New City Chicago

Open For Business - The Lashe Spot

Blame it on J-Lo's mink falsies or on the nation's new love affair with non-surgical enhancement, but salons have lately witnessed an epidemic of fluttery-lash fever. And now the Gold Coast has a sanctuary where those little hairs can reach their most sweeping potential.

Melinda Rodriguez, owner and founder of the Lashe Spot, sharpened her scissors as a Vidal Sassoon hairdresser. At 18, she was selected to study the salon's famous "precision cutting" technique in London, and when she came back to Chicago she went to work snipping inside the Water Tower Place. At the inner-mall salon, Melinda says, "I couldn't tell what the weather was like outside. I had worked for a while in Miami, in a storefront space where we had sunny skies and palm trees right outside. I missed that, and I realized it was time to start something on my own."

So when Rodriguez found a perfect pampering-place-with-a-view at 24 West Erie, she bought the space, hired some Sassoon pals (including her friend since high school, Ignatia Garcia) and Roque Salon was born. Aside from offering color, cuts and makeup application, Roque boasted XTreme Lash eyelash extension: In a process that takes one to two hours, eyelashes are made noticeably fuller and fringier.

Five years later (the salon celebrated its anniversary this past weekend), Roque clients were clambering for the XTreme treatment at such an XTreme rate that Melinda had to open a new spot exclusively for the service.

At the spankin' new Lashe Spot, four chairs allow patrons to sink back onto pillows and cushy white blankets as a lash expert goes to work on prettifying their peepers.

On a recent visit, I stood by as aesthetician Ignatia Garcia worked her lash magic and was unable to hold back a few of my concerns: "Doesn't it hurt?" I bellowed to Garcia's client, who replied serenely, her eyes closed: "I'm napping." Incidentally, the experience is set to become more tranquil in the coming months, when customers will don iPods programmed with soothing tunes and dip their hands into warm paraffin wax as the treatment takes place. However, I'm still a bit troubled. The lashes last up to two months, so my next pressing concern is: "Don't people get hooked? I mean, what happens when the extensions all fall off?" Melinda assures me that the danger of XTreme Lash addiction is comparable to the beauty frenzy fueled by a manicure: "Once you get your nails done, you like the way it looks, you want to do it again," she says. "It becomes about maintenance. You get inspired to keep it up." I have one last issue, and this one's about eye infection. But at-home research (the salon's website,, has all the answers lash neophytes could seek) assures me that the extensions are applied directly to each natural lash with sanitized tweezers; the skin around the eyes is never touched. No wonder the Lashe Spot client was able to nod off: her eyes, it seems, were in expert hands.