by RONA MANN

Remember the old fashioned beauty parlor?

Jessie-WakefieldIt was often a dark place with ominous looking prehistoric equipment and predictably painful procedures, all performed in the name of beauty. The air was redolent with the smell of permanent wave lotion, and the atmosphere was dark and unpleasant. Beauty parlor services didn’t offer much more than perfunctory hairstyling in those days: tight little perms, shampoos, and sets. All procedures were essentially the same, and everyone looked the same. This was accompanied by lots of teasing and even the added noxious fumes of a hair spray applied so heavily, that a hair would not dare move, even in a windstorm!

Happily, those days are gone!

Enter a salon where it’s always light and airy, where you are all at once struck by the magnificent lighting, strategically placed to not only make you look your best, but to be able to see from every angle. A place not cluttered with old magazines falling off tables, with too much on the walls, with product for sale at every turn. Instead this place seems filled with sunshine and positivity, even on the cloudiest of days. It has obviously been designed for the total comfort and joy of the client; and there are many clients indeed, ranging in age from 6 to 88, according to the salon’s owner, Jessie Wakefield.

Wakefield herself is a sunny individual with an energy and positivity that simple radiates from within. Enter then, this special place: Salon Belle Vie at the Shops of Water’s Edge Resort in Westbrook.

But make no mistake. Just because Salon Belle Vie is part of the Water’s Edge Resort family, do not for one minute think it has resort prices placed on its services.
Jessie Wakefield is quick to add, “We are grateful for the business we get from the resort; however it is the people who live three miles over or in the woods, who live here   year round that are the backbone of this business. So I have designed our prices to suit them.”

Smart lady. Wakefield is a woman who knows her own mind, who has a presence, a business acumen, and a self-assured manner that seems to belie her years. She is a young wife, devoted mother, and reasonably new business owner, but she credits her growth and success to ongoing education in her field and a supportive family that just gives and gives.

“My friend designed our logo,” Wakefield states proudly. Following a seaside theme due to Salon Belle Vie’s proximity to the water, and as a nod to her family’s love of all things nautical, the logo appears at first to be a coat of arms. Upon closer inspection, one perceives two criss-crossed anchors with a pair of scissors at the top. It is intriguing and yet simple, much like the rest of the furnishings within the salon. This is a place of minimalist design, but maximum commitment to the art of hairstyling and beauty. Jessie’s father built the shelves; her uncle did the metal work, and Jessie herself is completely devoted to not only her family’s well being, but to that of her staff. “My goal is for all of us to do well.”

Wakefield does not claim to have a three ring circus of beauty treatments and products; there are no nail services, massage, or facials given here. Rather, Salon Belle Vie is dedicated primarily to hair. To haircuts for women, men, and children. To styling and blow drying and a full line of color services from single process to highlights, hair painting, and even corrective coloring.

DSC01212Since education has always played a large part in Wakefield’s life, she makes sure it does the same for her talented staff. “We do a lot of education,” she states. “Whenever an educational opportunity arises…a show, a seminar, something new, we all go.” Usually that’s a minimum of five to six times a year, but Jessie looks at the opportunities as an ongoing investment in her business and therefore a benefit to her customers.

A very significant part of Salon Belle Vie’s success is their service to wedding parties, having served more than 100 parties in just four years. While they accommodate many of the wedding parties from Water’s Edge, they welcome everyone, regardless of where they’re getting married or how many attendants they have. Together the staff works in concert making not only the bride, but bridesmaids, family members, and flower girls look radiant. “We do hair, of course,” says Jessie, “and also eyelash application, makeup, and airbrushing. And everyone has a great time in the process! ”

The salon gives itself over to the bridal party, providing refreshments, mimosas, and  most of all, a relaxing and fun atmosphere guaranteed to at least minimize wedding day jitters. How early will they open for their bridal parties? “Whether they need early or late, we do it when they need it. This business is not just hair; it’s a personal connection. Their appearance means a lot. It makes other things feel good, and that’s what we’re about.”

While Salon Belle Vie does not make the claim to have all natural products, they   endeavor to reduce the carbon footprint in most cases. One of their more popular lines,  Evo, has a trademarked slogan, “Saving ordinary humans from themselves.” Wakefield embraces that philosophy and has it emblazoned on one wall. The salon also features   Glo Makeup, known for triple milled skin care with added color. “We are about techniques, products, and thinking outside the box,” Wakefield says. It is apparent that  while the salon has a high-end approach, their attitude and way of treating clients is  completely down to earth, which is why it’s not unusual for customers to plant a kiss on Jessie’s smiling face when they leave.

Salon Belle Vie…in French it means “a beautiful life.” In Westbrook, Connecticut at the Shops of Water’s Edge it means beauty made comfortable and affordable for customers  who come into the light and leave with kisses.

And all the while, Jessie Wakefield just keeps smiling.

Visit Salon Belle Vie at the Shops of Water’s Edge or online at www.salonbelleviect.com (860) 399-0101

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