Manal Hage doesn’t just follow her dreams; she turns her visions into reality.
From owning a successful aesthetics business to opening a first-of-its-kind café in the middle of a pandemic, the self-made entrepreneur has always achieved whatever she’s put her mind to; adding beauty and her own personal style to everything she touches.
“I’m very creative and very stubborn,” laughs Hage.
“I love presentation and I’m very passionate, so when I see things in my mind, I make them happen.”
Hage has had a penchant for making things beautiful for as long as she can remember. But the owner of Manal Hage Beauty Lounge and Pure Fruit Café is quick to point out that just because someone loves to create pretty things, doesn’t mean they can’t be a savvy businessperson.
“You can work hard and still look good,” she asserts. “I want to be a reflection of my business, so I always try to look my best.”
“Someone once asked me what I do and I told them I was an aesthetician. They said, ‘Why? You’re too smart for that,’” she recalls. “I was so offended. You can make things beautiful and still be educated and a good businessperson. I look at all my certificates and all I’ve accomplished. It doesn’t matter what your profession is; it’s how you carry yourself and your career.”
With 20 years of experience in the beauty industry, Hage has indeed carried herself to the pinnacle of her career, working for top brands across the globe including MAC, Guerlain Paris, and La Prairie. She’s even been a makeup artist and judge for Miss Universe Canada.
Hage’s foray into aesthetics began when she was just a teenager, first taking cosmetology classes in high school, then attending beauty school to learn hair styling, nail design, and makeup techniques.
“I was always very artistic so I really gravitated toward the aesthetics over everything else,” she says.
Upon graduation, she trained with Aveda in Toronto and began her career working with some of the Windsor area’s most prominent salons, including Antoine Greige and Elie Habib. After establishing herself locally, Hage moved back to her native Lebanon to start a family, continuing to build her career as she raised her two sons, Adam and Daniel.
Five years later, Hage and her family returned to Canada, where she was excited to welcome back many of her previous clients, eventually opening up her own company in 2015: Manal Hage Beauty Lounge.
“They came back to me because they trusted me, and that really meant a lot,” she says. “Starting at Elie Habib as a young girl in my career and then to come back as an established owner of my own business was such a fantastic feeling; it really was like coming full circle.”
So how did Hage go from a beauty industry professional to restaurateur? It all started with a vision and a love of Paris.
“When people would come to my beauty lounge, I would always have coffee or tea and pieces of cake and fruit and some French music playing,” she explains.
“They would always ask me, ‘Why do you have that?’ and I would say, ‘I always dreamed of having a French café. I want to feel like I’m in Paris.’”
While at home during the early days of COVID, one of Hage’s sons asked her to start making fruit cups for snacks, and an idea was born.
“The first time everything closed down for COVID, I was having fun cooking at home and creating new things. The second time it happened, I started inviting friends and family to come buy some of my creations, and by the third time everything closed down I was selling these fruit cups and fruit platters from my driveway,” she laughs.
“That’s how it all started,” she continues. “Then I decided that if the space next to Elie Habib (in the Casa Cabana Plaza) ever became available, I would open a café.”
One day in the fall of 2021, Hage got the call she’d be dreaming of.
“Elie called to tell me that the space next to him would be available,” she recalls. “In that moment I got scared and almost backed out but I decided, ‘No, I’m going to do this.’”
To help bring Hage’s vision of a Parisian café to fruition, she enlisted the help of her friend David Burman, a.k.a. Mister Style.
“I called him up and said ‘I need your help,’ and he said, ‘Ok, let’s go!’” she shares. “He asked me what I was thinking and I told him Paris. We put our ideas together and it was amazing. He normally works in residential design; mine is the first business he did.”
Just four short months later, in February 2022, Pure Fruit Café officially opened.
The stunning, intimate café is unlike anything else found in the region, says Hage. From the opulent fixtures to the French music and the fresh, flavourful menu items, every detail has been carefully chosen and received her personal touch. Hage says she’s also drawn inspiration for the café from her travels, recently returning to Paris and Lebanon, and even having “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in New York.
“Whatever I do, because I have that aesthetics background, I like to add beauty to it,” she explains.
“The café is no different. I don’t want you to just come for a coffee; I want you to come for an experience.”
Judging by the response she’s received in her first year of business, Hage can confidently say she’s achieved her goal.
“Customers have told us, ‘I have been to Paris and this feels like I’m back there,’” she says. “A lot of people come in to take pictures as well because they love the space so much.”
It may be the striking décor that draws customers in, but it is the café’s carefully crafted menu of specialty beverages, fruit platters, sandwiches, salads, and more that keep them coming back. Hage says she has worked hard to create a unique selection of items not found in other establishments, like açai bowls with her own custom made protein blends, iced Refresher drinks, and her signature fruit cups: available in mango, strawberry, and avocado and topped with nuts, more fresh fruit, and ashta, a Middle Eastern style clotted cream.
“I create all my own drinks,” she says.
“There really are no other cafés like Pure Fruit,” continues Hage.
“You have other coffee shops or dessert spots but Pure Fruit Café has protein items and healthy meals; it has desserts, coffees, plus catering all under one roof. We’re a small space that does so much.”
Hage has now branched out into catering baby showers, wedding showers, corporate events, and more. With the holidays fast approaching, she is already fielding countless phone calls for corporate lunches, dessert tables, and other festive celebrations.
Her next vision? To marry her two professions by offering aesthetic services and catering together for bridal parties.
“I see myself partnering with my friends to create an all-in-one experience,” she says. “The two things really do go together. If you’re having a wedding, you can come to the beauty lounge, have your nails and your makeup done while you enjoy a coffee and something to eat with your bridal party. Everything is connected.”
She also hopes to expand her charitable efforts, recently donating an elaborate 4-table dessert display to CMHA Windsor’s “Rock Your Sole” fundraiser.
“I’m trying to do as much as I can; I’m just a new business but I try to give back to the community as much as possible,” she adds, noting that she’s also donated to local church fundraisers and set up a dessert table at the YQG Green expo.
Hage also has plans to expand Pure Fruit Café not just across Windsor-Essex, but beyond.
“Within the next two years I’m planning a second location in the Manning Road area, and eventually I’d love to franchise. I’d love to have locations everywhere like (internationally franchised) Paul Café.”
While Hage’s ambition and positivity seem to know no bounds, she’s not without stress. Between the beauty lounge, café, and catering, she admits to struggling with a work/life balance and burnout.
“I love spending time with my boys; I feel so bad that I have to give so much time to my business,” she says. “I feel that I don’t get enough time with them but as a single mom, I have to provide for them and that takes me away from them sometimes. My youngest son Daniel has started working with me at the café after school three days a week and that has been so great. I want him to see the value of hard work.”
Despite the challenges she’s faced on her journey, Hage says she continues to work hard every day with a smile on her face and love in her heart and hopes to inspire other women to follow their own passion.
“I want to show other women out there that if you have a dream you can go for it,” she says.
“I opened during the middle of the pandemic which was a huge risk. I’m a single mom and I’m doing it on my own and I’m not scared because I know I can do it. If you give things your all and you do them with good intentions, you will succeed.”