A Cut Above: Capitol Beauty School Excels into 100th Year

Dave Potter, CEO of the nationally-accredited cosmetology and esthetics school Capitol Beauty School, knows a little something about being part of a long sustaining educational institution in Omaha. In fact, Potter is helping the organization not only sustain, but excel into its 100th year. 

Capitol was founded in the Roaring ‘20s, 1923 to be specific. It owes its name to the original location of the school – at Capitol Avenue in downtown Omaha. Under new ownership, the school was moved to a new location near 108th Street and John Galt Boulevard some 34 years later. It was the succeeding change of hands that Potter isolated as among the most pivotal phases in the cosmetology school’s history. 

“The driving force, from 1969 to 2018, was the leadership and education provided to the students by the owners, Judy and Lyal McCaig,” Potter said. 

Previous owners Vi Stehno and Audrey Hunt embarked on a nationwide search to find leadership to “take their facility to new heights of quality and education.” 

They didn’t have to look far; the McCaigs resided in Nebraska, having successfully operated a salon in North Platte, Nebraska. The duo had left a national mark as well, with Lyal being named the youngest styles director in the National Hair Fashion Committee’s history. 

“Lyal’s innovative teaching methodologies and practices had a huge impact on the industry before he passed in 2007,” Potter said. 

Notably, he was inducted into the National Cosmetology Association’s Hall of Renown and would go on to be named as the National Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association (NHCA) national styles director numerous times throughout his career. 

“Judy continued on with the assistance of her son, Scott,” Potter noted. 

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The McCaig family would resume ownership for 50 years. Alongside Potter are owners Matt and Nancy Meduna. Potter further credits Skylar McCaig, who serves as Capitol’s director of operations, and the team they have assembled at Capitol, with its legacy. As noted in Capitol information, third-generation family leadership also includes McCaig’s wife, Danyelle McCaig. They became part-owners in 2021.

Capitol also has the distinction of outlasting other educational facilities in the market.

“There were nine beauty schools in the Omaha area when the McCaigs purchased Capitol,” Potter said, taking us back again to the late 1960s. “Their continued excellence and growth had reduced that to just two schools when they sold it in 2018.”

With an enviable milestone fast approaching, Potter indicated in April that plans for its 100 years are still in the works. But, he noted, the anniversary will engage team members, students and graduates – with internal and external open house events. 

Setting the Stage

The team is hardly resting on its laurels, with a series of accomplishments to celebrate. Potter said Capitol has been headquartered out of its current locale, at 10803 John Galt Blvd., for almost a quarter of a century – since 2008. Accordingly, he remarked that “it was time” for a remodel, a project that was completed last fall. 

“With the increasing number of cosmetology students and customers, we needed to increase the number of salon chairs from 50 to 60, while also adding additional shampoo bowls,” Potter explained. “We also increased the number of, and updated all, service rooms for our esthetician students and their customers.”

Additional upgrades, according to Potter, included an updated spray tan room and two more rooms dedicated exclusively to lashes.

“We opened up some areas, while also adding new lighting and flooring,” he added. 

Potter said the team hears time and time again that the remodeled facility looks and feels like a ‘real’ salon— something, he said, is what Capitol has always strived for.

To accommodate the school’s enrollment growth, Potter also said Capitol opened a satellite classroom space in Bel Air Plaza at 120th Street and West Center Road last May. He spoke at greater length about the need for additional classroom space.  

“In order to expand and remodel our main facility, we decided to relocate our cosmetology freshman class to Bel Air Plaza for the first 300 hours of their 1,800-hour program,” he explained. “An increased demand for estheticians in salons and spas has resulted in us increasing our class size for that program as well, which required a larger classroom.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, between 2020 and 2030, employment for barbers, hairstylists and cosmetologists will grow by 19% (almost 120,000 people) – for projected growth that is characterized as “much faster than average” when compared to all occupations. Many of the openings in the next eight years, the BLS contends, are “expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.”

Thus far, the satellite location has been received “very well,” Potter said, by both students and instructors alike. 

“They aren’t as distracted by the normal activity of our main campus,” he said. “It’s been open almost a year now and the students seem to be learning and retaining at a higher rate.”

With that being said, Potter noted Capitol leadership have acknowledged that students still need to be part of, and integrated with, the main campus. They have adapted accordingly. 

The program is designed with different instructors during the week (depending on subject matter), and students are integrated into the main campus for classes and activities at times. 

It was another ubiquitous change, the pandemic, that actually accelerated the timing of Capitol’s remodel, according to Potter, who said that the opening of the satellite location resulted in 22 less people on the main campus on a daily basis.

“Increasing the number of stations and shampoo bowls in our salon allowed for more social distancing for customers, students and instructors,” he said, adding, “Most of our office staff spends at least one day each week working from home.”

True to its history, Potter said Capitol’s admissions department is very selective about the students that are enrolled. 

“We want to be sure they are ready for what is required of our programs,” he said. “We want them to graduate with a lot of experience and training from our customer base/instructors.”

The level of training is, perhaps, best illustrated with its list of notable graduates who have launched their own salons in many geographic areas, transforming and enriching the industry landscape. 

Close to home, graduates who have opened salons in Omaha include: Stephanie Moss (Stephanie Moss Salon), Somer Krueger (Trios), Kirby Keomysay (Kontempo), Ryan Kopiasz (Oliver & Tate), Joe Poff (Rêvé/Wella educator), Zeb Ratcliff (CRAFT Salon/Wella educator), Tara Seng (Moxie Salon and Spa) and Thomas Sena (Garbo’s Salon and Spa) – and this is just a partial list.

Potter emphasized Capitol’s community involvement. Students provide haircuts and styling to residents of Ronald McDonald House in Omaha. RMH offers lodging, meals and support to families whose children are receiving medical treatment that isn’t available in their hometowns. 

“COVID has suspended our activities there [RMH] at various times,” Potter said. “But we are now back down there about one late afternoon every other week, with students and instructors to take care of patients and their families staying there during treatment.”