Aug. 18, 2005 Bericia Rogers-Francis knew exactly what she wanted to do many years ago. There were just two things that stood in her way she was 8 years old and didn't know English.
The poised woman with the open smile who opens the door to the Look Spa today still is part that determined 8-year-old. She directs you to a comfortable chair, removes the manicure equipment and settles down to tell her story.
Looking around her little salon, which has the friendly feel of a living room, Francis says, "This is what I like to do, to have my own place." She smiles, "And it hasn't been easy.
"I was actually born on St. Thomas," Francis says, "but my mother moved me to St. Martin when I was an infant. I grew up there, speaking French. I still have problems with English." One would not know that without Francis drawing attention to it. She actually is multilingual. She learned Spanish in the seventh grade, never forgot it and eventually put it to use. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
On St. Martin, Francis says, "When I was a kid, I started out, just on my family. I would give them shampoos, do their nails. I loved doing that.
"Years later when I was in my teens, my cousin hired me to work in her beauty parlor. I started from scratch," Francis says. "She hired me to do cleaning, then, after cleaning, she let me answer the phones, and from that I graduated to shampooing. I got paid 50 cents a shampoo. That was a tip. I made $75 a month."
She smiles at a memory. "I used to make a little pocket change from tips," she says. "The tips were great. I'd help my mother, and then I would get to buy little candies for myself. But I always remember one woman, Josephine Stein. Her husband ran a radio station on St. Martin, and when she came in she would always leave me $5. Five dollars, a fortune!"
In fact, well-known Caribbean radio personality Len Stein also owned WSTA on St. Thomas. He died in Florida last year.
Francis and her mother returned to St. Thomas, and Francis was put in Wayne Aspinal Junior High School rather than high school, because she couldn't speak English. Shortly after that, the two returned St. Martin. "The kids would make fun of me," Francis remembers.
After working for her cousin in the salon, Francis moved to St. Thomas permanently in 1984. "I took correspondence courses to get my GED," she says. By that time she had a growing daughter. "I struggled so hard to learn English. My daughter used to kid me, but I got a 97 grade.
"My daughter, Amanda, said 'Mom, that's great, 97 is good'!"
Francis learned beyond the basics at well-known Jan and Michael's Hair Studio at Marriot Frenchman's Reef resort. "I learned so much from them. They are my mentors; they taught me how to deal with people. You have to be friendly. We are still good friends today."
After that, Francis moved to other salons, including Wavelengths, and went on to set up her own business, Bairiki's Elegant Nails on Back Street for about six years.
She moved on to work for others. Once she went to help out a friend at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, for a month, and wound up staying almost a year until the shop closed.
"My customers follow me," Francis says. "They are loyal'; some of them won't let anyone else work on them." She says her customers are mainly older women, that is to say, not the young crowd, black and white. "Mostly professional women," she says. "I love my customers. I know them."
Francis went to work for Erika at Long Bay in 1996, and moved to Frenchtown when Erika relocated. In fact, the Look Spa is the street-facing side of Erika's Salon, which faces the harbor.
And six years ago, Francis' long awaited dream came true, the Look Spa became a reality. "It's very small, but it's perfect. I use the room. I've even installed a shower."
The spa offers massage and body wraps, as well as manicures and pedicures. "I have a girl who does the massages, but I do the body wraps and facials and the manicure and pedicures."
The wall above the two French doors is covered with certificates and diplomas. They range from courses in Vancouver to Puerto Rico. "I go for training all the time," Francis says. "I go to Lendan Cosmetics in Puerto Rico for skin-care training." That is one of the certificates above the door. "Actually, they gave me two: one for taking the course in Spanish," she says.
Francis has to know the chemical components of her skin care products. It can be very exacting.
"I treat diabetics, too," she says. "With a diabetic customer, you cannot do the same treatment as other customers. There are specialized products. You have got to know what you are doing."
Francis has her own philosophy of life which serves her, and her customers, well. She has an abiding faith in her God, which shows in her attitude about people. "I've had lots of struggles, but an angel always comes in time," she says. "Sometimes it wasn't easy, it took a lot," she says, deferring any mention of the hard parts.
Francis keeps up what she still refers to as her "not perfect" English in another way. She teaches Sunday School at the Frenchtown Evangelistic Assembly. "I've been teaching for years, from early on in St. Martin. I love that," she says.
"And look at this," she says, with a sweeping gesture around her little enclave, with the sun shining in through the glass doors to light the pretty room. "This is a dream; this is my reality. Here I am, an entrepreneur, (or however you say it.)"
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