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Modern, Yesterday and Today: Moxie Beauty & Hair Parlor

Moxie Beauty & Hair Parlor is more than a boutique. The salon is a personal extension of founder Stephanie Strowbridge, retro maven specializing in 1930s through 1960s styling. A magnet for pin-up models and rockabilly queens, Moxie has become a hub for vintage enthusiasts, making a name for Grand Rapids, and Strowbridge herself.
Originally located at a strip mall in Kentwood, this month Moxie Beauty & Hair Parlor boasts a new location in the Wealthy Street Business District. Couched among hip resale shops, popular coffee and beer joints, eclectic eateries and theatrical houses, Moxie has found a perfect home. “I looked around a few places and this spot came up,” says Strowbridge. “I already love Wealthy Street and this area so much that it sort of just clicked.”

More than a suitable location, Moxie is practically in the backyard of many loyal patrons. “A lot of our clientele already live and work in this area so it was actually more convenient for them as well. They are really excited. Some of them can even walk here. We’ll be able to see them more often,” says Strowbridge. “And, we’ll get a lot of new people.”
Attuned to the relatively recent transformation of Wealthy Street, Strowbridge sees the relocation of Moxie not only as an opportunity to grow as a business, but to connect to others. “It’s really neat in this area, it’s so well utilized. People [are] walking, riding their bikes, [and there is] heavy car traffic. I already know a few of the business owners. I’m really looking forward to the community feel,” says Strowbridge.

While Moxie has always featured a distinct retro feel, from the vintage furniture to the oldies tunes playing on the radio, the larger space will allow Strowbridge to kick it up a notch and expand on services already offered. “There’s a spot there where we’re going to create a color bar. It’s going to look like a vintage mini bar where we create our [hair] color cocktails for our clients…and you’ll be able to see us mixing it,” she says. Other additions include a spacious waiting area, fashioned to be reminiscent of a retro living room, complete with a vintage television playing old movies. And, a new reception desk is on order to match a custom product display crafted by Strowbridge’s father who owns an auto body shop. He uses scrap metal and other old car parts in his unique and stylish furniture creations. “It’s really cool and I of course really appreciate it,” she says. New additions also include bona-fide vintage dryer chairs, situated near the shampoos bowls. Three styling stations are in place, but currently Strowbridge is working with just one other beautician, Molly McLemore. “I’m actually seeking one to two more stylists for the move,” says Strowbridge.
Beyond revamping the style of the salon, other improvements include additional space for events and photo sessions. “We’re going to implement…the Moxie Photo play,” she says, which will consist of monthly or semi-monthly photo sessions. Each session will feature a different theme and a rotation of photographers, all shot and styled on location at Moxie. Already, Strowbridge has worked on many photo sessions around the United States with well known photographers from the pin-up community like Roy Varga, Dynamite Dames and Autumn Luciano. Often, the photo shoot packages come with pin-up modeling lessons. “Last month we had Go-Go Amy from New York. She’s a burlesque dancer [from Pretty Things Peepshow]. She came last month to Moxie and offered her class,” says Strowbridge.

“We are also going to start doing the hair hopper parties,” says Strowbridge. “Those are for our clients and their friends. It’s a similar idea to a makeup party or a Mary Kay party, only no one will come here feeling pressured to buy something.” Salon patrons may invite up to five friends, and receive complimentary food and drink while getting lessons in hair and make-up that can be executed at home. The parties are free and invitations are provided “It’s a little extra thank you for [our clients], and fun for them to know they can have a girl’s night out,” says Strowbridge.
While Moxie Hair & Beauty Parlor will turn three later this year, Strowbridge has been a professional stylist for seven years and a vintage enthusiast for much longer. “I already had the interest and was already styling my hair kind of retro when I went to beauty school, so it was a natural progression. I went to school in Royal Oak, at David Pressley [School of Cosmetology], a private school that had been around for about 50 years.” At that time, Pressley was 99 years old and had been in the hair business since 1927, a suitable professor for a future retro queen. “He was the one who taught me how to finger wave,” says Strowbridge.
A lot of what Strowbridge does has a modern edge to it. “I combine retro and today,” she says. “Sometimes it has to be that way because of how we live our lives. A lot of what we do [at Moxie] is everyday wear, like highlights. We generally only do the retro styles for weddings or special events.” While the overall atmosphere at Moxie has a vintage feel, clients range from college professors and stay-at-home moms to artists and models. Strowbridge loves the variety. “It’s really great, we're never bored.”

Something that Strowbridge stresses is that while Moxie is the only salon in town specializing in vintage hair, she strives to make her services accessible to all. “We have a retro look, but I want to appeal to everyone. I want the experience to mean something to everyone. I don’t want someone to walk in and think ‘oh, this isn’t for me.’” And she notes that Moxie predominately uses vegan, cruelty free and organic products, including organic perms.  
Downplaying her personal achievements, like appearing in Fangoria Magazine or working on big budget movies like 30 Seconds or Less, Strowbridge truly believes in the power of the community around her. “We have a fabulous city. And there are so many local people to tie it all in. Michigan is great. I think that we have a lot to offer even though we’re not in California,” she says. “I just hope Moxie can be a part of all that.”
Moxie Beauty & Hair Parlor is located at 1144 Wealthy St. SE Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

Audria Larsen is a freelance writer, entrepreneur and professional entertainer. Her work has appeared in Rapid Growth Media, Revue Magazine and Michigan Blue Magazine. She is the founder of Audacious Hoops, Grand Rapids’ original “hula” hoop company and produces a myriad of art and entertainment ventures.


Stephanie Strowbridge is the owner and founder of Moxie Hair Salon.

Photography by ADAM BIRD
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