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@Work: Erno Laszlo

April 2, 2006 – From her little shop in Palm Passage, Gesine Locker takes care of nearly 3,000 faces from around the globe. And it all started when she began taking care of her own face more than 30 years ago.
Locker, a slender, impeccably dressed, sophisticated European woman says, "I had awful skin."
It is hard to believe that today, but she says that fact caused her to seek a solution, which she found in 1971 at Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
That is where she first met Erno Laszlo. Well, not Laszlo himself, who Locker says she never met. (Laszlo died in 1973 around the time Locker moved with her husband to St. Thomas.)
But Manhattan was where she was introduced to Laszlo's skin care products and where she became a Laszlo "believer."
Laszlo was a Hungarian-born American dermatologist who, prior to founding the Erno Laszlo Institute on New York's Firth Avenue in 1939, had a beauty institute in Budapest.
When Gesine and her husband, Dan Locker, moved to St. Thomas it became difficult for her to get her Laszlo products.
So, after a few years selling real estate, and after saving the money to get started, Locker opened her own Erno Laszlo boutique in what was then – and still is – a high-end beauty salon, the Philip Sturm Studio in Royal Dane Mall.
Locker says she is the only Laszlo store that was ever opened in a salon. Most Laszlo boutiques in the United States are found in major department stores only, such as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom and Saks. They are also found in select shops on every continent and even in the United Arab Emirates.
After 20 years at Sturm's studio, Locker, who says she had always dreamed of a shop in Palm Passage, had her dream come true in 1997 when she moved into her current location.
In order to carry Laszlo's products, you must attend the institute in New York City and be approved. Locker says she had no problem with obtaining that approval.
You can easily see, when a customer enters the shop, that Locker is well versed in the products.
Beth Hollahan, from Cincinnati, Ohio, comes in straight from the beach Wednesday afternoon with a long list in her hand. She discovered Locker's Erno Laszlo store on a trip to the island last year. She's back again on a cruise ship and makes a trip to stock up on her favorite products and some new ones.
But Hollahan, 44, is no newcomer to Laszlo. She discovered the products in Tennessee when she was 16 and has been using them ever since. She says the mother of a girlfriend used Laszlo products, and after trying them herself and purchasing them at the time from a department store in her hometown, she was hooked. Hollahan relates that as a teenager she worked during the summer and says, "I spent my whole first paycheck on it. I've never stopped."
As the Great Lakes regional director of finance for Coca-Cola, she no longer has to spend her whole paycheck on Laszlo, however.
Hollahan usually calls in her orders to Locker's 800 number, as do many of her regular clients.
Up close and personal, Locker and Hollahan discuss what products Hollahan has been using and Locker quizzes her about her skin care routine.
She asks Hollahan if she has been "splashing," adding, "Splashes are very important."
As many skin care lines have moved away from using facial soap, Laszlo aficionados use it with relish. The splashing is half the fun and provides much of the skin enhancement. Splashing involves first smoothing an oil called Active pHelityl Oil all over the face (depending on your skin type), filling a basin with hot water, dipping the appropriate soap into the basin, rubbing it over the face creating a lather, and then using the basin "treatment" water to splash the face 20 times. Then 10 more splashes with warm running water complete the face washing phase.
Laszlo was a big believer in water. In "The Angel of Beauty," a book about Laszlo by author Diana Lewis Jewell, Laszlo is quoted as saying "Water, with the right kind of soap, is the basis of every beauty routine … if it [water] weren't already invented I would have had to invent it myself."
Toning, moisturizing and finishing complete the a.m. routine. The nighttime routine varies only in the type of moisturizer and toning products that are used. In general, there are five to seven basic products used daily. A dozen other products are available including one that Locker refers to as "Botox in a bottle."
The products vary based on skin type, which is determined by using a clock system.
You can be anywhere from an "8:30 a.m.," which is very dry skin, to a "3 p.m.," extremely oily.
Locker says many of her longtime customers found her store when visiting St. Thomas.
She likes to give a mini-facial when time and circumstances allow. "Once they feel the products on their skin," Locker says, "they are convinced."
Her customers also include lots of local residents. In fact, Lois Habtes, an assistant principal at Bertha Boschulte Junior High School who fills in for Locker occasionally, does it, Locker says, because of her love for the products. "She's been using them for years."
Aside from loving the skin care products, Locker really enjoys what she does. "To me it's not a job. It's fun," she said, adding that the people who enter her world are happy.
"They don't come here with a broken leg; they come in to beautify – to buy lipstick."
Locker attended business school in Germany before she and her family emigrated to New York.
But it is her love of working with people that has sustained her over the years.
"If I don't do it, I miss it," she said.
She is, like her thousands of customers, "convinced by the product line," she said.
Locally Locker can be reached at 340-774-9195, toll-free at 1-800-662-1905, and via fax at 340-777-9299.
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