Like many a perfume addict, I occasionally dream of owning my own perfume store. My own reverie revolves largely around having the opporunity to test lots of free perfume samples, and at no time do I bother considering such weighty issues as dealing with customers, much less actually trying to make money. I thought it might be interesting to ask a few retailers what the experience was really like.
Lisa Slavik opened Beauty Cafe in 1997. She carries Bond no. 9, L'Artisan, Eadward, Susanne Lang, Zents, and Comptoir Sud Pacifique among others.
Lisa, how and when did you first become interested in perfume?
When I was a child growing up in Hollywood, CA, there was a very elegant lady that lived in our apartment building. You knew when she had been in the elevator or in the halls because of the lingering fragrance of violets. To this day, some thirty something years later, I can still recall her signature fragrance. She was the epitome of elegance and class to me and as I grew older I swore that one day, I too would have a signature fragrance. Boy was I ever wrong on that one!
Later I discovered alt.fashion on the internet, and through that group I became acquainted with the Comptoir Sud Pacifique (CSP) line. Sigh, Amour de Cacao was my first cult fragrance and soon my bathroom counter was covered in CSP fragrances.
What was your career before you opened Beauty Cafe, and how did you come to open your own perfume business?
I was a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, but I left retail and for over a decade I worked at Hollywood Title Services, a company that specialized in designing Motion Picture Titles and Trailers. It was there that I gained my graphic design and typography skills. Then I moved to Dallas 13 years ago, and worked for several years in the printing industry.
In 1997, alt.fashion had their first annual get together in NYC, and at that event I met Susan Anapol, President of Comptoir Sud Pacifique USA. We became the dearest of friends and it was over lunch that the idea of Beauty Cafe was born. I had the merchandising and retail experience, and combined with my graphic design skills, it was a perfect fit.
What is it like to own a fragrance store? In what ways is it better than you imagined, and in what ways is it harder than you thought it would be?
Looking back, I really did break ground for many of the beauty etailers of today. In 1997, ecommerce and the internet were still in the infant stage. It was actually very difficult for me to get Beauty Cafe started. Many vendors turned their noses up at me because I did not have a brick & mortar store.
I was extremely fortunate to have Susan Anapol championing me, and then a good friend got me an appointment with Laurice Rahme, who was then the President of Creed USA. Laurice was a godsend to me. We sat down and I shared my vision of Beauty Cafe as one of the first high end retailers on the internet. I walked away from that meeting on cloud 9, having become the first authorized online retailer for Creed.
Then the press began -- suddenly there I was in Women’s Wear Daily, and Beauty Cafe took off. I had found a niche and from that point on I wanted to help open the doors for others and I began to focus on the smaller startup fragrance and beauty companies. I still to this day find it so very rewarding when a new line just takes off.
Beauty Cafe has in so many ways become such an important part of my life. When I went through my divorce, I threw myself into the business full time since I was no longer working at my husband's business. It has allowed me to be there for my daughter and I cannot say enough about the wonderful clientele that I have built up through the years. Many of my customers have become almost extended family to me.
Do you ever get tired of trying new fragrances?
Me, never....when and if that ever happens, it will be time to close the doors on Beauty Cafe forever.
Of the fragrances that you carry, can you pick 3 favorites and tell us a little about them?
Vanille Abricot by Comptoir Sud Pacifique: for so many years this has been my beloved fragrance. Tahitian Vanille with the essence of Apricot. I've been told that when I wear it, I smell good enough to eat...enough said!
Wall Street by Bond No 9: If there was ever a fragrance that could be coined "Sex in a Bottle" this would be it. There are notes of sea kale, cucumber, musk, lavender, vetiver and ambergris. Whenever my boyfriend wears this fragrance, the women compliment him to no end. When I wear it, suddenly I feel very, very sexy.
Eclectic by Eadward: A blend of white tea, vanilla and light citrus notes . This is one of the newer lines at Beauty Cafe and I am thrilled that my customers love this line as much as I do. I mentioned to Kareema McLendon of Eadward the other day that I have received more compliments on Eclectic than any other fragrance I have ever worn.
And what are your 3 favorite fragrances that you don't carry?
This is a tough one...Caroline Herrera for Men is a truly wonderful, sexy fragrance for men. I think all men should have this in their fragrance collection. Jill Sander No. 4 for Women has and always will be in my fragrance collection. And I adore the entire Jo Malone collection.