This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of So Scottsdale! magazine.
Most people dream of having a job they consider perfect. Melissa Lenberg, at only 31, believes she has found her niche in life and loves every day she goes to work. “Every day when I come in here, it feels perfect. I’m living a dream.”
Lenberg owns Citrine Natural Beauty Bar, which opened in the UNION shops at Biltmore Fashion Park this past November. Citrine offers natural cosmetics as well as an aromatherapy-based perfumery bar for women of all ages.
Cosmetics have always held a sense of fascination for Phoenix native Lenberg. “I was that girl,” she laughs. “At even 9 or 10 years old, I was giving friends makeovers—and secret haircuts.” After high school, she knew she wasn’t going to go the traditional route. “The college thing wasn’t for me,” she explains. Fortunately, an extremely supportive family saw her passion and helped her follow her dreams. She headed off to Los Angeles where she trained as a makeup artist. She worked with a variety of clients, including many of Hollywood’s A-listers. “I loved getting a woman in my chair and doing her makeup,” Lenberg explains. “I would watch her leave with her head held high. I totally loved it.”
Living in Los Angeles for seven years, as part of the entertainment industry, was both a dream come true and a challenge. “It was such an up and down business,” she says. “But I missed home.” So Lenberg returned to her Phoenix roots to try to find her niche. For a while, she worked in her dad’s business, doing sales. “He gave me a great sales background, but my heart just wasn’t in it.” Lenberg knew she wanted to get back to a career in cosmetics.
A Sedona moment
Lenberg was searching for a way to keep her passion for cosmetics alive here in Arizona and she found herself at a bit of a crossroads. She was in Sedona on a weekend retreat when she had a moment that defined her future. “I found a beautiful piece of citrine,” recounts Lenberg. Citrine is not only a birthstone for November, it symbolizes abundance and success.
“I decided it would make a great name for a store. I got home on a Monday and started searching for places to open a store and I saw the concept for UNION [at Biltmore Fashion Park] on the internet. I knew it was right.” Ironically, Citrine Natural Beauty Bar opened in November. “It’s such a meant-to-be type of thing,” she laughs.
After only a few short months in business, Lenberg already has a steady group of regular clients and hopes to see that continue.
It’s all personal
Lenberg’s passion for natural products isn’t a fad or trend. In fact, it’s a reflection of her lifestyle. At 18, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. “I found great relief with diet and healthier living,” she explains. “I saw the benefit of using natural foods and I wondered about cosmetics. Today, all of the product lines I sell in the store are not only good for you, but they are also ones I have used personally for years.”
That personal concern and attention is what sets Citrine apart from other similar businesses. Lenberg and her staff work to make every woman walking into the store feel important. “We want to give you a personal experience you don’t find elsewhere,” she explains. “We start by asking questions. We want to get you the right products.”
Lenberg says the same philosophy applies whether the woman is a teenager or 90 years old. She recalls one customer who brought her 14-year-old daughter into Citrine. “It was her daughter’s first experience with makeup and she wanted to introduce her to the products and help her learn how to use it.” Lenberg says it’s important to her to know those stories. “To know I’ll be a part of those memories forever is very rewarding.”
To further expand her aim to provide personal care, Lenberg created the perfumery bar. After studying the basics of aromatherapy at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (SWIHA) here in Arizona, Lenberg became interested in blending oils to create signature fragrances. She uses that education at the perfumery bar in Citrine. “We handcraft everything in front of the customers,” she explains. “It truly is an art to blend the aromas and healing benefits of essential oils.”
Emblazoned on the shop’s wall is its philosophy: naturally glamorous. “That defines not only the business,” says Lenberg, “but my philosophy as well. For me, it’s about making someone feel good. You can be natural and glamorous at the same time.”
Lenberg stresses there is never any judgment about the customer at Citrine. “You should be able to come in and feel good. I want women to leave feeling their best and glowing.”
Lenberg believes the key to her success is in empowering other women. “Yes, I need to make a living, but I really love the idea of empowering women,” states Lenberg. One way she is helping to empower more women throughout the Valley is through her work with Fresh Start Women’s Foundation in Phoenix. Citrine hosts one woman each month, suggested by the organization. “She comes in for a makeover session,” explains Lenberg. “But we want to make sure she can duplicate what we teach her, so we give her all the products we use during the session.” Lenberg finds this program especially rewarding. “These women literally walk in with their heads down but leave with their heads held high. You can see the difference and it’s amazing.”
Look to the future
After only a few months in operation, Lenberg is already working on plans to launch another Citrine Natural Beauty Bar in the area within the next year or two. “It’s not been easy,” she explains. “I told my friends I feel as if I’ve literally given birth to Citrine and I’m just now getting my mojo back. But to know I can make an impact in a woman’s life—whether she’s 20 or 90—makes me feel so good.”
Eventually, Lenberg would love to see Citrine sprout up in multiple cities across the country. “But I want to keep that boutique feel,” she cautions. “We are in a specialty marketplace and I want to keep it that way.” Someday, Lenberg would love to have her own foundation where she can help empower even more women as they struggle to find themselves. “Everyone who knows me agrees I’m determined and I won’t give up on something if I believe in it,” she says. “In the end, empowering women is very important to me.”
Visit Citrine Natural Beauty Bar at UNION at Biltmore Fashion Park, 2502 E. Camelback Road, #148-K or call 602.955.2354. Citrine is online at citrinenaturalskin.com.
[Susan Lanier-Graham can be reached at wanderwithwonder.com.]