By Shayna Wiwierski
Winnipeg’s Ashdown Building, located at 80 Rorie Street in the Exchange District, has been home to a lot of things. Built in 1894 to be a warehouse for a hardware business, it’s taken on many lives since then, including many residential and commercial businesses. Nowadays, the city’s hair community will know the building best as the Aveda Institute and Academy Winnipeg.
Officially opened at the end of 2011, the Aveda Institute and Academy Winnipeg is one of seven locations across Canada. Before moving in, the space was home to the Capelli Academy, an independently owned hair school, which called the six-storey Ashdown Building home for a many number of years.
“Having gone through the renovation process, being able to see what the building was like before and what it was like after, I was really excited to showcase it to the public, to our future students, and to our future guests. So, the first time I walked in after it was complete was a feeling first and foremost of accomplishment,” says Roberto Sinopoli, executive director of the Aveda Institute and Academy Winnipeg. “What we were able to obtain from the space itself, what we were able to draw from it, I felt, at that time, was going to be unique to the Exchange District and definitely unique to the Ashdown Building.”
The first thing one notices when stepping foot into the Aveda Institute is the signature Aveda aroma — a calming, spiritual scent that instantly relaxes the senses. The historic space, which is recognized as a Richardsonian Romanesque-style, was transformed to a degree, but the skeleton of its former self is still present. The wood frames around the windows, the wood columns throughout the school, the brick façade, and the brick walls are all part of the original materials dating back to when the building was built in the late 1800s. Also, to keep in tune to the Aveda mission, which among other things, strives to set an example for environmental leadership and responsibility, not just in the world of beauty, but around the world, the use of reclaimed materials throughout the space brings a great feel and energy to the whole atmosphere.
The 10,000-square-foot space is split up into different sections. There are classrooms, a full retail store, and the institute and academy areas. The institute is home to the nine-month hairstyling program, which houses 44 chairs where guests can come and choose from a variety of services — including styling, cutting, colouring, and treatments exclusive to Aveda for scalp and hair — all done at an education rate. The institute area differs greatly from the academy side, which is sleeker and more exclusive with 12 chairs. The ambiance on the academy side is more upscale, mirroring the sophisticated look of an Aveda-partner salon. The academy program is tailored for existing hairstylists looking to advance their education.
Since the institute is first and foremost a hair school, the ambiance is electric. From the motivational and positive quotes on the walls, to the portfolio of photography adorning the area — all from former students — the energy is bustling with enthusiasm.
“What’s unique to the Aveda Institutes, compared to the salons, are the people that make up the space. When clients come in and get a service done with educators, the whole process is guided by an experienced licensed educator. You will get an amazing haircut at a reasonable price. You are also contributing to the education of some of the best future stylists in the world.”
And, a sense of new energy in an old space is just what the Ashdown Building – and the Aveda Institute and Academy Winnipeg — needed.
“Building a building that holds so much history definitely creates an energetic environment that is kind-of hard to duplicate without being in this specific location.”