When people stop by Allure Designs in Beauty salon in downtown Libertyville, they can have their hair cut and colored, get a massage, have the new gels applied to their nails, and get a one-hour make-up lesson.
But there's something else Allure offers that, according to owner Shelly Malizola, sets the salon apart: a boutique. There are, of course, the Aveda products and the Bumble and Bumble line for customers to pick up. But the boutique also offers everything from colorful Namaste bracelets with their glass beads to the vegan Shiraleah products, like the feels-just-like-leather items.
The opening of the boutique is one of many changes the salon has undergone in recent years, which also included a move and expansion this past June.
"I love and embrace change, and I love that it's constantly changing," Malizola said of being in the salon business. "I'm constantly learning."
Malizola got into the salon industry about 20 years ago, but her interest started long before that. In junior high, she went on a field trip to the cosmetology school at the College of Lake County and knew that's what she wanted to do after high school.
"I was always cutting my dolls' hair off," said Malizola.
She started taking classes and was licensed by age 18.
"I like transforming," said Malizola. She enjoys seeing people leave the salon feeling better about themselves.
Malizola opened Allure Designs in Beauty in 1996 with two other women in a big brownstone house in Libertyville. The stylists at that time rented their space from the Allure owners, who were leasing the salon space from the building's owners.
Five years later, the building was sold and Allure moved to a space near Morgan's Bar and Grill. One of the salon owners had already retired from the business.
"We did well back there even though we were hidden," said Malizola.
Transforming the Salon
In 2009, Malizola bought out her business partner and "completely reengineered my whole business." She took a bunch of classes about running a small business.
Malizola held a staff meeting and explained that instead of earning wages based on commission, employees would start receiving an hourly salary, along with benefits. She also started operating in an open management style, letting employees see exactly what it cost to operate the salon. Through a sort of profit-sharing program, Malizola started giving out bonuses when the salon's revenues exceeded its expenses.
In June, Allure moved across the street to 521 N. Milwaukee Ave., doubling the salon's square footage.
"It's been incredible," said Malizola.
With the move, Malizola decided to bring in an eco-friendly boutique.
"We didn't want it to look like a salon that carries tshotshkes," said Malizola.
The boutique is located near the store's front entrance, which is on Milwaukee Avenue. Some of the most popular products are from Shiraleah, a vegan company that uses no animal byproducts.
"Their purses feel like leather but they're not," said Malizola.
Shoppers obsessed with scents might enjoy the Lampair fragrance lamps, which slowly release scents from various fragrant oils. There are also lotions with bits of gold in them, and oils that contain pieces of fruit and plants.
The shop's decorative items, including the repurposed, vintage ceiling tiles, are all for sale.
In addition to the Bumble and Bumble and Aveda products offered at Allure, the boutique also sells SARAHPOTEMPA styling tools. Potempa, a celebrity hairstylist, is a Libertyville native.
"Women come in, get their color done and then they shop - and we wrap up everything," said Malizola.
Details like wrapping up a customer's purchases, Malizola said, are all part of the salon's customer focus.
"We're very, very customer-focused," said Malizola. Staff members attend a customer service training once a month. The salon also offers its clients a stress-relieving treatment during their visit. Clients can choose from a complimentary make-up touch-up, a neck and shoulder massage, a paraffin treatment, or a hand massage with essential oils.
The salon is also focused on education. Staff members are regularly trained on the latest updo, coloring and cutting trends and techniques.
Allure will hold its 16th annual holiday extravaganza from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Dec. 7. The event will feature live music, hors d'ouvres and wine, and free giveaways. For more information, call the salon at (847) 816-0704.