Facial And Waxing Studio Cheeks + Co Increases LA Presence As It Sets The Stage For Further Growth
After over four years in Pasadena, Cheeks + Co is broadening its reach in the Los Angeles area by planting its second location in West Adams.
The expansion presages larger growth plans for the facial and waxing studio concept that founder Christina Uzzardi hopes to guide to 10 corporate locations in the next few years and then branch into franchising to accelerate openings, particularly in emerging neighborhoods. Uzzardi knows what it’s like to drive a beauty rocket ship. At Ilia for seven years prior to Cheeks + Co, the last four as director of operations, she had a hand in taking the clean beauty brand from $100,000 to in excess of $20 million in annual revenues.
“I feel confident that people are going to invest in these services and, especially in the areas where we are, it’s people that are working professionals, and they have disposable income,” says Uzzardi. “Even in a down economy, I see people investing in experiences versus material goods. They’re really investing in a membership where they’re taking care of themselves.”
At Cheeks + Co.’s initial location, facial memberships account for about a third of monthly revenues. It offers two facial membership options priced at $136 and $199 per month that cover, respectively, a 60-minute Pamper Me facial or a 90-minute Spoil Me facial and 10% off Cheeks + Co merchandise and more facials. Cheeks + Co specializes in services for inflammation, acne, congestion, and sensitive and dehydrated skin and incorporates modalities such as microdermabrasion and high frequency.
The company has crafted a straightforward menu with customized services and no add-ons. Its bestselling facial is The Undecided, which is priced at $169 for 60 minutes and $249 for 90 minutes and allows aestheticians to tailor the facial to the individual.
“We didn’t open with The Undecided, but so many people didn’t know what they wanted,” says Uzzardi. “They were like, ‘I know what I want to spend and that I want this or that amount of time, but I just don’t know what I want.’ So, I was like, ‘Let’s just create a facial and call it The Undecided, and then we pick a modality or protocol.’”
“Even in a down economy, I see people investing in experiences versus material goods.”
Uzzardi opened Cheeks + Co’s original location in Pasadena because she sensed a gap in the spa market in the community for it and was a Pasadena resident. As a resident, she could keep a close watch on the studio as she tweaked it in order to scale—and tweak it she did. Subsequent to the onset of the pandemic, she introduced waxing services priced from $17 to $82, and they’ve been a boon to the business, particularly for attracting men, a group that now accounts for about 10% of revenues.
In Pasadena, Cheeks + Co’s space encompasses 1,000 square feet. On any given day, it will get about 25 people for waxing, and 20 to 25 people for facials. The location has four treatment rooms and a retail component. Cheeks + Co has around 20 people on staff. The West Adams location is bigger, spanning 2,200 square feet, nine treatment rooms and a retail component. The size discrepancy between West Adams and Pasadena enables Cheeks + Co to test different footprints for future locations. The roomier footprint presents an opportunity for parties.
Interior design firm Proem handled the design at both locations. Uzzardi describes the design as not “overly trendy” and having a “very sophisticated vibe.” “I’m so happy in Pasadena. It’s mature, but there’s some whimsical elements like the front desk is metallic tile, which isn’t what I would’ve thought or what you expect to see out of a front desk, but it really mixes well with the wood floors, which are grounding,” she says. “We wanted West Adams to be a fraternal twin sister, so not identical. Instead of metallic tile, we have metallic upholstery on the couches.”
West Adams is increasingly a draw for young affluent Angelenos and hip eateries and shops. Uzzardi pinpointed it for a Cheeks + Co location because her clients mentioned it could be a fit for it, she figured a location in the neighborhood wouldn’t cannibalize the Pasadena location’s sales, and other neighborhoods in LA are packed with spas.
“I actually scheduled a day to look at places with my real estate agent, and the second I drove there—I hadn’t been to that area in years—I instantly felt at home,” says Uzzardi. “It just felt right.”
The buildout of the Pasadena location cost $300,000, and the buildout of the West Adams location cost $700,000. The spike in cost is due to West Adams’ greater size and a bump in construction costs in the years since the Pasadena location was constructed. The Pasadena location took six months to achieve profitability once it reopened following a pandemic pause. The West Adams location is anticipated to achieve profitability within a year.
“I don’t have a co-founder, I don’t have investors, it’s really just me.”
Cheeks + Co relied on bank loans to finance the buildouts, but it’s interested in bringing on a strategic financial partner as it enters its next stage. Speaking of financing with bank loans, Uzzardi says, “You’re really limited with timing and the way they control the money, and it is just very, very difficult. I’m looking for a strategic partner, someone that has expertise in franchising and growing a small business, but also providing financing. I do have a few clients that come to me and want to invest in the business because they go there, and they want to help or be part of it.”
Not straying from her Ilia roots, Uzzardi depends on clean beauty brands for Cheeks + Co’s services and its retail selection. It has what it calls a “no-glow list” of ingredients it excludes from the products it stocks and prefers woman-owned American brands and products with captivating scents. Retail is responsible for 20% of Cheeks + Co’s revenues.
Currently, the studio carries roughly 10 brands, including its own and Josh Rosebrook, OSEA, July Sky, Fur and Salt & Stone. Cheeks + Co’s in-house brand is centered around protection from the changing climate. It has two topical skincare products priced from $48 to $88—Surfacemoves Cleanser and Tidalshift Face Serum—plus a $29 gua sha wing and $5 facial cleansing pad. A moisturizer and an oil is on deck for spring this year.
“We wanted all the products to smell really good. When you put Tidalshift on in the morning, it gives you that little whiff of relaxation, just enough to feel like you’re really taking care of myself,” says Uzzardi. “Scent is just huge for us at the spa. We have clients that only use certain products because they like the way that they smell and their reaction to it. It calms them down.”
Several facial bar concepts are in expansion mode today along with Cheeks + Co. Among them are Heyday, Silver Mirror, Glo30, Face Foundrie, Glowbar and Clean Your Dirty Face. Uzzardi came up with the idea for Cheeks + Co. when she was working at Ilia. She’d been dealing with adult acne and hunted for a spa to address it, but couldn’t find one that suited her skincare needs or personal tastes. She encountered luxury spas focused on pampering and express spas with advanced facials, but nary a format in between. She set out to create that in-betweener with Cheeks + Co.
“I wanted to create this space for myself, but for other people, too, and that began a journey with Cheeks + Co. It took a few years to really get it off the ground, almost four years from idea to actually opening,” says Uzzardi. “I’m here because of my team and all the amazing women that support me, but I don’t have a co-founder, I don’t have investors, it’s really just me.”