New downtown hair academy to enlist 150 students this winter


A global hairdressing franchise has snapped up one of Doug Tolchin’s last three downtown properties and will open a new hair academy there this winter.

Toni & Guy Hairdressing Academy will begin classes for up to 150 students at 1411 Railroad Ave. this January, project manager Philip Scott said.

Scott and creative director Arden Johnson — who are both from the Santa Barbara area — along with a silent partner, purchased the two-story, 11,000-square-foot building in between Stockton’s Paint and Everyday Music from Tolchin for $1.15 million in August.

Scott and Johnson have secured the franchise rights to open Toni & Guy Hairdressing Academies in Washington and plan to open several more in the state in the next five years. They chose Bellingham for the first Washington location because of its reputation as an education-focused city, with Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College and Bellingham Technical College all located here, Scott said.

The partners are in the process of finalizing plans for an interior remodel and build out of the space that will cost about $700,000, and will submit building permit applications to the city soon, Scott said. The remodel will take about four months, he said.

Scott may also look into trying to put the 1926 building on the National Historic Register, he said.

The school will offer classes in hairdressing to between 100 and 150 students at a time. Scott said the academy will initially hire about three local instructors and will eventually have about 10 to 12.

Toni & Guy is a global company started in the United Kingdom 40 years ago and has operated from its United States headquarters in Dallas for 22 years. The company has 15 academies worldwide.

The academy in Bellingham will be a venue for students to either start out their career in hairstyling or to take advanced education classes for those already in the business, Scott said. He said the school will act as an alternative vocational trade school.

The school will add a second option for Bellingham residents wanting to become hair stylists, but Mike Kennard, co-owner of the Bellingham Beauty School with his wife, Cis, said he didn’t think there was a demand for two beauty schools in the area, especially for another 150 students.

The Bellingham Beauty School, founded in 1969, usually has about 125 students, and has never needed a waiting list, Kennard said. It has been the only beauty school in Bellingham since the ’90s.

The sale of the building leaves Tolchin with ownership of just two other downtown properties — the former J.C. Penney building and the building where Giuseppe’s Italian Restuarant is located.

Tolchin and his family bought the Railroad Avenue building in 1996 for $225,000.

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