A century ago, what was called The Arcade opened at 1012 Central Ave. The 6,700-square-foot building featured a dramatic atrium providing natural light lined by 10 specialty shops. This 100-year-old structure is being restored to its original architectural appearance and will house one of the most ambitious business ventures to launch in the city's historic commercial heart in years.
Heidi and Peter Winter, who recently moved to Fort Dodge from the Ames area, are creating a full-service salon and spa named Smurlz that will also feature two upscale boutiques. The first of the boutiques opens Monday. The entire enterprise is expected to be in full swing by January.
When fully staffed, the Winters said they expect to employ a work force of 24 to 26, which will include 18 to 20 stylists.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Heidi and Peter Winter, co-owners of the soon-to-open Smurlz Salon, Spa & Boutique pose in one of the many rooms that will become part of the facility that will offer a variety of services at 1012 Central Ave.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The sign above the rear entrance to Smurlz Salon, Spa & Boutique was hand-crafted at Gadbury Plumbing and Heating.
"We are going to offer Organic Salon Systems hair-care styling products, colors and perms," Heidi Winters said. "We're going to be doing Eminence Organics skin care. We'll be doing massages, pedicures, manicures, facials and waxing services."
The business will serve both men and women.
"It's going to be totally unisex," Heidi Winter said;
"Organic Salon Systems is the hairstyling part," she said. "We're going to have nine chairs. We'll have a full-service salon -haircutting, colors, perms, men's and women's haircutting."
This new business venture brings together an array of services and a commitment to organic products that makes it unique not only for Fort Dodge but a trendsetter in the Hawkeye State, according to the owners.
"For what we are bringing all into one business, there is nothing comparable in Iowa," Heidi Winter said, noting that while similar services are offered piecemeal in other towns they do not have so thoroughly an organic focus.
The grouping of options and products will keep dollars in Fort Dodge that are currently being spent in other cities, Peter Winter said.
"There are a lot of people, especially in the mid-to-high pay bracket," he said. "They are leaving to go to Ames. There's a big financial drain out of the city to get those types of services. But they've got to piece it together. There's no one-stop shop."
Bringing an eclectic combination of offerings under one roof is at the heart of what Smurlz has to offer.
The organic emphasis is also a key part of the business plan.
"It's something new," Heidi Winter said. "Basically, bringing to Fort Dodge what's available in the bigger cities. It takes the health risk out of getting your hair done. It has no harmful vapors. It's great for people who have sensitivities to perfumes and chemicals. ... I think it's important to go organic because we absorb so many chemicals into our body daily that I think it's important to know what we're putting on ourselves and what we're breathing in."
Smurlz will be a business with a very green ambience.
"All of our products are coming in recyclable materials," Heidi Winter said.
This heavy commitment to organic products and substances will set Smurlz apart from many competitors, she said. So too will its two specialty boutiques.
"One's going to be ladies accessories - designer ladies accessories sold at discounted prices," Peter Winter said. "The other boutique is lingerie, which is going to be from American and European designers."
Heidi Winter stressed that the staff she is recruiting will also help attract patrons because they will be schooled in the latest fashions and service methodologies.
"We're going to be doing nonstop education," she said. "We'll be having educators coming into Fort Dodge to do our training quarterly. Our staff will be learning the latest trends, going to the fashion shows and bringing that back to Fort Dodge. ... Our girls are going to be constantly getting educated and updated."
Winter said she hope Smurlz will become a magnet for innovative stylists and other professionals who are fully state-of-the-art in the services they can offer local clients.
"I want to be that go-to place," she said. "When they come out of school, they will know that when they come to work for me ... they are going to get educated; they are going to have a good job."
The building that houses Smurlz was selected by the Winters after a thorough search. They said a venue on Central Avenue was chosen because they are enthused about the potential of downtown Fort Dodge and anxious to be part of the commercial renaissance taking place there
"We looked in Fort Dodge for two years," Heidi Winter said. "I love the historical part of the downtown. I think that's so much fun. The building was structurally sound and we like the esthetics of the building. ... We're trying to keep the history of the building but add some modern features. The design of it is going to be a historical, antique look with some modern industrial upgrades. We're really up on the renovation of the downtown - bringing it back to life."
Her husband echoed that sentiment.
"Those downtown areas are really the lifeblood of cities," he said. "It's great to bring those back to their former glories."
Winter said he and his wife take pride in the fact that the building they now own has links to important aspects of the city's past.
"It was the Karl King Music House for a period of time," he said, providing one important example. "His wife sold sheet music from the building."
More recently, many longtime Fort Dodgers will recall that it housed Peterson Photography for many years.
When all the components of Smurlz are ready to serve customers, it will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.
The salon will be closed on Sundays.