New Kid on the Block: Aida Bicaj

When Aida Bicaj landed here in the States from Albania in 1992, she had already completed a college degree and aesthetician school — which in Europe is like two years of medical school — but like so many immigrants, she had to put that dream aside. Instead she pounded the pavement for three months, living with her brother and the $10 a day he budgeted for her while she looked for work.

“I went to every boutique possible on the Upper East Side,” she remembers. “Finally I walked in one on 59th and Lex and said ‘I am not leaving this store until you give me chance.’ See what survival can do to you?”

She worked 12-hour days for $5 an hour, translating that job into others in fashion, and finally, through an Albanian contact, a job at the French skin care company Biologique Recherche, where she took a pay cut just to get a step closer to her passion.

“My brother said, ‘are you crazy?’ And I said, ‘I did not come here to be a salesperson.’ I wanted to create something and I will do anything to see what it’s like.”

She started as a receptionist, then became the manager for distribution and eventually was trained to work with clients directly by the owners, whose expectations and tough love sometimes brought her to tears. But for that she is grateful. Her 15 years there prepped her to open her own salon, which she did first on the Upper East Side in 2006, working by herself, six days a week, for the first years.

She closed on her second salon on N. Moore just before covid, and during the shutdown, kept the business alive with online sales, using her Queens apartment as a warehouse. Through it all she continued to pay rent here Tribeca. “I didn’t want to let the space go.”

Of course she carries Biologique Recherche, and the techniques she uses on her clients are still the same she learned from Yvan and Josette Allouche. He was a biochemist and she was a physiotherapist. “The movements I learned from her, the skin I learned from him. He didn’t like my touch in the beginning — he would slap me on my hand, and say, ‘Were you ever in love? When you are in love you want to grab that person. You need to grab the skin.’ It’s like making the dough — the whole shape of your hand has to cover the skin, not just your fingers.”

And, she notes, good skin takes time — that’s another thing she learned from the French. Nothing worthwhile is achieved overnight.

Bicaj (who is 58) now has 10 aestheticians working for her at the two locations, which she wants to keep small — three rooms in each. She splits her time between the two locations, and she still maintains the online business as well. She does face and body treatments, but never uses the word facial — that, she says, is just cleaning pores.

“What we do here is like a workout for your face,” she says. “People go to personal trainers? We do personal training for the face here. And people leave feeling different.”

Aida Bicaj
64 N. Moore | Greenwich & Hudson