Style and substance are both on the blow-dry menu at Bex salon.
The menu, which officially launches on Tuesday at the Stockade salon, brings together the past and the present to honor women who have made a difference locally.
Names like Jeanne Robert Foster, Deborah Glen-Sanders and Elizabeth Van Rensselaer Gillette, all famous women in Schenectady history, speckle the menu, while modern-day women, like Becky Daniels and Abby Rockmacher model the blowout styles.
It’s the first of its type in the Electric City, featuring a variety of signature blowouts (or hairstyles created using a blow-dryer and a round brush) along with short bios of historical women from Schenectady.
Bex Cleary, the owner of the salon, was partially inspired by Drybar, a California-based franchise that offers blowouts with cocktail-inspired names.
“I’ve always been obsessed with their business model,” Cleary said.
However, she knew she wanted to have a menu that reflected her location; which is a sweeping brownstone built in 1898 and first owned by a woman.
“[I thought] ‘There’s got to be women in Schenectady’s history that we can feature and have it be a mini-history lesson,’” Cleary said.
When she began the research in March, she called on the Schenectady County Historical Society and on Bill Buell, the Schenectady County Historian, and longtime Gazette reporter, for assistance. Buell helped to gather stories from some famous women who lived in the Stockade that many might not know about, like Katharine Burr Blodgett, the first woman to earn her Ph.D. in physics from Cambridge University.
Even with assistance, researching women from the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s was difficult.
“The biggest thing with this menu was that women just weren’t written about; they weren’t talked about. So it was challenging to find women that were influential back in [that] era,” Cleary said.
However, she was able to find some stunning stories and find almost all of the women’s portraits. Cleary then created blowout styles based off of their stories and portraits.
Some feature loose curls or beachy waves, while styles like “The Elizabeth” feature a signature updo. To model the modern-day looks, Cleary brought in a few women who are making an impact in the Electric City today, like Becky Daniels, the executive director of Discover Schenectady and Michelle Pollard, owner of Studio 4 on Lafayette Street.
“I think it’s fun and I think it’s really exciting to band women together and lift each other up as female business owners. There [are] quite a few female entrepreneurs in Schenectady,” Cleary said.
The menu offers a lesson in history and contemporary style, and that style should last for several days. According to Cleary, a blowout can last a week if it’s maintained.
“If you want your blow-dry to last a little bit longer, redry your hair around the hairline,” Cleary said. She also recommends using a quality dry shampoo.
The blow-dry menu debuts on Tuesday. Each style includes a shampoo and costs $45 (except for “The Elizabeth” which is $85). Depending on the style, it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. There will be a launch party from 4 - 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Bex salon with food from The Dilly Bean and Puzzles Bakery & Cafe. There will also be photographs from Niskayuna artist Becca Piascik on display.
Here’s a glimpse at some of the women featured on the menu:
Katharine Burr Blodgett: Born on N. Ferry Street in 1898, Blodgett was the first woman to receive her doctorate degree in physics from the University of Cambridge. Blodgett later moved back to Schenectady and worked at General Electric. She holds patents for non-reflective glass.
Julia A. J. Foote: Born in Schenectady in 1823 to former slaves, Foote was the first ordained woman deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and the second to be ordained as an elder. She also wrote an autobiography titled “A Brand Plucked from the Fire.”
Doctor Elizabeth Van Rensselaer Gillette: Born in 1874, Gillette began practicing medicine in Schenectady in 1900. She was the first woman elected to the New York State Assembly and was in office before women even had the right to vote.
Catalyntje De Vos Bradt: Born in 1628 in Holland, Bradt emigrated in 1641 and she was the only woman proprietor in the Stockade. She later lived through the Schenectady massacre in 1690.
Deborah Glen-Sanders: Born in 1721, she inherited the Glen Mansion in Scotia, which later became the Glen Sanders Mansion after she married John Sanders. She is also the great-granddaughter of Alexander Linsay Glen, who founded Scotia. Her portrait hangs in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Bex salon is located at 234 Union Street, Schenectady. For more info and to book an appointment visit beautybybex.com or visit BEX on Facebook.