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Alice Thiel- A Legend in Aesthetics

Alice Thiel- A Legend in Aesthetics

Nov/Dec 1990

What do you do when you are about to write a story of a new Living Legend and you want to surprise her? You go to a close admirer who has the details.. How much of an admirer is shown in this wonderful story, written so beautifully by her daughter, Christine Thiel.

It is certainly high time for Alice to be recognized for her many accomplishments in the industry. I had the honor of working with Alice for several years on many projects and we worked as co-directors in the early stages of Esthetics America and it was great! She was a very hard worker and not afraid of doing anything. When the first group of us were grandfathered into N.C.A., she organized classes, served as makeup designer, wrote curricula, she did everything... and never once was there a complaint. And totally aside from the business aspect of all our work, Alice was just a wonderful, fun person to be with. For you younger aestheticians, pay close attention to this story. It's a sure success story, but one not achieved just by luck. Her achievements were and are a result of hard work, dedication, and sincerity; which only goes to show that you can be what you want to be if you are willing to do what it takes. Alice, my heartiest congratulations and I hope this story is a surprise. You are truly a "Living Legend" to me, and you deserve much more recognition than this story even represents. I am honored to count you as one of my friends.

Alice Maria was born in the small town of Kalinowo, (near Warsaw), Poland. This humble little town, surrounded by conflict and outright war was home to Alice and her mother until they left all material possessions and fled to Germany when Alice was just four years old.

At the age of seventeen, her formal education completed, Alice and her mother felt that the opportunities in Europe were very limited and the true land of opportunity was in America. Although this point of view was common to many Europeans, there were very few young girls with the courage and ambition to emigrate to a new country and culture. In December of 1956, Alice boarded a ship (an old army transporter) to spend a homesick Christmas and the start of her voyage to seek all the opportunities about which she had been told throughout her childhood.

Philadelphia became her new "stomping ground" as she lived with her aunt, uncle and cousin in a home across the street from an old church which later would become the place where she was married and christened her children. Only one week after coming to America, Alice met another young immigrant, Peter Thiel, who happened to be a hairstylist and barber who came to this country with his parents (his mother a hairstylist and father a barber), looking for successful future.

Since both Alice and Peter realized that the family had to come first, all other interests would have to blend in some way at the right time and place. A year after they were married, Alice, still in hairdressing school, became pregnant with their first child and only son, Michael. Two years later Christine was born. At that time in 1962 Alice and Peter opened their first salon, Peter's Tres Chic.

Later they would have two additional salons which they would eventually consolidate into one large salon and skin car business. Two years later in 1964, Suzanne was born and four years later they had their youngest child, Karin. In the midst of raising children they built their home and the shopping center in which their business is now locates, Plaza III West Shopping Center in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Alice was a career woman, working part time as a hairstylist and full time as a mother raising four children. She continuously enhanced her education and after a trip to Germany, realized that skin care, an area of health and beauty care, which was always highly regarded in Europe, would soon become a growing and very specialized phase of the esthetic profession with an array of services to offer existing clients and most certainly draw new ones.

So, in 1973, Alice and Peter imported skin care equipment from Europe and incorporated the concept of "the complete service salon" within their existing business. "Skin care" was soon to become a great success since it was unique to the area. The salon is a three story building divided into six levels containing seventy-two styling stations. The various levels contain two main hairstyling areas filled with equipment imported from Germany, two chemical rooms and dispensaries, two reception areas, an accessory boutique, a staff meeting room, training center, stock and supply area, offices, an extensive skin care salon with five facial rooms, three manicure tables, two make-up stations, and a waxing area and pedicure spa.

The pleasures and rewards of a successful family business are endless; it is for this reason that Peter and Alice have an intense sense of responsibility and dedication to such an effort. They are proud to have their entire family as the back-bone of their business. Included in their staff of forty-two employees are their son, daughter-in-law, and three daughters. Their children are all between the ages of twenty-two and thirty, and presently express a strong desire to develop their experience in the hairstyling and skin care profession. Each of the children entered the profession at the age of thirteen (part time, of course, since they were still in high school). Prior to that, an opportunity to make money was always there since a family business means a tremendous amount of work; therefore, the necessary maintenance jobs became the starting point at breaking the children into the family business!

Since the apprenticeship method of teaching is widely used in Europe, it seemed only natural that each child experiences this hands-on practical form of education at an early age. After training was completed, each of them became a licensed cosmetologist and teacher. Consequently, there are ten licensed instructors employed at Peter's Salon Tres Chic, seven of whom are members of the Thiel family. After the licenses were acquired, they continue their education by going to college for degrees in business and advertising. The success of the family and the business is attributed greatly to the combination of their love for the profession, their sense of business trends and especially their commitment to each other and the goals they have set. At present there are three generations of hairstylist, barbers and skin care specialist in the immediate family.

The winning began with Peter's mother in 1937 in Budapest, Hungary and continued with Peter as he used Alice as an artistic competition model. As both Alice and Peter teamed as model and stylist, the trophies and awards accumulated and eventually inspired the children to compete nationally and then internationally. Their son Michael, using his wife Carol as model won national trophies for cutting and styling. Daughters Suzanne and Karin competed in state and national make-up contest, male and female cutting tournaments and continue the family tradition of victory in the competition arena.

Their eldest daughter Christine took the competitive aspect to the extreme and acquired numerous international honors in Amsterdam, Holland, at the Goulden Tulip Competitions, in France at the Rose D'or, and at the European Championships in Pares, where she used her sisters Karin and Suzanne as models. Her accomplishments include the gold medal in the 1988 National Coiffure Championships where she named as the best artistic stylist in the country, and became a member of the National Cosmetology Association's U.S.A. Olympic Hairdressing Team, which later won the silver medal in the Hairdresser's World Championship in Dusseldorf, Germany. The team was sponsored by Arnie and Sydell Miller, owners of Matrz Essentials, and as a result of the accomplishment and success of the team, Christine traveled for the Company promoting their products continuing to use her sisters as models for theses shows.

Throughout all of the busy competition schedules the Thiel family was fortunate to receive national television coverage on ABC's noted weekly show 20/20. The segment features the entire family, and illustrated the degree to which a competitor must prepare for a winning event (The producer was as impressed with the size and unique qualities of the family, and their involvement with the business, as she was with their competitive aspects).

Shortly after, the interest of the television media in the families competitions "snowballed", and Turner Broadcasting Service (TBS) featured Christine in a segment entitled "Women of the Eighties". Various radio interviews follows, and fortunately this has culminated in a networking between the family and media members with whom they have made friends and remain in touch. It is obvious that the success was due, once again, to the tight-knit, closeness of the family and the strong support they give each other. Be it in business, competition or education, the concern and outcome is shared by all the family.

From the onset of their skin care salon, the service menu continued to expand and consequently Alice's education and knowledge of aromatherapy, manual lymph drainage, therapeutic massage touch for health, reflexology and paramedical make-up has increased accordingly.

One of her most rewarding experiences was the month-long course in paramedical make-up she pursued at the Westmore Makeup Academy in Hollywood, California, under the direction of Marvin Westmore. Alice's natural "healing touch" and compassion for others is most obvious when she is called upon to assist those in need of skin care and make-up, not for glamour and fashion, but for those individuals who need specialized techniques in order to normalize their appearance for everyday life.

In 1985-86 when three major skin care organizations merged to become the Federation of American Esthetics, Alice, who was very instrumental in making the merger, was also the President of the Skin Care Association of America. At that time the other two organizations were A.I.A., headed by Ron Renee, and C.I.D.E.S.C.O. under the leadership of Christine Valmy.

Shortly after this merger the entire membership joined the N.C.A. (The President at the time was Tom Berger), under Esthetic Division director, Robert Diemer. Prior to the merger Alice was the first person to complete the official examination and become a member of Esthetics America. After the merger, all members of the pre-existing organizations were grandfathered into the N.C.A. membership in order to create a strong unit which could make the practice of skin care more specialized and professional. For the next two years Alice became the Chairman of Examinations for Esthetics America. During that same year, Alice also carried out the duties of Make-Up Section Director to the N.C.A, remaining responsible for the Association's make-up schedule.

In July of 1988 Alice passed the prestigious C.I.D.E.S.C.O. International Examination to become a member of that elite body - C.I.D.E.C.O. diplomats. Since then, she has often been requested by the President of N.C.A., to judge artistic and fashion competitions in both the U.S.A. and Europe when an experienced diplomat is needed to represent American competitors.

To-date, Alice truly has achieved a great many milestones and much success for which she is highly respected and admired by her contemporaries and professional peers. She is most proud however, to yet another aspect of her multi-faceted and exciting life. Most recently, Alice became a grandmother for the third time. Her son Michael is the only one of her children who is married with children of his own. Long with his wife Carl, also a cosmetologist and a member of their salon staff, they have three sons -Christopher. Nicholas and baby Tyler.

Now "grooming" begins on the fourth generation to augment the family's profession - by slowly teaching these little ones the joys and excitements of hair and skin care (along with all the other experiences life has to offer). However young they may be, the interest that is generated in any direction will grow as long as praise and encouragement are evident. Examples will be admires, and suggestions will be respected, whenever a true desire to learn is present. Overall, the greatest inspiration will be the stories handed down and the people who are noted for their exploits throughout life.

Most often, these are the Legends we have come to know and love.