It’s hard not to relax upon entering the waiting room of . Owner Sandra Caldwell wants the atmosphere—the soothing music, the low lighting coupled with lamps that give off an entrancing red glow and the artwork highlighted by the meditating Buddha statuette atop a shelf—to put customers in the right mood for a facial or a waxing.
“It’s an extension of my personality,” Caldwell said of the décor. “I want my clients to escape and forget their stress.”
Caldwell realizes that people will be more stressed when the economy is bad, as it is now. And like many business owners, Caldwell knows that a bad economy means a decrease in her business, saying she has “definitely seen a difference” during the recession.
Yet increased stress levels also give Caldwell more to talk about with her clients, a part of her job she enjoys.
“I like working where I get to talk to people all day,” she said. “They ask me about my family, and I talk to them about their lives—be their therapist, sometimes.”
And Caldwell still has plenty of clients with whom to chat—about 400, by her count. She doesn’t see them all every day, of course—she has 10 to 14 appointments daily—but many are regulars who Caldwell has seen for all of her two decades as an aesthetician.
“They’re like friends, except you don’t do anything socially (with each other),” she said with a laugh.
Caldwell knew she wanted a career in the beauty industry, but not necessarily as an aesthetician. However, a car accident changed that.
“I was going to go to school for hair, but then I got rear-ended,” she said. Her resulting neck injuries forced her to put her schooling on hold. After working as a secretary for a time, she attended Horst Education Center—now the Aveda Institute—in Minneapolis to become an aesthetician.
Caldwell started A Gentle Touch by Sandra in the spring of 1996, opening up shop in St. Louis Park’s where currently sits. After moving to another location in the center to make room for Hoigaard’s, Caldwell settled in her current location at Miracle Mile about three years ago (go in the door next to Subway, up the stairs and turn right to go to suite 144).
She rents a room in her suite to masseuse Jean McCoy of Heaven on Earth Therapeutic Massage. But that still leaves a room for waxing and one for facials, in addition to the waiting room that Caldwell and McCoy share.
September and October are the quietest months of the year in the waiting room, but Caldwell said business should pick up in a couple of months.
“Spring break, the holidays—people like to look good for that kind of stuff,” she said.
Caldwell also hopes for an uptick in business thanks to her inclusion in an upcoming book promoting women business owners. "CRAVE: Minneapolis & St. Paul" will be released in November.
“I haven’t advertised much, ever,” she said. “It’s kind of a new thing to be doing after being established for so long.”