Her mere presence brings a smile.
The upbeat attitude, her radiance, the unexpected laugh: Catherine DiMatteo is what most would call a people person.
She will tell you she was born that way, but years of working in the beauty industry have allowed her personality to blossom.
DiMatteo says that while nurses fix up the inside of the body, she fixes up the outside of the body.
“I have the best job because I make people beautiful and when they are beautiful, they are happy,” DiMatteo said, as she sat in her newest salon – Petite Retreat – in Rehoboth Beach.
Former operator of Saavy Salon and Spa, DiMatteo had to temporarily hang up her scissors to take care of some health issues. She couldn’t go back into full-time salon work, so she decided to open an exclusive, appointment-only face and body salon just behind her original location on Rehoboth Avenue.
Petite Retreat offers a one-on-one experience in a relaxed setting. DiMatteo encourages her clients to be themselves, which is how she has become such good friends and even a companion for several of her regulars.
“Beauty runs deep in my family,” said DiMatteo.
She is a fourth generation stylist. She counts nearly 10 relatives who are either hair stylists or in the beauty industry.
She graduated from the Wilmington Academy of Beauty Design, which no longer exists. From there she worked in large salons, small salons and finally landed back in Rehoboth running her own salon.
DiMatteo remembers sitting in the same spot where she sits today at Petite Retreat. It’s the same location where her grandfather, Carl, had his barbershop for 40 years.
“I guess it’s in our blood,” DiMatteo said. “It’s dear to my heart because it feels like home every day when I come here to work.”
DiMatteo remembers her grandfather telling her being a barber was his hobby, not his job.
“It has been the most wonderful and blessed occupation,” she said. “Not everyone can go to work and say they love their job.”
In 2004, DiMatteo was honored as the DeVries BPW Woman of the Year, an honor she still remembers with pride, as the plaques and commendations hang on her wall at the salon.
“Opening Petite Retreat is really a comeback for me after having health issues,” DiMatteo said. “I wanted to continue working for my customers, so I educated myself on new products and new services that I can offer here.”
She offers waxing, makeovers, manicures, pedicures, body scrubs, tanning, beach cuts and massages upon request. Beach cuts is a term she coined years ago for a cut and go haircut for the saavy beachgoer, said DiMatteo.
At 59 years old (the new 49) she believes that her tenure in the beauty business has paid off, especially with because of her anti-aging routine, which she also offers to customers.
“I’ve really come full circle by coming back to the same shop where I watched my grandfather cut hair as a child. Life has been very good to me,” she said. “I am fulfilled.”
Life is a beach
A resident of Lewes and business owner in Rehoboth, DiMatteo finds plenty of fun in both towns. She loves walking the beaches and visiting the great restaurants in both towns.
“I really get the best of both towns, and both towns are a part of me,” she said.
Born into a large Italian family in Wilmington, she now has her own big brood.
She raised five children, and now has eight grandchildren. Her youngest son, a Cape graduate, is heading to aviation school in a couple months.
“It’s hard to be away from them, but most of them still live nearby,” DiMatteo said. “They are always calling me, which I love.”
When she isn’t doing facials, DiMatteo continues to spread her warmth and generous spirit through the Cape Region. She often helps older clients with their shopping or other activities. She does home visits to cut hair for those who can no longer make trip to the salon, and she spends plenty of time chasing around her grandkids.
“They keep me busy, and I am always running to Little League games or school concerts,” she said.
If she needs a moment for spirituality, she enjoys cooking Italian recipes handed down through her family, walking on the beach or reading a good book.
“Most of the time I just love meeting people and talking to people,” DiMatteo said. “It’s just interesting to talk to people and find out what they need. I have found after all these years that there is nothing I can’t do.”
A lifelong problem-solver, DiMatteo loves connecting people with services they need.
“I have fabulous clients. We are faithful to each other,” she said.
For more information on Petite Retreat or to make an appointment, call 302-381-8946.