By Bob Tagert
Windsor of Old Town – Celebrating 35 Years!
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, Old Town Alexandria was a completely different place. Although it had a quaint feeling about it, the town was nowhere near the destination spot it is now. Franco Landini ran a restaurant called Pelicano that was located at 100 King Street; Tony Gee’s Snack Bar was located where Pop’s Ice cream is now. Bugsy’s was a restaurant called Maison de Crepes, Patty Chappalear had the Haggen Dazs store where part of Landini’s restaurant is and Bullfeathers had just taken over where the Lobster Shed was which today is Daniel O’Connell’s Restaurant and Bar. It would be a few more years before Murphy’s Irish Pub would open west of Washington Street.
In the 100 block of South Union Street was a business called Gibson Girl which was run by Bill and Shelia (can’t recall last name). They liked the town and encouraged their friend, Donna Windsor, to come to Old Town. Donna had a salon near Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland, but decided to check it out. In 1981 Donna relocated to Old Town Alexandria and has been a fixture here for 35 years.
Windsor of Old Town opened with 8 chairs on the first floor. Luckily for Donna, her new store is about 3 steps above the sidewalk which has allowed her to dodge any damage from the occasional “flood” we see here. It isn’t really a flood but rather a combination of high tide, rain up river and wind that makes the Potomac River back up through the water mains and fill the streets.
Donna wanted to “create an atmosphere that would nurture our stylists in their work and success here. I think it required being present and open to innovative change throughout the years.”
In 1995 Donna’s son Stephen joined the business. “The support and imagination that Steve and his wife Pam brought to the business helped us continue to grow,” Donna tells me. Early in 2000 Donna and Steve started thinking about a salon for men that was becoming the rage in big cities. They looked around Old Town for a suitable building but nothing came up until one day Steve said…”lets open next door!” In October of 2003 the Gentlemen’s Quarters opened to great reviews. Here a guy could come in, get a haircut a shave and have a libation from the mini bar. There are wide screen TV’s showing sports and the daily stock market action. There have been many celebrities who have graced these barber chairs over the years including current clients Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Senator John Warner.
When the Gentlemen’s Quarters first opened Redskin’s tackle Jon Jansen did a TV spot on getting a shave at the new facility. TV personality Rene Knott showed up for the taping and aired it on his sports cast that night.
Two years ago my friend Sharon Frances closed her salon, Lords and Ladies and brought herself and staff to Windsor, and have been a great addition ever since.
With the recent closing of iconic stores in Old Town, some open for over 50 years, it is good to see and remember those establishments that were here first and still thrive today. Happy 35 years to Donna and Stephen Windsor!