Beauty more than skin deep at unique boutique 0
Saundra Shapiro started Compassionate Beauty in Calgary in 2006 after her best friend died of cervical cancer. The new Vancouver location, the first in a franchise. offers boutique beauty products and services to women fight the disease. (LUKE BROCKI/ 24 HOURS)
“Unfortunately we’re open,” Saundra Shapiro laments inside Vancouver’s newest beauty boutique, a facility that stands apart from others in Kitsilano by catering exclusively to women fighting cancer.
While a violin concerto plays through some speakers, wall-mounted lamps bathe the mocha-coloured shop walls in soft light. Post-mastectomy bras, wigs and yoga wear hang on racks along one wall. Other rooms offer breast forms, lingerie and private fitting areas, hair washing and styling stations, and a massage table. A little tattoo parlour promises eyebrows — the kind chemotherapy cannot take away.
“My best friend was diagnosed with cervical cancer and during her year-long journey through it, we figured out all of the things she was looking for and didn’t have,” Shapiro said. “She wanted a facial, but she was bald and too embarrassed to lay down for her aesthetician. Her massage therapist was too afraid to touch her because he didn’t know enough about cancer.”
Her friend died in 2004. The following year, doctors found cancer in the tissue of Shapiro’s face. She was one of the lucky ones; a tiny scar on her left cheek is all that remains after the surgery that saved her life.
Those two events made the entrepreneur pivot her business focus from children’s hairdressing to cancer care. Shapiro founded Compassionate Beauty in Calgary in 2006, then expanded into Arizona two years later. The Vancouver store is the first in what she hopes will become a national franchise.
October is breast cancer awareness month and has brought everything from pink jerseys on professional athletes to pink light displays at the White House, efforts to raise awareness and boost research funding for the disease. For those already fighting it though, Shapiro notes, attentive one-on-one care is perhaps the most important service.
“Cancer is huge, scary and unfortunately not going away. Women really need a team of experts to rally around them,” Shapiro said standing in the centre of the shop, where wine glasses and bottles of red await a grand-opening reception.
“It’s really one person at a time, one bra-fitting at a time,” she said. “Ten thousand women have told me so.”