The Salon de Lash: Kaori Bleifuss

salon-de-lashEven if you’re not a fan of going long—gel tips, extensions, award speeches—it’s worth going to great lengths, or at least to The Salon de Lash, for eyelash extensions. The fringe benefits of the customized, natural-looking lash extensions meticulously applied individually by ace aesthetician and owner Kaori Bleifuss’s swift and steady hand leave you looking years younger right off the bat. In this petite eyelash outpost, a second floor enclave above Scarsdale’s chic Spencer Street shops, Tokyo-native and Harrison resident Ms. Bleifuss has recreated the modern luxury of some of Japan’s 15,000 eyelash salons. Like so many other synthetic enhancements, the lashes come in varying sizes from natural to lethal. Each one of your natural lashes receives a faux eyelash and the flirty fringe goes steady for about two weeks. It takes 90 minutes to deliver maximum batability. Ms. Bleifuss treats the practice like a science, studying at more than five Japanese schools to master the technique and to become a teacher herself, gluing on extensions lash by lash, according to each eye’s shape. Inside dark wood treatment cubbies, the vibe is distinctly tranquil. Waves of Mozart are as subtle as the nuanced fragrance, humidity and temperature, designed to maximize the experience and the length lashes will last. On the plush leather recliners, time goes by in a blink of an eye. The Silk treatment leaves you doe-eyed with a natural curl; the Mink with Elizabeth Taylor’s voluminous look; crystals and tints more fantastical.

Each painstakingly applied extension initially runs $160-$200 (a bargain when compared with Beverly Hills’ $300 prices). Everything’s attached with a medical-grade glue that wards off allergic reactions and is easy on the eye. No matter how long you go, faux lashes fall off naturally one by one, with your eyelash’s hair cycle. At the least, it’s a nice two-week mascara break, which is when your faux flutter will begin to wane. If you use The Salon de Lash’s eyelash essence, imported from Japan, and sleep on your side or back, you can extend the lashing 45 to 60 days. Ms. Bleifuss is also offering the organic Japanese skin toner she’s toted back to Westchester for years—a patented process developed by a Japanese university to replace a shelf of daily anti-aging products—similarly scooped up by celebs like Kate Moss every time she goes in and out of Tokyo.

After 15 years working as an executive for a Japanese manufacturer, Ms.Bleifuss turned to Community Capital NY for a $35,000 small business start-up loan to open The Salon de Lash, where she now seems to be batting a thousand. The Salon de Lash, Two Spencer Place, Scarsdale, NY, 914.472.7858.

How did you get into the eyelash extension business?
It’s extremely popular in Japan to wear eyelash extensions. There are more than 15,000 eyelash extension salons. I wore them and I loved it. I wanted to change my career and went back and forth to Tokyo to attend five different schools to acquire the level of skill needed, a master’s level. When I researched, I only found factory-style eyelash extension places in Manhattan, and none in Westchester or Greenwich. There was not much luxury. I wanted to introduce the salons of Japan, where, since you have to close your eyes for 90 minutes, it’s in a private salon setting, not lying flat on your back on a table. It’s not a manicure, it doesn’t work well in those settings.

How did you get your business off the ground?
I studied until I was able to master the technique and join the Japanese Eyelash Extension Organization, one of 150 members who are teachers, who study safety as much as design. I went to night school for a year to get my aesthetician’s license. Since I worked as a Department Manager for a Japanese parts manufacturer, I could only make calls about licensing and permits on my lunch hour, and did online research after 8 pm when my seven and 10-year boy and girl went to bed. With a $35,000 small business loan from Community Capital I was able to start up my business. I knew I wanted a second floor location for privacy, so if you’re sitting in a chair for an hour and a half you aren’t distracted by street noises. I looked up the median income for Scarsdale, Chappaqua and Bronxville. At $228,000 it was among the highest in Westchester. Working with a real estate agent looking for rental space in those towns was not working, so I walked the streets. Eventually I found this small space, a second story, in a great location opposite the Scarsdale train station.

How will your business evolve?
Eyelash extension is a repeat business. To maintain the eyelashes, you have to come in and have the extensions reapplied, since your natural lashes fall out. It is like a face lift for older women, whose eyelashes fall out more often and grow thinner with age. My mother is 73 and wears them; she uses the essence and gets good volume on lashes that used to be thin and short. It’s great for brides—though we would want to do it at least two weeks prior to the wedding to make sure there is no reaction, the same for bat-mitzvahs and other special occasions. I plan to expand the Japanese products we sell, for eyelash care, as well as skin and beauty products.

What’s the best advice you received when flirting with a new field?
Everything was new to me and everything took time, and during that time I got a lot of advice. The best was to contact the local newspaper and let them know about our Grand Opening. We got many walk-ins who have become great, new clients.

When will you know you’ve arrived?
When the idea of getting eyelash extensions is as natural as dying your hair or getting a manicure. It’s so amazing. It looks like you’re wearing make-up when you’re not. Clients say people think they’ve had a facelift. So the results generate repeat clients.

What’s next?
Opening branches just like this one, small and luxurious, in Greenwich and then maybe Manhattan. I know how it’s done now. First, I have to train technicians, which is why when we’re closed on Sundays and Mondays I teach the Japanese technique to cosmetologists and aestheticians.