Judy Weidel owned an acclaimed salon with 50 employees in Mount Washington, but when the lease came due she knew she wanted something different and new.
Joining with six other female employees who had gone through the salon’s apprenticeship program, they started Form Salon in October 2014.
“It was an opportunity to create something where other people could join in having their own salon and not having the pressure of 100% of the risk,” she said. “It made us one-seventh responsible for everything. It made it a lot more appealing to take that plunge and to say ‘Yes I would like to open a salon’.”
With more than 100 years of salon experience between the owners combined, color services like balayage and toning are their most popular services in addition to offering cutting and styling.
“We are all very versed in all the services that we perform,” she said.
Weidel believes their business model sets them apart from other salons.
“This was an opportunity for seven people to come together and create a positive creative atmosphere,” she said. “We do support each other and we build upon each of our strengths so it really does work well. We do have two stylists who work for us. We enjoy mentoring them. I just think our business model is a little different than a traditional salon.”
The salon is one of multiple female-owned businesses at Dulaney Plaza in Towson.
“I think in general women love to support other women and see each other succeed,” Weidel said. “We are all very happy to support each other. I think Dulaney Plaza has become a woman-based center. There are so many things that just are for women. I think it offers (something) to all age groups. It is just a really nice center and the owners are so supportive.”
Weidel often refers clients to other businesses in the plaza. The businesses have also gotten together for events in the past.
“We all do support each other really well,” she said. “I’ve become very friendly with a lot of the owners in the courtyard. It is just a special place. Dulaney Valley is just a special place. I’ve had a lot of landlords and different rental spaces but Dulaney Valley is very special and unique I think.”
Bertha Ndje worked at a chain pharmacy for eight years but became unhappy when management changed and focused more on money than client care.
“I felt like I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to do when I left school — to be able to take care of my patients very well,” she said. “I wasn’t comfortable with (the company’s new direction) anymore so I said ‘OK. Maybe I can work for myself, be satisfied with what I am giving to the patient’.”
She opened Dulaney Valley Health Mart Pharmacy in 2013. “We are very service-oriented,” Ndje said. “I know all my customers by name. They know me. I know their family. I know almost everything about them. … It is like a family. That is what I liked. That is what I wanted to do — to be able to have a conversation with my patient. When they come in, we talk. I have time for them to talk. Working with a chain I could not do that.”
When talking with patients, Ndje often refers them to shops in the plaza.
Towne Barre first opened in Dulaney Plaza in October 2018. After quickly outgrowing its space, the business moved two doors down into its current spot with double the space in January 2020.
Tammy Irby and Anne Marie Aristone were working together in the barre program at one of the bigger local gyms when they realized they wanted to do a business on their own.
“We found the space at Dulaney Plaza and we thought it was a great fit just with some of the other women-owned businesses back here and parking and all of the other female-oriented shops,” Irby said. “… It is just a nice place for women to come hang out. We thought it was a great location.”
Irby believes what sets her gym apart from others is the community of women who are not only dedicated to the business but also to their barre and pilates practices. The business not only helps women on their fitness journey but also hosts fundraisers, happy hours and a book club.
To be near so many female business owners is amazing, according to Irby. They have teamed up with other businesses in the past to promote each other.
“Just really spreading the information about everybody’s shop to everybody that comes in here,” she said. “… The more people we can bring back to this part of the shopping center, the more people that will see our space and I think the women who come back to these shops would enjoy everything this area has to offer.”