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From Department Store Phenom to Spa Professional

Cathy Christensen
Charlene Keefe picture

Charlene Keefe

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Unlike many spa professionals who find their love of skin care through experiences in school or at home, Charlene Keefe, owner of Skin By Char in Huntington Beach, California, discovered her passion through her work in department stores. Twenty years ago, Keefe began her skin care career as a promotional model for the prestige line Clinique in the Orange County, California, area. “My job was to introduce gift-with-purchase promotions around the store and help customers,” explains Keefe, who found that she had a knack for helping people. She wasn’t the only one who noticed this talent. “I got recruited by a store manager who wanted me to work behind the counter, so I decided to do it and began selling cosmetics. I found out I was good at listening to people and giving them what they wanted. If they were having an issue with their skin, I would address that issue,” she says.

It was during this time that Keefe honed skills that proved critical to her future skin care success; details such as follow-up and nurturing loyal clients. “I kept building relationships with customers, and I was really good at follow-up. It wasn’t about sales; it was about listening to the customers and introducing them to other things,” states Keefe, who soon became a top producer for Clinique.

It was during this time in her life she decided to put her career on the back burner while she started a family. After taking several years off, she decided she wanted to work at a store that was known for customer service. Immediately, she thought of Nordstrom. “I went to Nordstrom because I knew it had a reputation of doing anything for its customers. You can even introduce those customers to a different makeup line than the one you’re representing if it suits their needs,” says Keefe. Because of this open-door policy, Keefe also was able to enhance her knowledge of skin and skin care products by attending education offered by all of the lines carried at Nordstrom. “I would go to those classes and learn about other lines in order to become more well-rounded. I thought that was the best way to do it,” explains Keefe.

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