – something that represents the direction that Buffalo is going,” said Shawn. “It feels like a dream driving into the city every day… the buildings are architecturally significant – we wanted to play off that… be a part of that. Our decision to invest into the city was a calculated move – there’s something magical going on these days, and we felt that it was time to be a part of the excitement. We are dedicating everything that we can to the growth of Buffalo.”
At SMITH + CO, the stylists specialize in hair, but they will be introducing facial waxing in the near future. Not only is their new space ADA compliant, they strive to be as green as possible, from recycling to collecting and donating all of the hair to a company that uses it to clean up oil spills in the oceans.
Jen and Shawn told me that in 2020 it’s all about education and training. They will be hosting seminars by world renowned stylists, which will be open to other practitioners in the area. “We love the camaraderie of this business. We met at Capello’s years ago, and we’ve both been cutting hair as long as we can remember. The salon business is our life,” said Jen and Shawn.
Now, the couple is embarking upon the next chapter of their careers, in a salon space that is absolutely dynamite. Impressively, they have managed to create a type of salon culture that pays respects to their industry predecessors from the 50s and 60s – when a trip to the hairdresser was considered a fabulous outing, and not just a mere routine.
SMITH + CO | A full-service concierge salon located at 441 Delaware Avenue | Buffalo, New York 14202 | (716) 276-3380 | Women’s and men’s hair | Everything from the neck up, including haircuts, color, highlighting, styling, curls and waves, conditioning treatments, and facial waxing coming soon.