Numerous challenges — some constant, some constantly changing — face companies in the health-and-beauty industry in Westchester. There’s always the huge issue of workforce development but also the question of trends (are Brazilian waxes in or out this year?). Then there’s the blurring of markets made possible by ever-advancing technology. From neighborhood nail salons to board-certified cosmetic surgeons, purveyors of good looks have to deal with them all.
Technology is one way to address a multitude of issues, according to Essie Cohen, manager of BLVD Scarsdale. “Our technology makes it easy to set appointments. They can call us; they can book online; or they can book using our app. It’s all about convenience,” Cohen explains. The Scarsdale location is a flagship for a concept that currently includes four brands: Spruce & Bond for laser treatments, brows, and waxing; Valley nails; Dream Dry blowouts and styling; and Pucker makeup and lash extensions. Cohen adds: “Our biggest selling point is that people can get everything done in one location.”
Technology is certainly a marketing tool and problem solver for some companies, but underlying every business in the industry is one-on-one personal service. This unalterable fact means personnel issues are the major challenge faced by everyone in the field.
“That day when you’re totally booked is when your manager gets a text from a therapist, saying he or she isn’t feeling well and can’t come in,” says Bruce Schoenberg, owner of Oasis Day Spa in Dobbs Ferry and Manhattan. “It disrupts the entire business and definitely impacts revenue.”
Lisa DeMaria, owner of Salon Topaz in Dobbs Ferry, says that finding motivated workers is so difficult that she grooms her own. “I seek guys and girls from beauty school and train them,” she says. “When you bring somebody in and immerse them in your culture, in your beliefs and philosophies, they do better. We are a service business that depends on repeat business from loyal clients. It’s easier for me to hold that loyal clientele when I train people to serve them.” She holds classes every Monday with her apprentices for up to two years before they’re allowed to go on the floor as full-fledged stylists or colorists. “That way, the client knows what to expect. When they come in, they’re going to get a similar experience regardless of the person delivering the service,” DeMaria says.
Peter Palushi, owner of Gentleman’s Barber Spa in White Plains, takes a different approach to the personnel issue. “I have trouble finding quality people in Westchester,” he says. “The industry labor pool consists mainly of hairstylists from salons or bargain haircutters. A lot of older barbers are retiring and don’t have enough patience to teach people,” he says. That makes it difficult for Palushi to meet his quality goals. “Our customers are paying a little more, so they don’t want somebody [just out of school] practicing on their heads.” To make sure his employees are delivering a quality service, he says, “I examine their work before I hire someone. If I like what I see, I bring them in for a 60-day trial period.”
Salon Topaz, Dobbs Ferry
The cosmetic surgery market has additional challenges, according to Dr. Vadim Pisarenko, partner in Plastic Surgery of Westchester, in Harrison. “There has been a dramatic growth in cosmetic surgery in the United States,” he says. “A big problem in Westchester is that more and more cosmetic surgeries are being performed by [doctors other than] plastic surgeons. Not only are non-board-certified plastic surgeons performing procedures, but doctors from other specialties are trying to get in on this non-insurance-based business, to improve their incomes.”
Pisarenko’s partner, Dr. Nicole Nemeth, adds that it’s not just doctors horning in on the field, but non-medical practitioners, too. “We try to educate the public about which procedures — like lasers or injectables — should be performed by a physician or licensed specialist,” she says. Pisarenko adds that at least once a week, they have to correct problems for patients who had a procedure done by a non-board-certified surgeon or even by someone outside the US.
At Plastic Surgery of Westchester, elective cosmetic surgery amounts to about 60 percent of the practice, with medical reconstructive surgery the remainder. Women make up the majority of the clientele, but male clients have grown from 5 percent of the practice to perhaps 20 percent, reports Pisarenko, who also operates a “Medispa” out of the practice that performs laser treatments, facials, and waxing.
That blurring of the market for spa services hasn’t gone unnoticed by traditional providers. “The spa industry has grown to include the wellness and medical side of the market,” Schoenberg points out. “Many dermatologists and plastic surgeons are incorporating spa services into their practices and bleeding off some of our customers, so we have to look at different services and equipment, as well.” He says Oasis has invested in equipment for lymphatic drainage that helps remove fluid that causes puffiness in the skin. “We also invested in Microcurrent, the electrical stimulation of collagen, which helps regeneration,” he explains.
“When the product comes back the way I want it, my trademark goes on it.”
So how do companies in the field keep ahead of the game? Staying open to opportunities is key. “We don’t want to be the first to bring in a new device or procedure, but we keep up-to-date with continual medical education,” Pisarenko says. Many of the advancements cosmetic surgeons pursue are new devices and technology that improve efficacy or safety, as for liposuction or breast implants, to name two procedures.
Schoenberg says his approach has a different twist: “Because of our reputation, we are often able to borrow and try equipment on our own people before we offer it to the general public.”
The future of the health-and-beauty industry in Westchester looks pretty solid. Regardless of the economy, hair and nails grow, as do waistlines and wrinkles. Then, there is the pleasure factor. As Cohen says, “The beauty industry is recession-proof because it’s something people can do for themselves to feel better. It’s indulgent, but it’s not insanely costly.”
Dave Donelson lives and writes in West Harrison, where he faithfully patronizes Fred’s Barber Shop.