This is our 10th year in business — before Instagram was even in existence — and when I opened, there was no competition. There were no little guys in beauty, no indie chains. Sephora, Nordstrom, and the other retailers were not focused on any of the small beauty brands that I was bringing in. After three years as a shop, we launched services. We started with brows, then slowly moved into facials and body waxing. We’ve really seen it grow over the past ten years.
As my lease came up for renewal, we were at a point where we had two treatment rooms with a three- to four-week waiting list to get a facial. The makeup chairs were being pulled into the brow station, we had two brow people going at once and their butts were hitting each other. It was back-to-back-to-back crowded. When I went to renew the lease, the owner of the space wanted to give it away to a chain restaurant — which would have gotten rid of me, the single woman business owner on the block. I decided to leave on my own terms and find a new location.
We needed a bigger space, one where our customers were no longer on top of each other. We also needed more treatment rooms and a seating area for customers to wait, rather than standing in a store. Plus, I needed a proper office.
Due to [the novel] coronavirus, we had to close the old location on March 16. We were originally supposed to open the new location April 30, but construction came to a screeching halt. Both locations were half-filled with boxes. Eventually, we were allowed to open back up for retail, but it didn’t make sense to unpack the old store when I’d have to move everything again. It was a complete nightmare.
I laid off everybody, except for my accountant. I had to, there was just no way I’d be able to survive with a full roster of people. And now, I’ve been able to hire back on everyone that wanted to stay, plus two new people.
Even pre-COVID, I wanted to create a space where people were not on top of each other. The new design has a full-length mirror in between every shelving area. I wanted people to feel comfortable and not on top of each other when they were shopping. Little did I know that it’s now what we call “social distancing.”
My architect and design company worked to design all of our own makeup displays. We want customers to focus on buying what’s right for you, not on buying by brand. It’s more important for me that you walk away with a foundation that’s right for you, rather than focusing on the brand. Another of my big focuses was adding enough mirrors so that everyone could see their full reflection. I also wanted to change the lighting so that clients could see what that makeup look or lipstick look looks like in the morning, in the daytime, in the evening, and the dark.
In addition to the redesign, we had a pandemic to consider. God, I’ve done so much to prep the store for COVID. We added a sink to the store, and there’s a sink in each treatment room. We have a thermometer that takes the customer’s temperature when they walk in the door. We also installed an air-purifying system in our HVAC system, so that it recycles and cleans the air.
We have a hand sanitizer that’s 80 percent alcohol available in-store to be used, and anyone who spends over $50 will get one to take home. We had face masks made for all employees, as well as face shields. We ordered a specific face shield that rests on your neck, and you technically don’t have to wear a mask with them because they wrap around the whole face, but we’re using masks as well. We have temperature checks for all the staff every day. Uniforms are washed nightly. And obviously, you’re not allowed to come into the store without a mask on. There’s just so many things.
As for cost, between ventilation and the hand sanitizer and the face shields and installing laundry in the store so we could constantly do laundry, the thermometers, I would say we spent well over $100,000 in coronavirus-related preparations. And those costs keep going.
We have four new treatment rooms, but we’re only legally allowed to do anything with a mask on. We can do brows, microblading, and lash enhancements.
Every single day — 10 times a day — I wonder if I should have waited until all this is over. I kept going for a couple reasons. First, I was so far in that I couldn’t back out. Second, I’ve been in my neighborhood in Brooklyn for 10 years. The customers that have sent us messages have kept us going.
And of course, my staff is my family. I’m a mom not just to my two kids but to all my staff, too, because I want to make sure they have jobs, and they’re supported. I love what I do. What am I going to do, go get another job? I opened during the financial crisis in 2010. So, if I can open and be successful during that, I just pray I can weather this storm, too.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Now read more about beauty during COVID-19:
Done reading? Now check out an Olympic surfer’s entire routine:
You can follow Allure on Instagram and Twitter, or subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on all things beauty.
Originally Appeared on Allure