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Cornerstone Visionary 2019 - Rhonda Barriage

RHONDA BARRIAGE - Beauty Works Day & Medi Spa


In this case, our recipient’s interests centred a bit around her ability to draw and a love of makeup.  When a friend (we should call her that, regardless of the relationship) found an advertisement in the newspaper for a beauty school, she decided to go.

Aesthetics and skin care were not top of mind for many women in a mostly rural area.  In fact, upon her return to Belleville following graduation, the ladies at the sales counters at Sears wished her luck in a region where most of their customers came in once a year for their bottle of Tabu.  I think as well of the culture of the 70s – while glamorous on one side, the weekly hair appointment of the 50s and beautification women found time for before the feminist movement and women were making their way in the workforce – who had time for facials?  But someone believed the service would enhance their own business and she was able to rent an 8x10 room a hair salon. 

At that time, the elite of the community were taking the train to Toronto for their visits to Elizabeth Arden and it didn’t take long for them to embrace the quality of service now available at home. 

And while there will always be those who see a day at the spa a real treat and something to save up for – there are others for whom the service is life-changing.  In 1981, she introduced electrolysis as a means for women to get rid of unwanted hair.  We can debate how important it is for people to feel entitled to be who they are and embrace the face they have but society is often not that kind…  and for some, to end the battle permanently with facial hair, gave them a whole new confidence to shine.

Over the past 40 years, skin care has evolved to skin repair and restoration.  She has researched and sourced the products she uses to ensure her staff have the best tools and her clients reap the best benefits.  She consistently employs local graduates but also has staff that have been with her as long as 20 years.  With 13 full-time and 5 part-time staff, she clearly outgrew that 8x10 room – but she recalls the days when she struck out on her own and would sit for hours in her own little office, waiting for the phone to ring.  Tucked in behind her father, Mel Barriage’s construction equipment lot, she took his words to heart when her father explained – you have to be there when the call comes. 

During the expansion of her business and the building, she ran into more than her share of barriers but she credits Rod Bovay and the city with really helping her to move things along once she went forward with her plans – rather than trying to see what they thought she could do.   The first project took from April til November 1977 and the new expansion went from Feb. til October 2017. The goal of this expansion was to have a destination place where people can come to relax and totally immerse themselves in wellness and rejuvenating treatment on the spa side  with a full menu of esthetic treatments and as well as eucalyptus steam, infra red sauna, fireplace lounge

Zero gravity chairs and  more result driven – targeted treatments on the medi spa side. These extensive treatments are only offered in communities such as Peterborough and Toronto.  I also understand she’s invented the perfect solution to time sensitive working women with the FAMAPE…  where you can get the facial, mani and pedi all at once.

In a conversation with one of her employees, I asked what she felt made this person who she is – and her comment was about how much she cares.   She cares about the employees and the clients – they are equally important.  And for even the most esoteric, we have come to appreciate that healthy skin is not only for the wealthy or privileged but achievable and realistic for most.  The research and technology that goes into developing products and equipment to support our body’s largest organ, rivals the work that goes into deadly diseases – but when you consider the advantages to keeping your skin healthy, you realize this is not misplaced. 

We also reached out to the Edith Serei school in Montreal – the school in Toronto closed some years ago – and they wanted me to extend their congratulations for her outstanding achievements in the Esthetics industry over the last 50 years and your vision for beauty in the Belleville area!  They will be forwarding you the Edith Serei Certificate of Excellence in the Beauty Industry.  They "wish you continued success and are very proud to have been a part of your chosen path in 1978 when you graduated from Edith Serei’s campus in Toronto as a certified esthetician".