Anita Kiernan realized her dream of starting a one-stop, client service-focused shop for makeup, beauty services and drinks when the appropriately named Retail Therapy Beauty Bar opened its doors in December with the goal of promoting “infinite beauty” for all.
It started about a year ago, when Kiernan, a resident of Saunderstown, sold her house and had to make a decision: Buy another house, or take a leap and start her own business.
She chose the latter.
Kiernan had been working in the beauty industry for most of her life as a makeup artist for retailers such as Sephora and Bloomingdales.
“It’s a job I loved going to every day,” said Kiernan. “How many jobs can people say that about?”
But Kiernan always felt that the store environment could be intimidating to some people and the personal customer service can be lacking.
“Beauty is personal. Not everyone is comfortable getting their makeup done or buying a new product,” explained Kiernan. “I wanted an environment where people were comfortable sitting in a chair and playing for a bit.”
So Kiernan made the decision to open the type of store she always wanted to go to, a place where women (and men) would be able to come, get advice on quality skin care products and makeup, grab a light lunch or cocktails and have the opportunity to receive quality services such as pedicures, manicures, facials and even microdermabrasion treatments in a comfortable and inviting environment.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I love the industry and I want to have a place where people want to go,” said Kiernan.
She also found what she hopes will become an ideal location, a store on Route 2. Kiernan found the location, which had been vacant for three years, in spring 2013 and admits that it is a bigger space than she initially planned. However, after seeing the space, which allowed for her café, and the large windows, which allow people to see the bright red walls and products from outside, she couldn’t let it go.
“Route 2 is the busiest shopping area in Rhode Island,” said Kiernan. “You can have a great store and a great product, but if it’s not in the right location, it won’t work.”
This location also has the benefit of being located right next door to Pier 1 Imports, a fact that Kiernan and her staff admit led to a large number of women coming in to see the store.
And after a great deal of renovation, completed by Kiernan, her daughter, a network of friends and some amazing contractors, Retail Therapy Beauty Bar was able to become a beautiful, trendy store, dressed from wall to wall in black, white and red.
Although Retail Therapy Beauty Bar does not provide hair services, such as cuts and colors, they do offer blowouts, up-dos for special occasions, and Kiernan says they have been very popular providing makeup and hair services for bridal parties (they will provide the services at their store or go to the bride’s home/venue). Other services include full waxing, manicures, pedicures with reflexology, lash extensions, facials and microdermabrasion treatments. Services range in cost from $10 for a lip wax to $480 for six diamond microdermabrasion treatments.
Retail Therapy Beauty Bar will also be providing Botox injection services from Dr. Lynn Iler, East Greenwich dermatologist and a close acquaintance of Kiernan’s. Iler is a well-respected doctor in the state and is often featured in the Top Docs list from Rhode Island Monthly.
“She will be in here once, maybe twice a month for a couple of hours,” explained Kiernan. “She is making time for us, which is much appreciated.”
Kiernan also envisions booking events for birthdays, showers and more at the location, allowing for fun makeover experiences.
In addition to makeup and spa services, Retail Therapy Beauty Bar stocks a large selection of high-end quality makeup, skin care and other beauty products, many of which aren’t sold anywhere else in the state. Kiernan says everything sold in her store is tried and tested by her because she didn’t want to sell any products that she wouldn’t use or support herself.
One of the biggest lines Kiernan stocks is Inglot cosmetics, a high-pigment makeup line used by models for photo shoots. “They’re usually in their own boutiques,” said Kiernan, who explained that the line is one of the best.
In fact, almost all of the lines sold in Kiernan’s store are top of the line, including Gorgeous Cosmetics, the number one beauty line out of Australia (another line not sold anywhere else in the state), Poppy Soaps (which for every purchase gives a bar to a women’s shelter), all natural Mbeze deodorant, Nerium skin care (which was featured on CBS’ “The Doctors”) and Moses hair care. Kiernan also found a cosmetic company she liked that would create products for a Retail Therapy Beauty Bar Cosmetics Line.
The Retail Therapy Beauty Bar also features a number of locally made products, including RI Soapworks, Lotus Life Shirts, Fruition handbags and aprons, and jewelry from local designers. “We’re trying to support them because they are small businesses too,” explained Kiernan.
The feature Kiernan is most proud of however, and the one thing she would not have opened a store without, is Retail Therapy Beauty Bar’s café and bar. Clients are able to order small plates of items such as hummus, cheese and crackers, and weekly specials. No item needs to be cooked on-site, but things may be warmed or toasted in the café area. There is also a full bar featuring cocktails, beer and wine for guests to enjoy while shopping, during a pedicure or while sitting in the café area after shopping.
“I love going out, shopping with my girls, having lunch and having a martini,” said Kiernan, adding the fact that she truly wanted to create a store that she, her close friends, and other women would enjoy. “This is what I would love if I were a consumer.”
Kiernan admits that business has been slow to start, likely because they opened during the holiday season when everyone is thinking of gifts for others, not services for themselves. But slowly through word-of-mouth, business has been growing week after week.
Kiernan adds that she wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without the amazing support system around her of friends, family and colleagues in the industry, or her dedicated, passionate and hard-working staff.
Retail Therapy Beauty Bar has eight employees, some of whom haven’t started just yet, and Kiernan says they all work great together. She only knew one of her employees before opening the store; the rest went through a typical application process.
“They work well together,” said Kiernan, who added that everyone is paid on an hourly basis instead of commission to avoid cattiness that can sometimes occur. “They work as a team and that’s what you need to be successful.”
Moving forward, Kiernan hopes to carry more lines and ultimately envisions more Retail Therapy Beauty Bar locations. But for now, she is looking to get the word out through holiday specials and nightly themed specials. For example, Mondays will soon become Margarita and Mani Mondays, and Thursday’s are Ladies’ Night feature express services.
The store’s first group of holiday specials are for Valentine’s Day: A sweetheart spa or gel manicure and pedicure for $40-$50 (a $5 discount), a red or pink spa manicure for $15 until Feb. 14, and a “Valentine Date Night” complimentary makeup application with the purchase of a blow-out or hairstyle (by appointment only on Feb. 14).
For more information, find Retail Therapy Beauty Bar on Facebook or stop by their store at 1276 Bald Hill Road, in the plaza with Pier 1 Imports and Staples.