BELLA In You Makeover: Heather Krenstel and Avanti Salon

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It’s not too often you walk into a business that has been faithfully servicing its community for more than 30 years, especially one that was completely devastated from Hurricane Sandy. And through nothing short of hard work from family and friends, many tears and a faithful staff who is lovingly referred to as “family,” Avanti Salon reopened a mere three weeks after the storm. The BELLA team felt as fortunate as makeover recipient Heather Krenstel to be a part of an amazing day at such a warm and busy salon and spa.

Heather, a mom to three beautiful children, ages 13, 10 and 7, lives on the South Shore of Staten Island and has been a client of Avanti for almost 15 years. “Heather has always been a wonderful client of ours,” explained Jamile Mila, Avanti’s salon and spa manager. “We felt we should offer a day of beauty and pampering to someone who not only deserves it, but who has become like family to us, like so many of our clients.”

To make Heather look and feel 40 and fabulous, she was treated to a facial, haircut, color and highlights, manicure and pedicure, an updo styling and flawless makeup. “I really don’t wear a lot of makeup so I’m excited to get my makeup done professionally. Hopefully this will make me start wearing a little bit more in my day to day. I also loved the facial.  It was amazing.  My skin feels so soft – I actually feel a little younger.”

Heather was thrilled to have been chosen. “I turned 40 this year, and I wanted a fresh new look. Also after a really long winter and spring finally here, it was the perfect time,” she said. “Everyone at Avanti is like family to me, so I knew if I was going to get a makeover anywhere, this was the best place to be.”

A tightknit feeling of family was definitely the theme of the day. You felt it as you looked around the salon – people were smiling, laughing and talking – a positive energy that mixed with the constant flow of clients walking through the front door. The special atmosphere is surely inspired by Avanti owners Hoda and Shemsi Laika, two amazing examples of resiliency. Less than six months ago, the business they had built over 30+ years was washed away in an instant by Hurricane Sandy. “We were in tears,” recalled Shemsi. “We couldn’t believe what we walked into the next morning. It was very hard to deal with, seeing everything you have worked so hard for just gone.”

With no insurance reimbursement, just a lot of help from friends, family and all the Avanti staff, the Laikas were able to reopen Avanti’s doors just three weeks later – showing the community they will always be there for them, even during times of crisis. “It has been a lot of work to get back on our feet, especially so quickly,” Shemski added. “It had me feeling depressed at times, but that all changed one day when a woman came into the salon and asked reception if she could talk to me. I came out to greet her, and she told me that Avanti had saved her and her sister’s life the night of the hurricane.

Not sure what to think, Shemsi listened to the woman recount the night Sandy overtook their home. They were washed away into the streets fighting for their lives after the floodwaters completely engulfed them. “She said to me, ‘We were blue from being so cold and tired and were fading fast. There was nowhere to go, and then in the dark silence we heard the window of your salon explode from the impact.’” The noise of that window shattering startled them and made them realize they had to keep moving to stay alive.

Shemsi was so moved by the story. “After all she had been through, this woman – a complete stranger – came in here to tell me her story. To realize that Avanti’s devastation helped save two lives … there is nothing more I could have asked for.” It really put things back into perspective for them. “To lose our business was very hard, but through that – to have saved two lives –  there is nothing more to say. That’s all that matters.”

The Laikas continue to give back to the community they hold so dear. As Heather’s BELLA in You Makeover drew to a close, we noticed the salon had gotten very full with teenage girls, which made me ask, “Is it prom or something today? Why are so many girls getting their hair and makeup done?” Shemsi smiled and said, “One of the local schools is having a big fashion show tonight, and we are doing all the hair and makeup for the girls who will be modeling.”

But Avanti wasn’t just doing it, they donated it – their time, their salon and their staff.  That’s what family does … that’s what community does. That’s what Avanti does!

Heather’s Day of Beauty

Avanti’s talented team treated Heather to a “40 and Fabulous” makeover:

  • Jamile Mila - Highlights, color and cut
  • Victoria Nemiroskaya – Facial
  • Geo Caggiano – Formal updo
  • Pasha Lajka – Makeup
  • Anna Schneiderman – Manicure
  • Regina Milman – Pedicure

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