Story last updated at 12/27/2013 - 2:42 pm
It was family that drew Laura Bess Stidolph back to Juneau after years of working in San Francisco and other Lower 48 cities. Now that she's back, Vanity is keeping her busy.
Stidolph is an esthetician, and Vanity is her downtown Juneau boutique. It just celebrated its first birthday at December's Gallery Walk.
Esthetics (for the spelling conscious: "aesthetics" seems to refer mostly to the medical field, whereas "esthetics" seems to refer to spa settings) was a second career for her, after the recession took her job as a production manager in commercial construction. Just the same, it was a natural fit.
"I was always the one that did my friends' makeup for prom," she said. "I've done makeup my whole life."
She does more than just makeup at Vanity, however: the boutique also offers facials, chemical peels, facial and body waxing, and retails Epicuren and Physicians Choice of Arizona (PCA) skin care products.
She also does airbrush makeup, which works well for film and TV. She recently participated in her first reality show, about which she can't say much until it airs in the spring.
She attended the San Francisco Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology, a Paul Mitchell school. She's also a certified chemical peel specialist, and has taken classes on skin health and other topics. It was after working at a five-star San Francisco salon called "The Cutlery" as the boutique's only esthetician that Stidolph made the decision to head north.
Five years ago, Stidolph said, she wouldn't have believed she'd be back in Juneau - she left soon after graduating from JDHS in 1999, returning for short periods of time. But the town "seems to pull people back," she said.
When her nephew was born, "I met him and I knew I wanted to be closer to him," she said. "For the better part of the last 12 years I'd been outside Juneau. I felt like it was time to be closer to my family ... I realized what an amazing community we live in, and how many things I took for granted."
Alaska has different attitudes about beauty than the Lower 48, she said.
"The great thing about Juneau is there are so many natural beauties here," she said. She said she "respects the decision" not to wear makeup, get facials, or do other things typically provided by a boutique like hers, but said her view is that facials and other services don't detract from that "natural beauty."
Stidolph said working in beauty has educated her on women's capacity for self-criticism .
"It's amazing to me what women see on themselves that no one else is seeing," she said. "The critique that we all have about ourselves."
Accordingly, part of her mission is helping women to be positive about themselves.
"I just want people to leave here feeling better about themselves - not just the way they look on the outside, but the way they feel on the inside," she said.
In the future, she hopes Vanity can become a full-service spa, offering body treatments, massage therapy, and hair services. But she also wants to ensure its growth is slow, steady, and organic. She plans a regular blog on her website in 2014.
She supports Juneau's downtown business community and is optimistic about its growth.
"There are a lot of new businesses and a lot of young people in our peer group that are starting to do incredible things," she said, mentioning The Rookery, Bauer/Clifton Interiors, B's Bakery and Bistro, and High Tide Tattoo.
"All these businesses are young people trying to do something in Juneau. They have the talent to be doing it other places, and they want to live here and build a business and create, which I think says a lot about this community. And we definitely couldn't do it without the support of the generation before us."
Her parents, Roger and Betty Stidolph, were inspirations and "instrumental" in helping her to open her boutique, she said.
Vanity is at 204 North Franklin Street in downtown Juneau. Its website is http://vanityxo.com.