With Me from the Start

I was thinking about how the store looked when I first opened 20 years ago. Some of you may remember that in early days, Bellacara was more bed and bath than cosmetics and skincare. I know, crazy right? It didn’t take long to realize that the bedding angle had no future. What you really wanted was more skincare, haircare and makeup options in town. When I opened it was your local salon or CVS, that was it.

 

 

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the lines that have been with me from the beginning and that are still in store today. In this industry, there are new launches daily and companies have to evolve without evolving so much that they lose their core customer. That challenge isn’t an easy one. A lot of lines I started with don’t exist anymore. So, what makes the ones that are still with me stand the test of time?

 

 

The truth is the list is short. On that short list is Molton Brown. The crazy thing is that I almost got rid of it 18 years ago. I had brought on the line after visiting a nice hotel in Europe and finding it in my bathroom. Unlike my husband, I never take the mini toiletries home with me. I always prefer the things I buy. But on that particular occasion, I swooped in before he could and stashed them in my bag. When I opened the store, I called them right away. I was sure you would love it. But you weren’t so sure. The fragrances were different, and the product was a bit pricey. I almost gave up, but then the rep brought me a bottle of Heavenly Gingerlily at the end of 2001 and I decided to give it one more shot. With her help and this amazing new scent, you started to buy it. A year later the popular Black Pepper scent was introduced, and the line took off. Men loved it and what’s more, they started shopping with me to buy it. A couple years later, Molton Brown opened a flagship store in the United States and quickly became synonymous with luxury body care. It is still one of my best-selling lines in this category.

 

 

Next on the list, Rosebud Salve. This line adopts the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. The same formula since 1895, this salve has been a staple in people’s home ever since. Chapped lips and cheeks, dry cuticles, and even diaper rash are no match for this timeless salve. Over the years they have added flavors and even added a tube option, but the formula remains the same. I can scarcely recall a day when I didn’t sell at least one tin.

 

 

Fresh is a major score. When you open a store like Bellacara you can’t have everything you want the minute you open. You have to prove yourself. Fresh, which launched in 1991 with hand wrapped soaps, had evolved into the prettiest and most sought-after bath and body line in the U.S. After proving the concept of Bellacara over the first six months, they agreed to let me bring the line in. The line was originally comprised of nine different scents and each scent offered a wrapped soap, a bath gel, and a body lotion. As the line delved more and more into skincare, the original formulas and scents were discontinued and variations of what you see today were launched. At the time, none of us were happy about it. I still miss some of the original scents, but the fact that it’s still on the shelves today is a testament to the vision of the brand.

 

 

Lastly, Bumble and bumble hits the shelves. I have my neighbor Andrea Smith, co-owner of Misha’s Coffee house, to thank for that one. I was standing in line waiting to get a cup of coffee and she asked me how things were going. Then she said, “I really wish you’d sell my haircare, Bumble and bumble, I can’t get it here in town.” I had never heard of it. I went back to the store and did a little research. Haircare? Do I even want to get into that? I guess so because it has lasted through every single culling of lines since it arrived.

Every one of these lines took a chance on me before I really knew what Bellacara was destined to become. I owe them a debt of gratitude for believing in me and for sticking with me through thick and thin. They will always have a home at Bellacara.

 

  • The latest from Angela
I have been a beauty junkie for what seems like forever, but before I did anything about it, I went to law school. (Yes, my life is a little like the reverse of Legally Blonde.) Then, I worked as a prosecutor in Sonoma County after which I moved to the DC area with my husband in ’97. I served as Majority Counsel to the Senate Banking Committee followed by a year-long stint at a lobbying firm. You get the picture. It was then that I decided to act on my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Finding my favorite beauty products proved to be impossible without stepping foot in a mall–the horror. So, I decided to bring my favorites to Alexandria. A few trips to New York and a flight to France and Bellacara was born in March 2000.

Located in historic Old Town Alexandria, for more than 17 years Bellacara has been Northern Virginia's preeminent boutique for high end cosmetic, skincare and haircare products. At Bellacara you will find premiere beauty products that have been carefully edited by the store’s owner, Angela Sitilides, who personally tests all the products sold in store. The boutique carries only the best product lines – Kiehl’s, Jouer, Dr. Dennis Gross, Christophe Robin, Moroccan Oil, Bumble & Bumble, Fresh, Molton Brown, Skinceuticals, Smashbox, Stila, Mario Badescu, Clarins, Dermalogica, Kevyn Aucoin, Kai, Child, St. Tropez, Smith and Cult, and many more.

www.bellacara.com

1000 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

703.299.9652

2 Comments

  1. Angela, thank you for sharing this story. I really appreciate your approach to business, and your dedication to evolving your own brand to retain core and gain additional customers. This is noteworthy especially as many local businesses leave us these days and we feel the impact. I hope you keep doing what you’re doing and I’m inspired to visit the shop even more!

  2. I live in northwest DC and always enjoy shopping at Bellacara when I visit Old Town. Molton Brown is one of my favorite products and the last time I purchased Molton Brown, Angela you gave me a very nice Molton Brown gift in different bath fragrances to try. I really appreciated getting the gift and always appreciate getting samples with my purchases and looking around in the store to see what I can try.

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