Washougal salon owner, Katie Lewis, attributes success to supportive community

Beauty Temptations Salon owner, Katie Lewis, was inspired to work toward a career in the beauty industry after giving her first manicure at just 5-years-old.

“My aunt from Utah was visiting our family and she let me soak my fingers in a bowl of water and paint her nails,” says Lewis.  “When she went home, she sent me nail polish in the mail because she recognized that I loved it – I was pretty good at it, too!”

As a student at Washougal High School, Lewis changed her nail polish weekly and gave manicures to friends for school dances. She says, “I had an insane collection of nail polish and friends would joke about it, but I just loved doing nails.”  

During Lewis’s senior year, guidance counselor, Sharon Watts, encouraged her to attend Manning Academy of Cosmetology for school credit; Lewis graduated with her aesthetician license in 1998.

“I left high school at 10 am and was at Manning until 5 pm when sports started,” says Lewis. “John Carver, the softball coach, told me, ‘If you can do all that and get here an hour late for practice, then I’ll stay an hour late and practice with you.’ He knew doing nails was important to me and wanted me to succeed after I graduated from high school.”

In 2001, Lewis opened Beauty Temptations Salon in Washougal and says it wouldn’t have been possible without the support and encouragement of her family and community.  

Lewis’s father, Chris Leifsen—who was experienced at building businesses from the ground up and was the president of multiple welding companies—provided her and her husband, Grant, with guidance and helped them secure a $10,000 business loan.

“My dad told me, ‘Live now like nobody else wants to, so you can live later like nobody else can,’” says Lewis. “He took me to Nordstrom and showed me the difference in customer service and had a big influence on how I run my business and how I balance my home and work life.” 

Two years later, Lewis’s salon outgrew its original location, and she and her husband bought and tore down a house on ‘E’ Street in Washougal so that they could build a larger salon.

“A family friend who was an architect gave me a piece of paper and asked me to sketch out my dream salon,” says Lewis. “The next night, he took what I’d drawn and put it into a floor plan over dinner at their house. I couldn’t believe it. It was exactly what I wanted!”

Lewis says her high school driver’s ed teacher and local business owner, Robert Green, helped her many times over the years. “There are so many bumps, struggles, and hiccups,” says Lewis. “Bob would say, ‘You’ll be okay. Roll with the changes.’ He always had some really crazy story that made me think, ‘Ok, you’re right. I can get through this.’ He has so much wisdom.”

“He taught me not to take things personally. I’m really empathetic and if I see a problem I want to fix it. But he taught me that sometimes you just need to let people be and not change your path to meet theirs.”   

Lewis also received support from her husband. The couple will celebrate their 20-year wedding anniversary in 2019 and she says, “I couldn’t have done this with anyone else. At first, Grant thought I was crazy for wanting to open a business, but he was the first one there. When the kids were little, he would cook or do whatever to make ends meet. He’d run down to the salon at take care of maintenance nightmares.”

“Achieving the American Dream is hard, and both of us have a different type of love and appreciation for the people that have helped us over the years.”

Now, Lewis makes it a priority to give back to the community that has given her so much.

She provides local beauty school students with hands-on salon experience and says it feels good to help them get started with their passion.

One of the students that she helps happens to be her daughter, Gwen Lewis, who attends Washougal High School and is enrolled in the cosmetology program at Clark County Skills Center.

“I keep telling her, ‘You don’t have to work at mommy’s salon,’ and she tells me ‘But, mommy, that’s where I want to work,’” says Lewis. She laughs and adds, “I joke that I’ll fire her if I have to but she’s loving it so far!”

The salon also donates gift baskets, gift cards, and money whenever possible and likes to get involved in community events.

“Our philosophy is, ‘If it helps 12 or more people, we can’t say no.’ We always go way over budget – there’s no cap to when we stop showing our support. You want to help when people are going through something.

“I also hire likeminded girls who say things like, ‘Just so you know, I did that service for free,’ or ‘I hope you don’t mind but I pulled together a gift basket.’”

On the day of our interview, Lewis had just finished giving a manicure to a client who was preparing a celebration of life service for her recently deceased husband. As the woman left the salon, Lewis kindly yelled, “Let me know if you need help! Decorations, anything! I’m a hoarder!”

Lewis says her team’s favorite local event is the Lighted Christmas Parade, which takes place in downtown Washougal on Thurs. Dec. 6., 2018.

“We never miss that event because it’s so connecting!” says Lewis. “We dressed up as elves the last two years and this year we plan to dress up as snowmen. We hand out goodies and hairbrushes and it’s a fun way to see people and interact with the kids.”

Beauty Temptations recently celebrated their seventeenth year in business and employees four hairstylists, four manicurists, one esthetician, two lash techs, and one microblader. Lewis believes their success is due to the high level of personal care that they give to clients.

A sign next to their front door reads, ‘Come as you are,’ and Lewis says, “Yes, come as you are, and we’ll take care of the rest. It’s all about helping people maintain the beauty they already have. We’re not trying to change someone’s look. We’re helping people feel good about themselves in a place where they can feel comfortable talking about their awkward beauty issues.”

Lewis recalls doing nails through the economy crash in 2008, and says, “Women and families were losing homes and they’d ask me, ‘How can I sell a manicure to my husband?’ We’d make their nails short and thick so that they’d only have to budget $35 once a month. It’s hard to think ‘How do I tell my family that $100 dollars a month is just for me?’ I put myself in the consumers position and did what was right for them.

“I tell my girls, ‘Treat everyone the same whether they are the CEO or the janitor.’ Everyone deserves to feel pampered and refreshed, and absolutely just want to be heard. We make conversation, connect, and actually hear what is going on in their life.”

“People say, ‘Oh, you work in a beauty salon, you must know all the gossip.’ We want people to feel like they can vent, relax, and trust what they say won’t be public knowledge. Our mantra is ‘Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil.’”

In addition to running the salon and helping her independent contractors thrive, Lewis continues to work as a manicurist. Most of her clients have been with her off-and-on since 1998, including her mom, Debbie, and her first client, Rene Sundby, who was her assistant softball coach at WHS.

“My mom was so proud of me!” says Lewis. “When we first opened, she came in a lot and left me big tips. I’d always say, ‘Mom, you don’t have to do that!’ and she’d laugh and say, ‘I’m just a customer!’”  

“Those first few appointments could take three hours. Thank God I charmed them! I said, ‘Don’t worry, it won’t always look like I glued M&M’s to your fingers.’ Now when girls just starting out think they did a bad job, I tell them ‘Don’t make me pull out that picture of my first manicure!’”

“I don’t think I would have been as successful if I opened anywhere else. Washougal has something no one else has. People come together and battle for their own even if they don’t know the person they’re battling for. They came out of the woodwork when they heard a young 20-year-old was opening a salon in her hometown. We just want to keep growing and serving.”

For a complete list of services and hours, please visit www.beautytemptationssalon.com. For pictures of their work, visit the salon’s Instagram account @beautytemptationssalon. If you’re interested in joining the salon, call Katie Lewis at 360-335-1646.