Despite its name, there’s nothing about Ashley’s Alley Salon and Spa that feels cramped or narrow. In fact, the salon is home to a rather large team of stylists and aestheticians who work together to deliver almost every beauty treatment under the sun. Whether infusing strands with professional Redken color, applying MAC cosmetics, or removing hair with a natural sugar paste, this team never fails to find the beauty that’s hidden just beneath the surface.
You certainly won’t think of a darkened alley when you first enter the salon. The warm interior is decorated with ornate furniture and illuminated by the sunlight that pours in from a floor-to-ceiling window. The eye is inevitably drawn, however, to the dramatic light fixture in the waiting area. Ribbons of glass burst from the center, inspiring the stylists to top their clients’ updos with glistening Faberge eggs.
Part of the venerable Paul Mitchell network, the Columbia outpost of Paul Mitchell the School features 14,500 square feet of stylish real estate staffed by a squad of student coiffure-carvers and professional instructors. Under the close supervision of an experienced professor of pulchritude, Paul Mitchell student stylists perform a wide array of services, creating cute cuts ($10–$25) and up-styles ($20–$25), applying chemical relaxers to tame tendrils ($45–$50), and more. High-quality products 20% off by the one and only Paul Mitchell are to take home, providing a souvenir of your first date with your new ’do.
Columbia’s The Salon’s epidermal artisans refurbish fusty faces, carapaces, and physiques with a suite of beautification treatments. During DermaSweep microdermabrasion sessions, experienced aestheticians counsel countenances with exfoliation and mild suction, gently jettisoning do-nothing dead skin cells like so many plastic egg shells to reveal the glistening Fabergé surfaces underneath. The multi-level, particle-free treatment helps to create butter-smooth skin as the wand’s vacuum action roots out pore-plugging oil, stimulates blood flow, and conjures collagen formation to tone and firm cutis contours. Hands made rough by sun, soap, and slap fights with the belt sander undergo a comprehensive surface scrub with a mitt-enhancing exfoliation session of their own.
The scissors at Sabre Hair Art show no mercy when it comes to split ends. They deftly remove any dull locks they come in contact with, leaving clients with fresh and stylish haircuts. Scissors also happily add layers for a more voluminous look, or blunt bangs for people who want to hide their forehead tattoos. Patrons can also request highlights or all-over color to completely transform their visage.
Close your eyes and pretend you're enjoying a fine olive oil, and the first flavor notes to come to mind probably won't be blood orange and chipotle. Likewise, ask for something to put on top of your ice cream, and you probably won't expect someone to hand you a bottle of balsamic vinegar. But at The Crescent Olive, neither ingredient follows the rules. “People don’t really know what to expect until they come in the store,” owner Mike Easler told told The State newspaper. “The fun part about our store is you get to come in and taste everything we have.”
Mike and his wife, Charlotte, oversee a seasonal roster of gourmet oils and aged balsamic vinegars imported from around the globe, including Spain, Portugal, and Italy. Visitors stop by and test the goods with breads and, yes, even ice cream, before selecting their favorites from the stainless-steel containers that populate the shop. Once that happens, Mike fills up bottles of up to 750 milliliters for customers to take home or to toss to an ex-flame who's leaning out of a moving train.