Tim McDowell was working in construction when he entered a Fort Worth salon for a free haircut in 1977. A class of student hair stylists was hosting a workshop and practicing on clients in exchange for free cuts and trims. McDowell, who had grown tired of doing manual labor every day, was “inspired by the fresh, positive outlook.”
He saw hair stylists around him learning the techniques of the trade, laughing with coworkers and clients and enjoying the vibrant salon. Soon after his visit, he left the construction industry to attend hair and beauty school.
A few years after completing his training and working in the industry, he purchased his first salon, but the effort “crashed and burned.”
“I didn’t have any business training, so I was just trying to learn and figure it out, making a lot of mistakes along the way,” McDowell said.
McDowell didn’t give up on his passion for the industry. Throughout the 1980s, he sold everything and spent time in Paris where he did hair and makeup for fashion photography and fashion shows. He volunteered to work for hairdresser Paul Mitchell and traveled with him across the country working hair shows in Hawaii and California.
He did makeup for the 1984 horror and comedy film “Blood Suckers from Outer Space.” He opened a second salon, but his efforts to run the business were again unsuccessful.
Just as he was about to turn 40, McDowell reconnected with a woman named Donna from beauty school. They dated briefly when he was 19 but eventually married other people. While pursuing individual careers in the hair industry they always kept in touch.
After their first marriages ended, the pair reunited and married — and together opened their dream salon in Near Southside on Magnolia Avenue. McDowell said this time, his experiences of failure helped him find the right balance of things from hiring a staff that agreed with his business philosophy to selecting the best location.
“I’d had salons that totally failed so I knew the pain of failure, so I had a plan to make this place work,” McDowell said. “I was going to have to be honest and I was going to have to have those hard conversations and stick by my guns. We basically started with the philosophy that customer service is the No. 1.”
Now more than 18 years since the salon’s opening, Magnolia Ave. Salon won the Star-Telegram Readers’ Choice poll for best hair salon in the Fort Worth area. The salon, at 1210 S. Main St., garnered more than 69,000 votes over three rounds to come out on top. Overall, more than 209,000 votes were cast for salons nominated by readers.
Magnolia Ave. Salon does color and foil work, women’s cuts, men’s grooming, styling and blowouts, eyebrow waxing and more. McDowell said the friendliness of the stylists and focus on customer service are what set his salon apart.
“Our goal from the beginning was to create a friendly environment so you hire people that are naturally friendly,” McDowell said. “You can teach people to cut hair, but you can’t teach them to be friendly.”
After nearly two decades, the salon’s success has allowed McDowell and his wife to step back for their son Richard and daughter-in-law Amy to manage the business and marketing.
“It just runs like a fine-oiled machine,” McDowell said. “It’s the culmination of all the years and all the things that we learned from crashing and burning.
“It couldn’t have worked out any better. We never dreamed,” Donna McDowell said. “This is what we dreamed of, but we never knew that our dreams were going to come true.”
Achieving their dreams and the success of the salon would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of their team of 14 stylists and employees, Donna McDowell said.
Readers’ Choice finalists
With more than 18,000 votes in the final round, Coco’s Braiding & Styling Salon in Arlington placed second in the Star-Telegram poll. Located at 1917 E. Abrams St., Coco’s does braids, styles and locks, while many other braiding hair salons only do braids.
The salon’s owner, Comfort Corder, came to the U.S. from Africa in 1997 to attend nursing school at North Lake College in Irving. She braided for friends and family back home and throughout college. When she realized she didn’t have enough money to further her education, a friend suggested she enroll in a cosmetology school program.
She received her license and began booth rentals before quickly realizing she could do more for herself. She gave a call to her sister, who was a braider in Houston, and together they opened their salon in 2005.
Over the years, her sister left and returned but Corder continued to run the business eventually with the help of her husband. After more than a decade of renting her salon’s space, she purchased the building with her husband in 2020 and now leases out a barber suite next door.
When asked what sets Coco’s apart from other salons near Fort Worth, Comfort said the salon’s quality atmosphere, protective hairstyles and the stylists’ speed and creativity in braiding. The shop employs two other stylists, with some braids taking as long as four to six hours depending on the day and the style.
“In Texas, braiders aren’t required to have a cosmetology license, so they often don’t go through any formal braiding training programs,” Corder said. “I went through a full braiding and locks program and went through training.”
More salons nominated as best in Fort Worth
These are the other 14 salons that received the most nominations in our poll.
DFW Beauty Studio
This salon is a premier location for natural hair with services including custom color, silk press, twist-outs, women’s cuts, curl defining washes, protective styles, steam treatments, extensions and more.
- Location: 2800 Yeager St., Fort Worth
- Hours: Daily, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.
- Website: dfwbeautystudio.com
- What readers said: “The quality of service here is beyond the quality I’ve received in all but one other establishment in my life. Not just in Fort Worth but worldwide. It’s a perfect mix between professionalism and style but somehow always feels like family. Love them!!”
The Salon Fort Worth is a “chic, neighborhood salon where everybody belongs and everybody knows your name.” It specializes in men’s and women’s color, cuts, extensions, styling, Balayage, Brazilian blowouts, make-up, manicures and pedicures. The Salon offers Kérastase and Shu Uemura products.
- Location: 4119 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth
- Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
- Website: thesalonftw.com
- What readers said: “The Salon is a cherished escape for a few hours from the hustle and bustle of daily life. I love the atmosphere and staff who are always friendly and laughing.”
Kimberly Permann is an independent stylist with more than 10 years experience. She offers color, cuts and styling, among other services.
- Location: 6201 Sunset Drive, Fort Worth
- Hours: Monday, Thursday, Friday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Tuesday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Website: facebook.com/kimberlypermannhair and kp-hair.square.site
- What readers said: “Great haircut every time and always a positive experience, she is so friendly and professional.”
The salon describes itself as “a new, modern hair salon experience born from a history of exceptional customer service and a passion for curating the highest quality products and talent,” and adds “we are here to reclaim the hair salon experience from the poorly manicured claws of solitude and routine.”
- Location: 1500 N. Kimball Ave., Southlake
- Hours: Monday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Website: thairapie.com
- What readers said: “Staff is cheerful and knowledgeable! Space is clean, vibrant and current! Upscale location with a down home feel!”
DumBlonde Smart Hair
- Location: 3065 Greene Ave., Fort Worth
- Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Monday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (appointment hours differ)
- Website: dumblondesmarthair.com
- What readers said: “THE place to go for hair extensions in Fort Worth.” “Wonderful people work there.”
This salon is certified in Brazilian blowouts and is complimented by readers for its service and caring staff.
- Location: 4638 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth
- Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Website: facebook.com/garbossalon
- What readers said: “Not only is my hairstyle awesome every time, but everyone there makes you feel special. Won’t go anywhere else.”
A full-service beauty bar that offers services in hair color, Balayage, cuts, Brazilian blowouts, extensions, lashes, lash lifts, microblading and makeup.
- Location: 5230 Denton Highway, Haltom City
- Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Website: vagaro.com/us04/ksbeauty
- What readers said: “Always very clean. Plus, the best hair cut and style and best eye lashes.”
The salon says the mission of its team of passionate professionals is providing an “elevated guest experience curated to specifically meet each of our guests’ individual needs in an environment designed to uplift and beautify from the inside out.” Lux Machine shares its passion for service in a “dedication to guests through a team of stylists that excels in every form of hair.”
- Location: 4806 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth
- Hours: Tuesday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Website: luxmachine.com
- What readers said: “Friendly, talented staff. Always pleased with services: cut, trim, color. They have maintained a safe environment during COVID. They are truly the BEST!”
This fun, light-hearted salon says it’s a place where you can “seriously let your hair down. … We’re more soothing than a shampoo scrub and fresher than a new coat of color, and when you leave here, you’ll discover what fabulous feels like.”
- Location: 5316 Birchman Ave., Fort Worth
- Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
- Website: shampoosalon.com
- What readers said: “I’ve never had a bad experience, and my hair always looks fabulous! Everyone is super friendly, and they know what they’re doing! Highly recommend this salon.”
House of Blonde
The salon says it’s Fort Worth’s “go-to spot” for blonde hair. It specializes in “making your blonde the perfect shade for you without compromising your hair.” The salon also offers Balayage, hand-tied extensions and makeup.
- Location: 3520 Bernie Anderson Ave., Fort Worth
- Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Website: houseofblondefw.com
- What readers said: “House of Blonde has talented stylists who stay up-to-date on the newest and best techniques and products. The atmosphere is very positive, and you get the impression that the women there support each other and their clients.”
Tangled Salon and Spa
The salon also includes a boutique “dedicated to providing you with the latest in today’s fashion. With our salon based store front, our mission is to make our customer feel confident both inside and out.”
- Location: 405 S. Main St., Fort Worth
- Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
- Website: tangledsalonftw.com
Tribe Salon + Spa
This salon offers hair services including extensions, replacements and color, in addition to skin and massage treatments, lashes and waxing.
- Location: 6323 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth
- Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
- Website: tribesalonftw.com
- What readers said: “Everyone who works in this salon is so kind, friendly and really knows their craft. Every time I’ve gone in for a service, I leave feeling not only prettier, but uplifted, braver and excited for my next appointment. They really make you feel like family, and the salon itself is very comfortable, almost like home.”
Trio Hair Concepts
This hair salon has been in business since 2003 and is just south of the TCU campus.
- Location: 3521 Blue Bonnet Circle, Fort Worth
- Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
- Website: facebook.com/Triohairconcepts
- What readers said: “All the hair stylists are friendly and caring.”
Whistle & Sway Salon Company
The salon describes itself as a place where “contemporary trends meet classic style.” A suite of hair services include coloring with Balayage, hand painting, highlights, lowlights and ombre.
- Location: 701 Barden St., Fort Worth
- Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Wednesday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Website: whistleandsway.com
- What readers said: “The salon is friendly, great vibe, easy parking, reasonable prices. Have been a customer since they opened.”
MORE: Check out other winners of Star-Telegram Readers’ Choice in 2022:
This story was originally published September 16, 2022 5:30 AM.