This summer, Selby Avenue in St. Paul is under construction. The busy artery in the Rondo neighborhood is getting an upgrade to prepare for Metro Transit’s long-anticipated Metro B Line bus rapid transit line and a series of new passenger stations.
But the construction-related shutdown of the street has created a real headache for Tameka Jones, owner of the Lip Esteem Beauty Bar, which opened in April of 2022. Her storefront is at 876 Selby Ave., in the middle of the block between Milton and Victoria.
“Forty percent of my business is from foot traffic and customers can’t see that I’m still open or they don’t know how to get to me. There’s no parking in front and even the sidewalks are closed down,” said Jones. “I’m losing money every day.”
The entrepreneur and beauty business veteran said she got little notice that the project on Selby would disrupt traffic on the street this summer.
A few times the workers even cut the water to restaurants nearby, forcing them to close for the day. The Lip Esteem Beauty Bar is located near J. Selby, Hamburguesas El Gordo, and Two Scoops Ice Cream, and Jones often welcomes customers from those eateries when they stroll past and then wander into her shop.
“This is a busy season—weddings, graduations, proms, so I increased my inventory this quarter based on that,” Jones said. “I’m taking a chunk of my marketing budget from later in the year for lawn signs and to send out postcards to let the community know I’m open.”
After reading a Facebook post from Jones detailing her sales slowdown, WCCO Radio host Vineeta Sawkar, who lives nearby, wanted to show Jones her support. Sawkar set up a private party at the Lip Esteem shop for herself and a dozen girlfriends, plus two men.
“We had an amazing time. We had cupcakes and a charcuterie board and just had fun playing with lipsticks and doing makeovers,” she said. “One of the men bought a gift card. We do lip care for men, too, people of all ages. If you got lips you need Lip Esteem!”
Now Jones is hastily reworking her business plan to “make lemonade out of lemons.” She is pivoting to hosting more parties, showers, team-building events, bachelorette parties, or girlfriend nights.
“I’ve just introduced six new products. One is a lip plumper and it’s something all women can use,” Jones said. “People can call and make an appointment for a party and I’m inviting any woman who needs cheering up to come in for a free makeover.”
Jones began creating lipsticks during her 20-year career as a makeup artist. Now she works with a custom formulator who produces the plant-based, cruelty-free cosmetic line she sells at her shop, at pop-ups, and through e-commerce channels. She hopes those who want to support her will purchase products from her directly at lipesteem.com.
She is also selling her Lip Esteem line at The Markets at Viking Lakes Plaza in Eagan every Tuesday from 4:30 to 8:30 pm. The weekly summer event features food booths, craft beer, and live music in addition to 50 vendors.
Eventually, the Metro B Line down Selby will be a plus for the Lip Esteem Beauty Bar and the neighborhood; it promises to make the avenue more attractive and welcoming for both bus commuters and the community.
In the meantime, Jones just hopes she can survive without too much financial damage to her business.
“I appreciate improvement, but as a small business owner, I still have all my bills and my employees to take care of as I grow and scale,” she said. “There has been no subsidies and the loss of revenue is just tough.”