By Joshua Maloni
"Impressive" was the word used in a 2006 Sentinel article to describe Christine Conte who, at 22 - just six months out of Mar Jon School of Beauty Culture - was the owner/operator of her very own Village of Lewiston salon business.
"Amazing" could be the word best befitting Conte 12 years later, as she successfully oversees a Niagara-Wheatfield-area salon that is three times as large as her first one, and offers five times as many services.
Vogue Salon & Back Bar, located at 10158 Niagara Falls Blvd. (in the Como plaza near the airport), offers haircuts (men, women, kids, tweens, teens - cuts, perms and updos), coloring, extensions, sugaring, waxing (arms, legs, facial), body treatments (wraps, salt scrubs, peels, masks), sugar lash lift, pedicures and teeth whitening. Makeup services (airbrush, lash extensions, tinting) recently were added, and there are private rooms for massage therapy, tanning and wedding planning.
It's just a cornucopia of services that is, in fact, impressive ... amazing ... gigantic ... dynamic.
Of course, Conte would never use those terms. Her word of choice is "gratitude."
At an event Monday celebrating Vogue Salon & Back Bar's fifth anniversary, Conte, 33, said, "It's mind-blowing to me. ... I'm so grateful, because I get to live my dream every day. Not a lot of people can do that. It doesn't feel like work," she said. "I hang out with my friends (the word she uses for her clients) and I do what I love. It's a blessing. That's success in itself."
When she began in Lewiston, "It was very intimidating, but I knew that the beauty industry was my passion. I did have a little bit of business background, and I had a lot of support."
After leaving VIP Salon, Conte worked at two other local beauty parlors before creating Vogue Salon & Back Bar.
"I was able to take time, as years went on, once I moved to another salon, to grow as a stylist, and to focus on me and my chair - not just the business aspects," she said. "With the beauty salons that I have been involved with or worked for, coming up to this point, I have learned so much from all my previous bosses and my previous experiences. I've had very good role models throughout my career."
Conte opened Vogue Salon & Back Bar in the winter of 2013.
"I'm so blessed, because I wasn't looking originally at that point in my life to open up a salon," she said. "I was looking to rent a chair. And ... things just kind of snowballed into one opportunity leading into another. When I look back on five years, it really blows my mind how blessed I really am - especially seeing as how we've done an addition - and just going from me and Krista (Lisi) to all these girls that are so full of talent."
Conte and some of her staff members.
Vogue Salon & Back Bar excels in the areas key to a successful salon business: customer service, high-quality products and services, and skilled beauticians.
"It's the way we treat our clients," Conte said. "My salon, I feel, is like my home. My employees and my independent contractors are my family. Our clients are our friends. When they come in, we treat them like we want to be treated. If we got a service, and maybe we weren't happy with the results, we'll tell them. 'We think we can do something better. Let's have you come back in - complimentary - let's take care of you.' I think it's because we take care of our clients just like we want to be taken care of; that's what makes them feel appreciated."
She noted, "We've expanded our services. ... We just brought in Dermalogica, which is our newest skin care line. That's going very well. We also have Amika for our hair services. We retail Moroccan oil. Kenra. Joico. Pravana."
Conte explained, "With our stylists - and even now our estheticians since we've expanded our services - my girls always have a lot of in-house education. We do it once a month, where we have one of our educators come from either our color line that we use, or have it be an updo class. ... We always have a once-a-month, in-house, hands-on class."
"The more education they have behind them, it will broaden their horizon, (and) they'll be more competent and educated in the product that they're using," she added.
Customers have noticed a difference at Vogue Salon & Back Bar.
"I cannot say enough about how happy I am with (stylist) Megan (Wendt)! I have given her free reign on many occasions where I have said, 'Do whatever you want to do!' I trust her completely," Eva George said. "We have done blonde with purple in the back; brunette; highlights; lowlights; you name it. I always am thrilled with the results and feel beautiful when she is done. She takes the time to explain to me what my maintenance will be before she does anything, so I know what I am getting in to. I have referred several friends who are pleased also. I would follow her wherever she goes. To me she is the best, hands down! I love her!"
Amber Suess said, "I received a facial from Johnnie-Marie a few days ago at the Vogue Salon & Back Bar. It was the most relaxing and refreshing facial I've ever received! My skin was glowing after. Johnnie-Marie took the time to discuss with me what kind of facial would be best for my skin and she was spot on! I'll definitely be going back; love her!"
And Melanie Mancuso said, "I had been going to various hairdressers the majority of my life. Some were good, some not so good. One day a few years ago, my sister-in-law called me and said 'Melanie, I went to a new salon and got the best haircut I have ever had.' At that time, my sister-in-law Heather had recently moved up from Florida and needed a trim. She saw an advertisement for Vogue Salon & Back Bar and booked with Christine Conte. Heather is very particular with her hair, and was reluctant to let any new hairdresser touch it. She spent 15 minutes with me on the phone ranting and raving about how much she loved her hair; how friendly and inviting the salon was; and how personable Christine was.
"Heather was blown away by how precise Christine was, and her attention to detail - and also how nice it was to enjoy a glass of pinot while getting pampered. Hearing the amazing review from my sister-in-law, I booked an appointment with Christine. After my first appointment, I was hooked. I was absolutely in love with my hair, and I had the most enjoyable experience. It was such a warm, inviting, friendly atmosphere. I left extremely happy and couldn't wait to book my next appointment with Christine.
"For the past two years, I have been going to Christine to color and style my hair, and I wouldn't go to anyone else. She's one of the most knowledgeable, honest and hard-working hairstylists I have ever met. No matter how booked up or busy she is, she greets every person at the salon and makes every client feel welcome and comfortable. I know that when I go to Christine to get my hair done, it will come out perfect."
Conte said success is "just by the grace of God, and the loyalty of our clients, and the hard work and the passion of the girls that I have that work very well together. I'm very humbled and grateful for it."
Johnnie Baldassara works the facial light.
Vogue Salon & Back Bar awarded prizes to clients on Monday to celebrate its fifth anniversary.
Conte with her children, RJ and Gianna Mia.