Making the Cut
Elizabeth Benke Salon celebrates its success with the opening of a second location at The Shoppes at Blueberry Hill
by Leigh Stuart

Elizabeth Benke, proprietor of Elizabeth Benke Salon, knows a thing or two about great hair. After all, she’s been in the business for 32 years and has been studying the art of fabulous coifs since she was a high school student. She opened her first salon in Doylestown in the late 1990s and then, after almost 20 years, her team and customer base had grown so much she needed a second location.

“In November of 1998 we opened our doors in the borough of Doylestown,” says Benke. “Seventeen years later, to the day, the doors of our second location in Doylestown opened at The Shoppes at Blueberry Hill. We grew very slowly at first, from a one-woman operation, to where we are now, with 12 stylists and numerous support staff.”

The services provided at both locations are still all about hair; from dry cuts to color, styling to smoothing, at Elizabeth Benke Salon, customers have a world of hair-care services at their fingertips. In addition, both locations offer a bevy of cutting-edge (pun intended) treatments.

To hear Benke describe the treatments is akin to sitting in on a chemistry lecture. The Cézanne treatment, for example, contains no methylene glycol, she explains. This particular chemical—found in traditional smoothing treatments, such as keratin—may sound like just another component of hair product; but, when this controversial chemical is heated, it creates formaldehyde gas, which even a non-scientist can identify as an unhealthy side effect.

Instead, the Cézanne treatment works with a combination of glycolic acid and a protein called sericin, which is a product of the silkworm. Benke says humbly, “Chemistry is kind of my thing.”

This is just one example of how Benke’s commitment to continuing education for her team benefits her clients. There is also the salon’s adoption of Olaplex, a chemical breakthrough that is an additive to colors and lighteners that can help create new bonds in the hair so that after treatment, the hair has the potential to be even stronger than it was before.

It is no wonder Elizabeth Benke Salon has been named a Top 200 salon nationwide by Salon Today magazine three times and was a finalist in the Global Salon Business Awards.

“I believe there have been many factors that have contributed to our success,” Benke says, “the first being that we only wanted to bring the best and brightest the industry had to offer to our clients, so we took our time in finding the right people to join our team; and secondly making sure they received the best training right out of school anyone had to offer, and making sure that education continues with the premier educators in our field.

“We are one of the only salons to offer that level of expertise to our staff and clients alike, which is why  our motto is, ‘Where education makes the difference,’” she continues. “We were the first salon on the East Coast to have our entire staff certified curly hair specialists by Devachan, founders of the DevaCurl product line and author of [‘Curly Girl: The Handbook’], and now have the distinction of being certified Balayage specialists by L’Oréal Professional, the coloring technique taking the U.S. by storm. We always try to predict the trends and be the first to not only be knowledgeable but become experts.”

More than simply practicing on a mannequin, Benke’s training for her staff focuses on developing an artistic eye. The salon’s artistic director, Gina Reed, who leads all of the cutting classes at the salon, even has the stylists practice their artistic skills in two dimensions via sketching exercises.

“Education has always been very important to me personally because at the beginning of my career, I felt as if that was something I was searching for,” says Benke. “That’s why I moved around so much, but once I did find it, my whole career changed.”

One stylist, who earned a business degree before joining the Elizabeth Benke team, once told the owner that passing the training phase necessary to become a staff member with the salon was more difficult than earning her undergraduate degree. “It’s like beauty boot camp,” Benke quips.

Of course, any excellent salon must have ambience to match, and though they are wholly different in their designs, both Elizabeth Benke Salon locations offer charm and warmth to spare. The first salon in Doylestown has a more traditional feel, whereas the new Benke location embodies a New York City loft-style vibe, with industrial décor and an open floor plan.

“As the reputation for our training program grew, we found ourselves having those talented people seek us out and, as a result, found ourselves in the position where we needed to expand to continue to grow,” Benke says. “That is why we have opened our new second home at The Shoppes at Blueberry Hill. We wanted a space that would allow our existing clients a different atmosphere but still be close enough that they had a choice as to which location they would rather visit. We also wanted the opportunity to introduce ourselves and our way of doing things to a new audience that maybe never traveled into the borough.

“I wanted to create a space where people could feel as if they were in a top salon in New York or Philly, without having to make that long trip,” she continues, “all the while offering the same level of professionalism and expertise they would find in those salons right here at home.”

Most important to Benke, however, is how her customers feel at her salon.

“I feel what really sets us apart is the pairing of these skills with an understanding that our clients want to enjoy their experience and relax with nice people,” she says. “We look not only for talented individuals for the team but also [for] people we want to be friends with ourselves. It is very important to us that our staff not only be knowledgeable but friendly and likeable as well. … We only want you to leave feeling beautiful, and that starts when you walk through the door the first time.”

Elizabeth Benke & Associates Salon & Color Studio

7 W. Oakland Ave.
Doylestown, PA 18901

1721 S. Easton Road, Unit B
Doylestown, PA 18901

Photograph by Allure West Studios