Some folks still think Beauty Shop restaurant is a beauty salon.
"People call and ask if they can get an appointment," says owner/chef Karen Carrier. "I say, 'Do you want a reservation?' And they go, 'No. An appointment.' And I go, 'No, this isn't a beauty shop.' We should start calling our reservations 'appointments.'"
Beauty Shop (with its slogan "Look Good/Eat Good") at 966 Cooper will celebrate its 15th anniversary July 14th and 15th. For those two days, the dinner menu will be the same as the one when the restaurant opened in 2002. The Wild Magnolias from New Orleans will perform at 9:45 p.m. July 15th, following a second line from Beauty Shop down Cooper and back.
Carrier, who also owns Mollie Fontaine Lounge, Bar DKDC, and Another Roadside Attraction caterers, didn't have a beauty shop theme in mind when she began looking for a space for a new restaurant. At the time, she owned Automatic Slim's (which she sold in 2008) downtown and Cielo (which later became Mollie Fontaine) in Victorian Village. "I wanted to be in a neighborhood," she says. "I wanted to get out of the touristy part of downtown. I'd done it for so long."
And she says, "I get bored every six to seven years and re-invent myself."
- Karen Carrier’s Beauty Shop is celebrating 15 years in business.
While looking at another spot in Cooper-Young, Carrier discovered a "For Rent" sign on the space that once was the old Atkins Beauty and Barber Shop.
She "flipped out" when she walked inside and saw the big cone-shaped hair dryers, the mirrors, and the avocado green sinks in the old hair-styling areas that were separated from each other by glass bricks. "Everything was here," she says. "And I was like, 'Oh, my God.'"
Carrier went back to her phone and called the owner. "Her father had started Atkins Beauty Salon back in 1942."
Carrier put down $1,000 as earnest money. "And that was it."
She knew she could make a restaurant out of a beauty shop. "I can just walk into a place and have this weird feel if it will work or not."
She visualized how it would look. Booths would be installed in the hair-styling areas. The green sinks would be moved behind the bar. "I saw the hair dryers becoming chairs where you can sit."
Carrier removed the old drop ceiling to add more height. She had a double kitchen built. "Up front, we took that wall out and opened the whole bar up. I hung the curtains."
Sculptor Wayne Edge made the bar and the wormwood tables. "He built a banquette, and I covered it with an old Turkish rug."
She also rented the space next to the old beauty salon. "We had the 'Beauty Shop General Store.' We sold old Vespas. We sold refurbished bikes. We sold Dinstuhl's chocolates. All kinds of cheeses. We sold prepared foods to-go from Roadside. We sold men's and women's Giraudon shoes from Italy, my favorite shoe shop in New York."
Food at Beauty Shop was Americana Caribbean. "I love that spice, but not that heat. I like that flavor. The big, bold flavors. It's very much influenced by that sun-drenched cuisine: Mexico, Jamaica, Israel, Louisiana."
In keeping with the 1960s theme, Beauty Shop servers wore beehive wigs. "My friend, who was doing hair in the '60s, had a place down on Perkins. So, she created 10 beehives in 10 different colors. The servers got to pick them and put them on their heads. It was hilarious."
Beauty Shop's opening night was a hit. "This place went nuts. It was just mobbed from the time we opened at lunch through the end of the night."
Servers in beehives prepared guacamole tableside, Carrier says.
"Everybody wanted to sit in the booths. They wanted to sit under the dryers. I said, 'Don't pull it down!' 'Cause we had rigged lights in them so they would light up pink."
Over the years, customers from Atkins Beauty and Barber Shop dined at Beauty Shop restaurant. "Do you know how many people have come in here and said, 'I used to have my hair done here back in the '50s'?"
Priscilla Presley was one of them. "She'd come here to get her beehive, her big hairdos, done at Atkins in the first booth. She came in one day, and she goes, 'You know, that's the booth where I used to get my hair done.'"
Changes have taken place over the years. Beauty Shop General Store closed and became Do Sushi. It's now Bar DKDC (Don't Know Don't Care), a restaurant/bar/music venue featuring street food from around the world.
Menu items changed at Beauty Shop, but customers celebrating the restaurant's anniversary can dine on original menu items, including Ying/Yang Carpaccio of Red and White Tuna, Tuna Pizzette, Bangkok Salad, and Crispy Salt and Szechuan Pepper Scrimps.
Servers stopped wearing beehives years ago. "The waitresses started bitching, 'This is hot.'"
But they'll wear beehives during the anniversary weekend, Carrier says.
And maybe longer. "I don't know. That might stick. We might not let that go again."
Beauty Shop 15th Anniversary, July 14th-15th