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Drybar’s founders launch a hip new massage chain

Drybar’s founders launch Squeeze, a hip massage joint that lets you book and pay online, so you can float out of the parlor without a care in the world.

Drybar’s founders launch a hip new massage chain
[Illustration: Heitler Houstoun Architects]

Life keeps getting more stressful, and every day brings new headlines that are more disturbing than the last. To help you cope in these troubled times, psychologists recommend that we invest in some self-care. But if you’re looking for a quick midday massage to get you through the day, there aren’t many good options.

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You could shell out $150 for an hour-long massage at the Four Seasons or the Ritz-Carlton, but those are best enjoyed when you have extra time afterwards to luxuriate in a bathrobe while sipping a cup of mint tea. Then there’s the large corporate chains, Massage Envy or Massage Heights, where you can get a $70 massage, but leave your relaxing session only to find yourself stuck at the cash register waiting to pay with all the other customers who just got out at the same time as you. (Also, Massage Envy just got slapped with a lawsuit by women claiming therapists assaulted them.) Then there are small, cheap mom-and-pop massage parlors that will give you a massage for $50 or less, but you never quite know what you’ll get or whether your therapist is licensed.

The team behind Drybar want to give you a better alternative. It’s called Squeeze, and it will be closely modeled on Drybar, with the first location set to open in early 2019 in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Studio City. Squeeze’s mission is simple and encapsulated in its tagline, “A way better massage experience.”

This experience will begin with the shop itself that will be designed by the same architect as Drybar, and feature a fun, colorful decor. But price-wise, Squeeze will be in the middle of the market. Massages will cost between $39 and $129, depending on the length of the session, which will run between 20 and 80 minutes. (For the 20-minute massage, you can choose what part of your body to focus on, from your shoulders to your legs.) Extras like deep tissue massage, heat therapy, or aromatherapy are included with no additional charge.

And importantly, Drybar cofounders (and siblings) Alli Webb and Michael Laudau say that all the logistics–from the booking to the payment–will be managed from an app. “For the past year, we’ve been building technology that allows you to do everything on your app, the way you would with Postmates or Uber,” Landau explains. “The best part is, you walk out, then pay and tip at your convenience.”

Brittany Driscoll, the former VP or marketing at Drybar, will serve as Squeeze’s co-founder and CEO. Squeeze will be an entirely separate company from Drybar, which launched in 2010 and generated an estimated $100 million last year. Landau and Alli Webb are providing an undisclosed amount of seed funding for the venture. Additional funding will come from Josh Heitler, the architect who designed both Drybar and Squeeze’s physical spaces, and other notable investors including John Heffner, Drybar’s current CEO. Cameron Webb (Alli’s husband) will serve as creative director to both Drybar and Squeeze, developing the brand identity for both. “It’s definitely 100% a separate entity,” says Landau. “But we’re blending all of our partners at Drybar to help launch it.”

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Driscoll tells Fast Company that the Squeeze team isn’t setting out to completely reinvent the massage, but rather to improve it by cutting out the main pain points. She’s looking to differentiate Squeeze from other options on the market with its tech-savvy approach to booking, and its emphasis on personalization. “You’ll be able to set all your preferences online, from the pressure you want, to whether you want oil or lotion, and customize what music, lighting, and temperature you prefer (via an in-room iPad within the Squeeze shop),” Driscoll says. “We’re eliminating the awkward in-person exchanges. Then you literally float out after your massage and tip, rate, and review your therapist at your leisure. ”

And Landau, who served as the head of brand marketing at Yahoo before cofounding Drybar, believes that the brand experience at Squeeze will be a key to its success. The Squeeze interiors will be designed by Josh Heitler, the architect who designed the iconic Drybar salons. Drybar locations are designed to look like a bar, complete with marble countertops, chandeliers made out of yellow hairdryers, and mirrors behind the chairs, so customers can swivel around for a big reveal after their hair has been styled. “Our parents literally almost fainted when we told them how much it was costing to build the first Drybar,” says Landau. “But what Alli and I knew was that you had to create an atmosphere that people would love to be in.”

Illustration: Heitler Houstoun Architects

They’re taking the same approach with Squeeze. In the initial renderings of Squeeze’s physical shop, Heitler appears to be creating a calm vibe, with birch paneled walls, gray tones, and teal green accents. The massage rooms look like little cabins with sliding doors, and customers will be able to change the color of the lights to suit their personal taste.

Squeeze’s brand aesthetic was developed by Cameron Webb, Alli Webb’s husband, who also designed Drybar’s branding. Squeeze’s logo is a teal green circle that has a broad smile on it. And the entire brand will have a fun, playful spirit. Drybar leaned heavily into the “bar” theme with gift cards that came in the shape of coasters, and hair products were named after alcoholic beverages like Triple Sec and Blonde Ale. Webb says we can expect similar plays on words at Squeeze. (Think: “Who do you knead?” when selecting your massage therapist.) “There’s so much kitschiness around the name Squeeze,” she says. “There’s so many fun little puns we’re excited to use. We think it encompasses the same kind of sophisticated whimsy that worked so well for Drybar.”

The first Squeeze location in Studio City is currently under construction, but if the concept does well, Driscoll hopes to open up more locations at a quick pace, starting with New York and Dallas. Drybar now has 108 locations around the country, which are a mix of licensed stores and stores that are owned by the company. Landau hopes to expand Squeeze by, in his words, “aggressively franchising.” “One of the things we learned from Drybar is that while we like to own salons ourselves because they make a lot of money, when we have a franchise operator that has sunk their own blood, sweat, and tears into the store, and they know the local market, it runs better and more efficiently,” Landau says. “And you can grow faster. We do plan to scale pretty rapidly.”

For Landau and Ali Webb, who founded Drybar eight years ago, the success of their first brand has come as a bit of a surprise. Webb, who trained as a hair stylist, came up with the idea after she realized she could make money by going to the houses of moms in Los Angeles and blow drying their hair in their living rooms while their babies were napping. In 2010, Landau, Alli and her husband pooled their money and talents to open the very first Drybar location, which was designed to be a small salon where Alli herself could do blowouts. Eight years later, its a $100 million business with more than 3,000 stylists.

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Now, the family wants to ride this wave of success by entering a new market, which might even be more lucrative than the blowout market, because it will cater to both men and women. “Full disclosure: We didn’t plan on any of this,” Landau says. “We planned for it to be Alli’s one little shop in Brentwood. We had no idea where it would take us.”

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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