Sunday, March 9, 2003
Service at this family business is more than skin deep
by Paul Franklin
Life at the dinner table was no different than most for the Glasgold family. School work, tennis lessons and dad’s day at the office were common topics at their home in Highland Park. So of course that included talk about nose jobs, age lines, tucks, skin care and facelifts.
Seems some things never change.
Alvin Glasgold, 65, still runs his plastic surgery business in town – The Glasgold Group – except these days the dinners could just as well be served in his office off River Road.
Mark, 41, is a board-certified facial plastic surgeon with an expertise in the rejuvenation of the aging face. Robert, 33, completes his Fellowship as an intern in June at the practice, at which time he will join the family business. Daughter Ellen operates Ellen Lange Skin Care, a comprehensive clinic offering a variety of non-surgical treatments with her own line of skin-care products. And wife Joyce, the business mind since they opened in the late 1960s in New Brunswick, has for the past 13 years managed the office staff.
Cold cream, anyone?
“It’s wonderful,” says the father about the Glasgold Five. “It’s a unique experience, a very great feeling. I really didn’t think either one would be involved in medicine. I truly didn’t.”
Glasgold’s children agree that he didn’t push them into the field, though clearly he loved his work.
“Do whatever makes you happy,” he would say. The children also agree that their mother aspired specific achievement for all of them; especially the boys.
“She was the typical Jewish mother,” Mark says with a smile, “saying ‘make sure you get into medical school.’”
“That’s not totally wrong,” Joyce says, slightly defending herself regarding the direction of their education. “Rob did want to go to law school, and mark wanted to write. I’d say, ‘go to school, then write.’ The truth is that neither one know what they wanted until they were almost finished with college. But I knew they’d go into medicine. I had a feeling.”
As the only daughter and the middle child between two brouther, Ellen grew up with a love for tennis and sailing. All three did. But ulike her brothers, she know what she wanted from a very young age. Almost from the first time she was give an vanity mirror.
“I was going to be a cosmetic queen,” the 38-year-old says. “I was the black sheep of the medical family, but I still wound up working with them.”
Her office is downstairs, where rooms of patient tables and computers hide behind walls decorated by magazine articles about her products—publications such as Vogue, W, Elle, New Jersey Monthly, Us and People.
She launched her initial product on QVC in 1996, and she does buiness with 200 stores in the United States and internationally in London. She has an office staff of three.
The mother of two, she and husband Trevor, a banker, live in Short Hills.
Mark also has two children, giving the senior Glasgolds a total of four grandchildren.
“They may follow us into the business, but I’m not going to be here to train them,” says the founder of the group.
Alvin’s parents certainly didn’t push him into medicine. They owned a retail business in Brooklyn, and he grew up in the Brownsville section doing what every other kid did on the block. Put it this way: He was not an A student from the time he could play stickball.
Eventually he caught on to the education thing and wound up being accepted at Columbia University. Needing to get away from the city, he soon transferred to Alfred University in Upstate New York.
“I didn’t get into medicine for the glorious reasons,” he says. “I never guessed how much money I would make. I just wanted to be as good as I could be, work hard. I never had a business sense, either. It’s all different now.”
A staff of nine take patients from not only Middlesex County, but from throughout New Jersey, as well as New York. Jest last week a man from California flew in for surgery. The family agrees that word-of-mouth over the years has enhanced their reputation more than advertisements.
Besides offering the usual array of facial rejuvenation, the intangible of family clearly permeates the upper floor. The familiarity, trust and closeness of the staff generates a warm feeling, unlike the sterile environment one might anticipate when entering a Dr. Scalpel and Associates.
“There’s an aloofness to surgeons,” says Mark, in his seventh year with his father. “There can be an arrogance, or at least a perception of that. That’s why we try hard to work with clients to make them fell comfortable. I’m seeing patients now that my did had, so there’s a sense of continuity as well.”
Many of their patients, the doctors say, are just every day people. They see people coming in from their high school days, they see people coming in as return customers. This isn’t Hollywood clientele, which may be the biggest change in the industry.
“We can do minute surgery that will cost just a few hundred dollars,” Alvin says, “or we can do a combination of procedures that could cost upwards of $10,000. Then again, surgery I do here for that amount can cost you $25,000 over in Manhattan.”
Speaking of traveling through the tunnels, the Glasgold Group is planning another office in Manhattan sometime soon. Also, plans are complete to give the current site a facelift. But the Highland Park office will remain.
Residing in North Brunswick, Mark shares his father’s love of the business. As an undergrad at Duke, he majored in economics and religion. His brother, Rob, married and living in Highland Park (his wife is a pediatrician), attended Tulane as an undergrad while majoring in political economics.
“My biggest reward is that I get paid to do a hobby,” mark says. “The payoff is surgery, which is the creative part. That’s the fun part.”
“I’ve always enjoyed helping people, but there is a lot of pressure. This business is very visible, so you better do well,” he says, smiling. “Particularly with family members, neighbors and friends. You don’t want to run into someone at the mall who stops you and says, ‘Hey, what did you do to me?’ what I look forward to the most is the post-operative patient, to see their joy.
“That’s very gratifying. We don’t save lives, but we can dramatically change a life. A teenager who is shy and quiet without a good self-image leaves here and comes back in a year and we can’t believe it. A wallflower becomes a cheerleader.”
The Glasgold Group tucks, snips, reduces and fills in, and just downstairs the aesthetician brings out the positive changes even more.
One stop shopping.
“We always share ideas. With our egos, we think we’re good,” Alvin says. “But when you have equal partners criticizing you, it’s a positive exchange. There’s no agenda. And with younger people, you can’t rest on your laurels. They challenge me. My sons, they don’t hold back. Sometimes I feel like I’m working for them.”
Either way, it’s all in the family.