Cheryl Salinas-Tucker once wore power suits as director of sales for Aveda in Michigan. But when the corporate ladder got pulled out from under her for the second time in five years, she decided to open Rouge, a cozy little makeup and nail studio in Ferndale. Part boutique, part grandmother’s living room, and part girly hangout, Rouge is Ferndale’s hippest new space for gals.
And Salinas-Tucker couldn’t be happier with her decision, tickled to have women perch in a sparkly gold chair and talk about skincare or relax with a cup of tea and a pedicure. With a dream to have her own business someday, she felt, despite the economy, that there was no better time – and place – to do it.
“Like so many people in Michigan, in 2009, I found myself laid off. I did look for another job, but ultimately, I decided that it was time to create my own business,” Salinas-Tucker recalls.
Ferndale seems to attract folks like Salinas-Tucker – a take-the-bull-by-the-horns sect of young entrepreneurs – those preferring to ply their trade on their own terms, with all of the risk, but none of the hassle of working for someone else. The city has adopted a 2.0 persona that has attracted a wide variety of young entrepreneurs (31 businesses to their downtown in 2010), building up a reputation as Metro Detroit’s go-to community for DIY culture.
It was exactly the kind of community Salinas-Tucker needed, allowing her to return to her passion for hands-on makeup and skincare, while focusing on locally made organic products. She says her career transition has been rewarding, and she glows with pride about the space she has created to help people unwind. “People walk in here a ball of stress, and walk out of here relaxed and happy.” Now that’s job satisfaction.
Better yet, business profits have exceeded her expectations. Salinas-Tucker believes that her studio, which opened in July, has thrived when disposable incomes are dwindling because people need to look better to feel better. “When you are out there looking for a job, or money is tight, you might not be able to spend a day at the spa, or take a vacation, but you can probably afford an hour or two at Rouge,” says Salinas-Tucker. “In that way, I think that what we offer here is a tremendous value.”
Salinas-Tucker and her sister, manicurist Jeny Bulatovic, have created a place where chicks can feel at home. In fact, the place is familiar like home, decorated with family touches like their grandmother’s lamp table painted a retro apple green and antique pictures. Footbaths are drawn from a regular tap into a tub, which is brought to a private, comfy corner chair just like a home pedicure (with the exception of the do-it-yourself body contortions). But what stands out most is the harsh difference between this Woodward Avenue refuge and most department store makeup counters and production-line nail salons. There are no glaring lights, no line of bullying massage chairs, no mask-wearing personnel trying to protect their lungs from acrylic dust, and no pushy sales people.
“We offer an alternative to economy nail salons,” says Salinas-Tucker. “And, as a guest pointed out to me, if you go to a place that does acrylic nails, even if you are not having them put on, you are breathing in those toxic fumes and dust. We don’t do any toxic services here. It’s a huge point of difference.”
And here’s where Rouge really stands out, with a commitment to buying both local and organic. Rouge carries Eve Organics skincare and makeup products from Macomb, Down to Earth candles from Royal Oak, Dirty Girl Soaps bath and body products from Fenton, and jewelry by Ferndale artisan Jennifer Vermeersch. The nail polish is SpaRitual, which is from California, but Salinas-Tucker says that it’s the best vegan product she found. “We use products that are organic and vegan – healthy products.” She is serious about teaching customers about why it’s important to use natural products, if they’re willing to hear about it.
Steering away from terms like “pampering,” Salinas-Tucker says that her beauty business is about health, wellness, and helping guests wade through confusing information about various products.
“Because the FDA does not regulate the cosmetic industry, cosmetic companies skirt the issue and have free reign to, in some cases, hide ingredients that are actually toxic. We want to help our guests have more information, so that they can make better, more informed choices.”
Salinas-Tucker says that Ferndale is particularly friendly to small businesses. She’s found the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, Ferndale Downtown Development Authority and local residents to be incredibly supportive.
“Many of our guests say that they wanted to try us out because we are a local business, right in the neighborhood. This area loves to buy local.”
With the same philosophy, Salinas-Tucker supports other local businesses. Rouge partnered with Pinwheel Bakery for a Ferndale girls night out event in November and is working with a local vintage buyer to launch her website with an evening fashion show at Rouge in February.
Giving back is clearly important for Salinas-Tucker and Bulatovic, who donated their services (while still painting walls and installing shelving at the studio), applying all the makeup and finger nail polish for ten models at the Detroit Wig Out benefit for National Bone Marrow Transplant in June. Rouge joined with the Woodward Avenue Candy Shop in December to help a local family in need, donating manicures to family members. Rouge also offered free mini-services at a Wellness Day at the ePrize office in Pleasant Ridge. And Salinas-Tucker mentors a young woman from Detroit who wants to be a makeup artist, but doesn’t have money for formal schooling.
Wholeheartedly, Salinas-Tucker believes in giving back, but also in inspiring others to build upon their skills and talents, offering Rouge’s cheery space as a showcase for local goods and services. “We have friends who are artists, stylists, facialists, henna tattoo artists, jewelry designers, and nutritionists. From classes to trunk shows, we love to empower our friends and help them make it work.”
Melinda Clynes is a Royal Oak-based freelance writer who rarely wears makeup and never climbed the corporate ladder (but did climb New Zealand’s Milford Pass in a blinding snowstorm). She is a regular contributor to Metromode and Model D.