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Salon sets up shop in Little Neck

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"I think it's important to be able to communicate with the clientele," she said last Thursday on her 40th birthday. "It's important to get their trust and confidence."Novoa's Epoca Skin Care Center, located at 252-06 Northern Blvd., opened in April after her two-year effort to find an appropriate spot and then set up a fully equipped operation. Her space now includes a chair for hair styling near the reception counter and a medical exam table for body work in a separate room in the back, with both areas decorated in minimalist fashion."It's slowly building up a reputation," Novoa said of her business, which sits below her second-story apartment and offers permanent makeup, hair removal and airbrush tanning, among other services. She has also brought in a part-time hair specialist and introduced her own skin care line, created for her by a Canadian manufacturer."Things have slowly been rolling in the right direction," she said.Born in Bogota, the Colombian capital, Novoa first became interested in the beauty field when her mother bought her a Barbie Doll toy hair care kit after the family emigrated to New York City. When she was 18, however, they moved back to Bogota, and Novoa decided to study journalism at a Colombian university."I love the communication, the interaction with people," she said. After a stint working as a television journalist in Colombia, she followed her family back to New York. Once here, she sold makeup at Bloomingdale's and then took a job as a translator. When her employer moved the business to Oregon in 1998, she decided to pursue her childhood passion."I said, ÔThis is my chance to get into skin care,'" she recalled. When she made that decision, she was living near Jamaica Avenue and 95th Street in Woodhaven and found a room to rent in the back of a neighbor's barbershop after attending beauty school.That arrangement worked for a few years, but Novoa later decided she needed more space."I wanted to keep growing," she said. So she scoured Queens for a suitable location, one that was not rundown, too expensive or in a remote area. "It took me a very long time to find an appropriate place," Novoa said.While she looked, she developed a business plan during a class at the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corp. in Kew Gardens and took more courses in skin care."There are more and more things to learn always," Novoa said of her current venture. "It's like the medical field Ñ something comes out every month."Using money she had saved up and additional financial help provided by her family, Novoa eventually found a location for her business at the Little Neck storefront, which the landlord renovated. Other than the physical face-lift of the premises, Novoa has done all the other prep work herself, from designing the interior to creating a company Web site. Although the area does not always provide a lot of foot traffic, Novoa said she has advertised and her business has so far succeeded because of individualized care as well as word of mouth."My main idea is when they leave this place, they're thinking I want to come back," she said of her customers.As her salon grows, Novoa hopes to hire more staff. And down the road, once she has established a thriving business, she hopes to incorporate her earlier profession. "Someday I do plan on merging both careers, the beauty, the aesthetics, with the journalism," she said, mentioning doing work for a fashion or health magazine. "I love to write."Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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