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When I step into The Beautique, a hidden enclave shielded from the rush of Flemington Road by long, sheer curtains, there’s a certain energy in the air.
Despite the loft-style beauty studio being quieter than normal—six months ago it wasn’t unusual to see six nail artists working at a time—the air is filled with the sound of laughter and quiet conversation.
The Beautique only reopened two weeks ago, and people are catching up after months of shutdown. Everyone seems to be riding the high of being able to go about one’s daily life—sort of.
This is beauty in the era of COVID-19 after all, so hand sanitiser, spray bottles and temperature checks are plentiful. Above it all hovers a neon sign reading ‘breathe’. It’s been part of the salon décor for years, but it’s probably never been more appropriate.
In the midst of it all is owner Jess Peris, who greets me as she bundles four delivery boxes in the door. The founder and sole owner of The Beautique, Jess is on the tools as a nail and makeup artist more often than not. When she steps away from the polish she’s overseeing The Beautique’s other services—makeup, lash lifting, skin services and hair removal—as well as her seven staff members.
It’s because of these credentials that Jess is appearing in a new video for the ACT Government’s Choose Local recovery campaign. In one video, The Beautique is featured alongside Brodburger and Century Strength and Conditioning with messaging that conveys that when you choose local, your dollars flow through one local business and on to the next.
For Canberra-tragics like myself, the video’s final tagline of ‘2020 has been tough. Choose Local to Support our Locals’ may just bring a lump to your throat. After all, there’s nothing quite like watching your favourite business’s income go up in a puff of smoke for you to realise how vital they are to our little city.
For Jess, it wasn’t just her business that was front of mind as COVID-19 restrictions closed in on Canberra three months ago.
“It’s all a bit of a blur,” she admits. “But it was almost a relief when [shutdown] happened because we’re in such close proximity to people in here and my team all have people in their lives who are immunocompromised. We usually have so many people in our space, and we were more worried about our ability to pass it on to people.”
After The Beautique shut its doors in late March, Jess took two weeks to rest and gather her thoughts. Then the worry set in.
“It was extreme uncertainty,” she says. “I couldn’t even think further ahead than that day. I just thought ‘what am I going to do? How am I going to survive this?’”
Luckily, The Beautique already had an established online store, so Jess poured her creativity into DIY Brow and Nail Maintenance Kits and stocking up on at-home beauty essentials with free delivery. Thankfully, the response from her client base was overwhelming.
“We were lucky that Mother’s Day was so soon after shutdown because that really got us by,” she says. “And we had so many clients asking to buy gift vouchers for when we reopened. Every little bit counted.”
This stark reality is reflected in the Choose Local video, when the narrator suggests that when people spend money at The Beautique, it flows directly through to Jess’s life, including her home. For Jess, it doesn’t get much plainer than that.
“We had a lot of moments where we’ve teared up and thought ‘this is so lovely’,” she says with a smile. “It’s good to be back.”
Photography: Rohan Thomson