One of NYC’s durable businesses is Pinoy-owned

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - April 26, 2014 - 12:00am

In the midst of the wealthy Gramercy area of downtown Manhattan in New York City, a proudly Filipino-owned salon and spa has stood as a symbol of beauty and longevity, pampering over the last four decades now loyal clients who have helped Gloria Cabrera and her business withstand America’s periods of economic turmoil.

“From ordinary citizens and socialites, Gloria Cabrera Salon & Spa has spruced up several Miss America beauties, diplomatic figures,” noted Edmund Silvestre, here for his annual homecoming, who filed this report, “including former Philippine presidents Corazon Aquino and Gloria Arroyo; and Finland’s former First Lady Eeva Ahtisaari; Fil-Am political leader and businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis; Hollywood stars like Jennifer Tilly and Sandra Oh; Manila society’s elites including the late Chito Madrigal and her niece Chuchu Madrigal; as well as Filipino acting luminaries such as John Arcilla, Ricky Davao and Armida Siguion-Reyna, among others.”

Gloria, a recipient of various Filipino-American and Asian-American entrepreneur awards, is among a handful of ’70s Pinoy business pioneers who continue to stay active to date. Her retro salon offers a full-service menu — haircut and style, anti-aging facials, waxing, body bleaching, manicure-pedicure, make-up and body massage, among others — minus the pretension and high prices of other salons in the area.

“At 72,” added Edmund, “Gloria exudes youth and, amazingly, looks so much younger than her age — a perfect selling point to promote her business, which boasts its own line of natural skin and hair care products which has been developed over the years through Gloria’s own research.”

A native of Lubao, Pampanga, Gloria was in her mid-’20s when she flew to New York City in 1967 to study and bring innovative techniques to her burgeoning salon on Ylaya St. in Divisoria, Manila. But plans changed when she met her husband, Benjamin Cabrera, an engineer by profession.

Right: With Fil-Am political leader and businesswoman Loida Nicolas-Lewis and (below) former President Cory Aquino

In 1973, Gloria and Ben opened the Gloria Cabrera Salon & Spa on 23rd Street, between First and Second Avenues — a strategic location surrounded by upscale residences and several hospitals that employ numerous Filipino doctors, nurses and other Pinoy health professionals.

Recently, with the help of her husband and a chemist sister-in-law, Gloria developed her own line of products, which did wonders to her clients. Aside from her own research, she continues to attend beauty seminars and courses to keep up with the trend.

A graduate of Vogue School of Beauty Culture, Gloria is now in the process of introducing her natural skin care products to the mainstream market.

“But we’re making progress in the marketing aspect,” she told Edmund. “Tess Medina, a former Wall Street manager, has joined Waterlily Corporation to manage the marketing of Gloria Cabrera products. We’re doing full-blast marketing via social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, podcasts and eBay. Recently, Amazon began selling our products.” 

According to Edmund, Gloria’s products have found their way in other New York and New Jersey salons, eliciting glowing testimonials from happy clients, both women and men. The biggest seller is the beauty skin care regimen package which consists of abaca enzyme cleanser and organic facial scrub (for exfoliation), a skin-whitening soap, citrus lightening cream with glutathione, anti-aging reverse serum and re-mist spray. 

For a while, Gloria ran a second branch at a more prestigious address on Fifth Avenue and 49th Street, across from the Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral and surrounded by high-end hotels and fashion boutiques like Sak’s Fifth Avenue and Bergford Goodman. There, Gloria Cabrera Salon & Spa became even more popular among celebrities and clients.  

Gloria with some of her high-profile clients (from left): Finland’s former first lady Eeva Ahtisaari, Armida Siguion-Reyna and Leticia Shahani

In 2005, Gloria’s daughter Caroline, a graduate of business management; and her husband, Hector Perera, a former Wall Street executive, took over the Fifth Avenue salon and spa and later moved to 40th Street and Seventh Avenue, under the name GC Salon & Spa, in the middle of Times Square. 

“We used the name GC Salon & Spa since Gloria Cabrera already has established her name in the New York beauty salon industry,” says Caroline, a mom of two, Charlotte and Isaac. “We’re very proud of the name.”

Despite her busy schedule, Gloria still finds time for civic work as a way of giving back. She helped raise funds for the renovation of an old church in her native Sta. Rita in Lubao, Pampanga and recently, she gathered friends and clients to raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

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