By  on September 7, 2007

With Botox and Restylane becoming mainstream, there's a growing crop of clinic-specialty store hybrids that aim to lure those who've gone under the needle — and those who want to — by incorporating professional skin care into their everyday routine.

Calidora Skin Clinic, based in Seattle, is an example of one such concept that's making minimally invasive cosmetic treatments as easy as shopping by placing locations in lifestyle centers and upscale retailing districts. The end of this year and the beginning of next, Calidora is jumping from the state of Washington, where it has four locations, to Southern California, with units opening in Manhattan Beach, Glendale and Marina Del Rey.

"The experience you have in a doctor's office is often not really a great experience. You have to wait a long time. It might be in an inconvenient part of town," said Colette Courtion, who spent 10 years in corporate positions at Starbucks before launching Calidora. "I brought from my experience how you develop something that is unique and compelling for the customer."

To fund its expansion, Calidora recently received a $4 million cash infusion, slightly over half of which came from Fluke Venture Partners, which counts Starbucks, Sur La Table and RedHook Ale Brewery among the brands in its portfolio, and the rest from existing investors. Calidora had previously raised around $4 million, primarily from angel investors associated with Starbucks, including chairman Howard Schultz.

The money is also going toward molding an atmosphere in sync with what the target demographic prefers. Created by Courtion with assistance from Karreman & Assoc. Architecture and interior designer Julia Brunzell, Calidora has a Greek island-inspired sky blue and white color scheme and rounded walls, and contains a reception area, a waiting room framed by a billowy white curtain and four to six treatment rooms. The footprint of Calidora (the name is derived from the Greek words for beauty and gift) ranges from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet.

Calidora's modern design won over Caruso Affiliated, owner of the new Glendale and Marina Del Rey lifestyle centers that Calidora will enter next year. Todd Russell, Caruso's senior vice president of leasing and marketing, explained the company was initially concerned that professional skin care clinics were best suited to medical settings. "The concept has evolved so greatly, and it has been more accepted," he said. "The consumer is much more comfortable walking into the Calidora environment because it has a contemporary sensibility."The services are heavily influenced by a bout with adult acne Courtion had around 2001, four years before establishing Calidora. At the time, the 34-year-old scoured the available resources for adult acne patients, and visited dermatologists' offices and medical spas. While both venues left her feeling overwhelmed with information, she found dermatologists' responses too harsh and spa results too fleeting.

"I started doing my research and realized that there were these great technologies out there, but no one could deliver them with the experience I wanted," said Courtion. "I wanted someone to listen to me and help put me on a plan that would help accomplish my goals."

Calidora customers first have their complexion analyzed for 45 minutes to an hour with photoimaging to assess their pigmentation, pore size, skin tone, moisture, oil, pH level and sun damage. Second, Calidora outlines a program of in-clinic treatments to address the principal skin issues. Third, an at-home regimen using pharmaceutical-grade products is determined. Chief medical officer, physician Richard Baxter, oversees the services to ensure they are safe and meet medical standards.

Calidora treatments start at $85 and go up to $1,500 for the so-called Titan tightening procedure that is meant to stimulate collagen contraction and uplift skin on the face, upper arms, abdomen and knees. A highly edited selection of products is offered, and Courtion mentioned that IS Clinical, NeoStrata and SkinMedica are among the best-selling brands. In September, Calidora will be introducing a 12-item namesake skin care line built upon antioxidant-rich wine polyphenols and priced from $30 to $80.

Courtion declined to disclose annual revenues, but she noted, with "pure growth margins" at 90 percent for treatments and 50 to 70 percent for products, a location turns profitable in five to six months. She plans to double the store count yearly. "The unit economics of a clinic are extremely compelling," said Courtion. "With the right team that can scale this, the business itself financially can be big."

Courtion certainly isn't alone in identifying the lucrative aesthetic segment. Plenty have seen the figures: the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that 4.1 million Botox injections were administered in 2006, compared with 3.8 million the year before. From 2000 to 2006, the number of Botox procedures skyrocketed 420 percent. In 2005, Botox maker Allergan estimated the dermal filler market was $442 million, up 200 percent from 2000.Other concepts that could vie for real estate with Calidora in the future include Kalologie Skincare, a Southern California-bred chain that has opened a location in Caruso-owned The Lakes at Thousands Oaks, and Smoothmed, a "Botox-on-the-go" outlet that's popped up at 111 East 59th Street in Manhattan. Scanning the field, Courtion insisted there isn't a concept courting customers with Calidora's exact mix of sophisticated design, consumer-friendly services and on-point product assortment.

"At the end of the day, I still don't see people that compete directly with what I am doing," she said. "I have a lot respect for Kalologie, but [it is] more product-focused."

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