| September 2011
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By Olivia Boler
Elizabeth Street Cosmetics founder Kelly Crispen displays her array of lipsticks and glosses, many of which she named after Noe Valley streets. Photo by Pamela Gerard
Kelly Crispen knows more than a thing or two about beauty. For 19 years, she has worked in the cosmetics industry as a makeup artist, account coordinator, and in-store trainer for major companies like Bobbi Brown, Chanel, MAC, and Lanc™me. For years, her clients would ask her, “Kelly, when are you going to come out with your own makeup line?” Last December, when she launched her company, Elizabeth Street Cosmetics, Crispen finally had an answer.
Named for the street where she has resided for 12 years, the company is “a boutique style line of lip glosses, lipsticks, and one lip balm that are all paraben-free,” Crispen says.
Parabens are a kind of chemical preservative, and there’s been some controversy over whether or not they are a health detriment. In any case, what Elizabeth Street Cosmetics lip products do have is Vitamin E and C, as well as antioxidants and a vanilla scent. The lip balm, which goes on clear, has peppermint oil in it, which Crispen says has soothing and healing properties. All are manufactured by a company in Canada.
“I started thinking about doing this seven years ago, when my first son was born,” Crispen, 41, says. She has two boys, ages 7 and 5, and is married to a San Francisco firefighter.
Before she became a mom, she got to travel a lot for work. “I really enjoyed it in my late 20s and early 30s, but once you have kids, it’s hard to keep going that way.” She wanted the flexibility to work at home, and keeping her company small—she has no plans to expand beyond lip products—is part of her business plan.
Another part of the plan is rather unique—Crispen makes house calls with her lip glosses and lipsticks in tow, either by appointment one-on-one or through something she calls “Street Parties.”
“Street Parties are held at someone’s house,” Crispen says. “The hostess—who receives some bonus goodies—invites her friends, provides wine or drinks and some snacks, and I bring the lipsticks and glosses, and we just have fun. It’s a great way for friends to hang out and catch up with each other, and have a nice, relaxing evening.” The community at St. Philip Church, where Crispen’s sons attend school, has been a big supporter of the venture.
‘It Tastes Good!’
Another huge fan is Bernadette Melvin of Bernie’s Coffee on 24th Street. “I absolutely love her stuff,” Melvin says. “I’ve known Kelly for years through the neighborhood and when she worked at the MAC counter at Nordstrom. When it comes down to it, it’s all about supporting the community and small neighborhood businesses. But I also love the products. I buy them for girlfriends as gifts, and I just took a bunch to my cousin’s wedding in Hawaii. Plus, Kelly is excellent at picking out really nice colors that come out well with my skin tone. I get lots of compliments from my customers. Also,” Melvin adds with a laugh, “it tastes good!”
A big bonus of being local is that Crispen delivers. “I hand-deliver to Bernie, which is what I prefer to do for all of my clients, if possible,” Crispen says. With hand delivery, she gets the chance to make sure her clients feel comfortable using the products, she says.
If a client is too far afield—some are as far away as Texas—Elizabeth Street Cosmetics offers free shipping on orders over $50 (as well as free giftwrap on any order). Every item is $22 each, and can be ordered through the website or by texting, emailing, or calling Crispen. Two stores in Noe Valley, Rabat on 24th Street and Curator Boutique on Church Street, carry some of the line as well.
Pucker Up for 24th Street
Crispen puts a lot of thought into each color. All are named after a street in Noe Valley, where she goes for walks to clear her mind and relax. So far, there are 15 “Street Stick” and 18 “Street Gloss” colors with names like Alvarado, Comerford, Jersey, and Whitney. The “Street Balm” or lip balm is Diamond.
“People come up to me and say, I love your lip line, but I didn’t know there was a Mersey or an Ames Street in Noe Valley,” Crispen says with a smile. She has only used one number name—24th Street, of course, which is a “creamy, soft mauve” lip gloss—and she admits that’s she’s running out of street names. “I’m thinking about expanding out to the Mission or Castro.”
Glosses and lipsticks come in three textures—pearls, creams, and sheers. This fall, starting in September, she’ll launch three new glosses and two new sticks that will have “deep, rich hues, although they aren’t necessarily dark.” Three are named Duncan, Homestead, and Collingwood. “Above all,” Crispen says, “I want to keep things interesting and fresh.”
Elizabeth Street Cosmetics can be reached via the website, www.elizabethstreetcosmetics.com, on Twitter at @elizstcosmetics, and on Facebook.