Saugerties-based beauty business brings Korean techniques to locals

Spa manager Kristen Wilhelm and makeup artist Erica Cox. (Photo by Christina Coulter)

Angela Jia Kim, in this photo from her Pinterest page, displays some of her “face cake masks.”

After being featured on a Good Morning America segment on March 22, employees of Savor Beauty and Spa at 114 Partition Street hustled to ship out 3,000 of their “face cakes” seen on TV, which are now being sold by brands as large as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.

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The small beauty company and spa was started about ten years ago by Angela Jia Kim, a classical pianist who decided to simplify and bottle the material components of the Korean beauty rituals she learned from her mother when a supposedly “natural” lotion caused her to break out in hives on stage.

“I just experimented in my kitchen ten years ago — after a thousand tries, I realized that I should get a chemist to make sure that the PH balance was correct,” said Kim. “It was never supposed to be something that I sold, only something for myself and my family. My friends started buying it and started requesting that they buy it for their friends and I realized that I’d made a good product.”

Kim moved her Woodstock operation to Saugerties location in 2016, which now ships from their combination “Beauty Kitchen” and spa to their spa locations in the West Village and on the Upper East Side. 

“I was walking one day with my manager — we had gone to the Diamond Mills for a wedding,” said Kim. “I saw the village and thought ‘this place is so magical.’ I saw a ‘for rent’ sign and decided to open something up here.”

In the basement, employee Katrina Grassi mixes and bottles products that include luxury ingredients like caviar and truffles. Deanndra Shultis readies products for shipping. Upstairs, spa manager Kristen Wilhelm and makeup artist Erica Cox handle customer service. While a Korean beauty routine can be comprised of up to 15 steps, Kim has simplified the regiment with six numbered products. To further remove any guesswork, Wilhelm and Cox guide spa patrons to specialized products after appraising the customer’s skin status using a magnifying mirror. Product tutorial videos enacted by Kim are available as a failsafe on the brand’s website, www.savorbeauty.com.

“We teach the client about really taking care of their face without slapping alcohol on it,” said Wilhelm.

The Savor Beauty product line, numbered from 0-5, starts with a coconut-based pre-cleanse followed by a water-based cleanser, an oil-based serum, a moisturizer and an eye cream. Each product has iterations specific to common facial woes like aging, acne or dryness. The brand also features a makeup line and products for skin elsewhere on the body.

“Even if you’ve never used any sort of cleanser you’ll be able to find out what comes next,” said Cox.

After scoffing at this reporter’s skincare routine of Clearasil and bar soap, the two advised that I use a lavender-scented “pearl cleansing cream” followed by a retinol oil containing carrot and rose elements to treat my acne, and sent me home with written instructions on how to use them. The face wash was very pungently lavender, so much so that people two rooms over in my apartment complex told me to “go easy on the perfume.” (When I mentioned it to Kim, she told me she has had no complaints. Maybe my neighbors just don’t like lavender.) The retinol oil gives my skin a nice glow. My acne has been noticeably quelled over the last week.

Cox provides makeup tutorials for women onsite, and the group mobilizes their operation for bridal events and parties. Teen Esteem Makeovers at the spa take this guidance a step further with soothing facials and patient instruction sessions on skincare routines and makeup application. 

Through her “Dollars and Scents” initiative, Kim has primarily hired Hudson Valley women re-transitioning into the workforce after taking time off to raise children.

“It really started with a passion for moms and helping them re-transition into the workforce,” said Kim. “We give the training and tools to give that woman a second chance… Hiring locally really builds a village — I think it’s a very powerful way to make a difference in the community.”

The publicity brought on by their recent television news plug and increasing demand for their products from large retailers open the possibility of expansion to the business, and Kim says that she has no intention of moving her business’s hub from the Village.

“Nordstrom is ordering more and more. I’d love to hire an army to help out,” said Kim. “That’s the dream, to build the brand so we can keep hiring locally.”

Appointments for consultations and spa services can be reserved at www.savorspa.com or by calling (845) 247-3758.

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