Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Sitar - Paying through the nose

This past weekend, I was on a mission to find my new favorite fragrance oil.  You see last year I purchased an oil from a vendor in LA who has since moved his business to Atlanta.  That 4 oz. vial cost about $35.00 I visited their website eager to make my purchase only to find that they no longer carry the fragrance.  Determined, I emailed the business owner AND the herbalist that he hired who both had the formula for my "passion" [the fragrance name] that I was so desperately seeking.  Both responded that these oils were in South America and that I should search for them by the botanical name.  Talk about getting the runaround... In my gut I knew both men were blowing smoke to kill my quest.  However undeterred I took my empty vial to the only establishment I knew of; a bookstore that also sells fragrant oils at wholesale prices. Amir, the young man behind the counter put my vial to his nose and said "Oh this is Amber and to refill your 4 oz. vial will be $4.00."  I was shocked and ecstatic at the same time.  I told him that the retailer called the oil "passion" and that I paid $35.00 for it and he laughed and said "well they are business men." Well I admit it. I got GOT by the retail system.  I guess that is pretty funny.  Understand that I don't want to deny anyone their capitalists ambitions but since I am wiser I just don't have to participate.  Years ago while on vacation in France I took a tour of Fragonard - one of the worlds oldest perfumeries.  The guide told us how there are only about 10 or 12 "noses" in the world.  Noses get paid six figures to learn and practice the art of creating ans mixing fragrances. A "nose" is a perfumer, a person qualified to mix botanical, oils, water and alcohol in order to create fragrances. "Noses" must study for many years at great expense in order to be qualified to be a perfumer.

Anyway, Amir [who told me in five seconds that my $35.00 "passion" oil is really amber oil] didn't sacrifice expensive tuition to learn his high and low fragrant notes, nor did he send me to the depths of South America to search for botanical, he told me the truth and poured my oil from a plastic jar on the shelf labeled with a sharpie marker and charged me $4.00.  That same oil at another retail store in L.A.would cost me $60.00.

YES. Once I actually shelled out $60 for a fragrance oil at a Santa Monica retail store.  Talk about paying through the nose.

My local "nose" (disclaimer: this is not a review of disrespect but a review from my personal experience based on what I saw, how I felt and the treatment I received.)
Amir is the local "nose" that works at Dawah Book Shop right on the corner of 48th and Crenshaw Blvd.  At first when you pull up, you would tend to be fearful because the perimeter gates are high, there are plastic tubs filled with what seems to be junk and there is a pit bull chained to the side of the lot which doesn't bark at you, rather he just stares.  The dog is in place to ward off anyone thinking about underhanded acts.  However when you park and walk up to the tubs you'll find beautiful wooden and brass incense boxes and porcelain burning oil holders.  Walking into the shop is off putting at first since, A) it's been around for decades with no real plans for aesthetic improvements so it continues to look like a place where Fred Sanford resides.  B) I can't really judge the aesthetic too harshly because I'm not in the retail business so I have no clue about the costs of real estate rental/ownership, property taxes, product development and product import, payroll, retail permits, licenses, etc.  I can only assume that to keep wholesales costs low, leasehold improvements are not high on the list of priorities which is why the photo on their site is of the Taj Mahal.  But I encourage you to go with it, don't be afraid [because nothing will happen to you other than kicking yourself about not knowing about this place sooner] and walk into the shop that smells like the best apothecary of fragrance in the West with all of the fragrances hitting you simultaneously.

Jars of coffee beans on the counters to help you find your unique selection.  [For the uninitiated, coffee beans are a deodorizer which helps to neutralize your sense of smell to not be overwhelmed.  The staff is authentically who they are and I have had pleasant experiences each and every time I visit the shop.

Log onto their website so view their catalog of oils AND keep your empty bottles of perfume because Amir can match it or mix it better to your body chemistry.  I successfully replaced two of my favorites for $15 each vs. $60/ea.  Okay I'll keep you out of suspense and share my go to fragrances: AmarigeWhite NileEgyptian Honey & my new favorite, which always causes all men and most women to follow me around like moths to a flame.  Yes I actually get followed when I wear this and with their eyes widened they never fail to ask and say, "My god that fragrance smells fresh, clean and great on you.  What are you wearing?!  What is that ??"  So I say, with my Cheshire Cat grin, "It's an oil called White Amber."

Thank you Amir for suggesting that I sample White Amber while you searched for the regular Amber oil to match the empty bottle that I brought to you.

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