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Long history at Isabel’s Circle of Beauty

January 4, 2011

by Rachel Theall

Isabel Boyce, 60, sits at her manicure station and chats with her customer; they talk about their kids, the neighborhood, and their businesses, all while Boyce works and talks up her facial, skin products and the new steam treatment services available at her shop, Isabel’s Circle of Beauty. Isabel’s  at 785 Madison Ave. is the realization of a dream Boyce had when she first came to this country more than 50 years ago.

Boyce takes great pride in her shop “This is the cleanest, best shop in Albany,” she said. She came to this country

Isabel Boyce owner of “Isabel’s Circle of Beauty” (Rachel Theall)

from Puerto Rico in 1968, a single parent she worked and got her license at The Bronx Beauty School,  and then worked in the local salons in New York city “ I did everything, manicure, pedicure, cosmetology, and hair dresser.”

In 2002 Boyce moved to the Albany area and started to work here, soon an opportunity presented itself when Orlando from Orlando’s Beauty wanted to retire and move to Florida so he put his salon up for sale, Boyce bought the building and re-named it Isabel’s Circle of Beauty.

A year after the shop opened Boyce was joined by her son Samuel “Sammy styles” Estrella, 32, a barber who has been in the industry for12 years. Estrella understands why his mother has been so successful: “everyone is treated with respect and she pushes you to be more, to have pride in your work but also passion” They renovated the open floor plan of the building so Estrella could have his own corner for his Barber shop.

Isabel’s Circle of Beauty (Rachel Theall)

“I wanted to make sure guys would feel comfortable walking into a beauty shop, so they know that they have their space and the women have their space,” he said. “People feel so comfortable and at peace here they fall asleep.”

The 785 Madison Ave. location has always been a social hub, before the site was Orlando’s Beauty Salon it was the Madison Sweet Shop,

a popular after school hang out for young adults that lived in the area, including former students of the now non-existent Vincentian Institute high school once housed  at Madison and Ontario Street.

The Madison Sweet shop offered homemade ice cream,

Madison Sweet Shop, Roseaverian advertisement, 1947

sandwiches, soda, and malts a type of milkshake that is made from barley sugar, and a space for friendships to grow. Students clustered cluster around the counter for an afternoon snack, or meet up for a malt on Saturdays before going to the movies, according to a Times Union article on January 25, 2004. The neighborhood kids called the shop “the Greek”. If you ask some of the older people at Isabel’s Circle of Beauty, they can recall the candy store and are amazed at the changes in the area.

One of those people, Luis Mayo of Guilderland, Isabel’s head hair dresser; he has been working in the area since 1956. He once owned Hair by Mayo, just two doors down from Isabel’s, now the home of Boswell Engineering.

“I have been working here so long my clients have grown up had girls of their own and they send them to me, now I’m getting the granddaughter’s too,” Mayo said about his longevity in the neighborhood.

Mayo once worked for Orlando’s Beauty Salon after he had sold his own and decided to stay when Boyce bought the location four years ago.

Louis Mayo (Rachel Theall)

“I tell everyone that Isabel bought me with the furniture, people asked me to retire but I don’t want to retire, I love what I do, ” he said. Mayo’s light- hearted nature seems to blend in perfectly with the laid back atmosphere of Isabel’s Circle, unlike some beauty shops there is no laud music, or television blare ring in the background. The quite clean area adds to the easy feel of the environment and promotes the bonds of friendship to form, something that delights Boyce, “I want people to feel welcome like family when they are here.” -30-

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