Interview with Kiehl’s CEO + New Portland Kiehl’s Store!

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i had the opportunity to interview chris salgardo, the CEO of Kiehl’s and wow, what a down to earth, genuine and inspiring man to talk to! oh and obviously he’s a bad ass.

nabbed from his twitter

nabbed from his twitter @KiehlsPrez

there is a new portland Kiehl’s store coming to town at washington square mall! their grand opening is today from 4pm-9pm! 

9585 SW Washington Square
Tigard, OR 97223

they are giving away products to the first 50 people in the door, doing complimentary 20 minute facials and will have snackies so if you’re in the portland area, GO!


back to the fact that the CEO called me on my cell phone like we are old pals.

we had a very fluid conversation so i am not going to give all of his full statements because it would be long (he was generous with his time and we talked for more than 30 minutes!)

what is your own definition of beauty?

he said that everyone’s beauty really does come from within but he also believes that if there are things we want to change about our external beauty, he encourages that too. he shared that he struggled with very bad acne as a teenager and it shook his confidence. he knew he’d be in the work force soon and wanted to look and feel good about his skin.

i proceeded to tell him that i stalked him and watched a few video interviews of him and said “daaamn your skin does look good!”

he laughed and thanked me with the reply of “i’m very proud of my skin but it’s not just skin care products alone, though i do use them as my routine. diet and exercise play a role and stress can really do damage on your skin too – like smoking.”

how does Kiehl’s give back and why is this so important to you and the company?

you could hear the smile and pride in his voice as he told me about the top 3 things he and the company contributes to are:

1) AIDS/HIV research

2) the environment

3) families and children’s well-being, especially hunger.

he shared a quote with me that his grandma used to say to him “if you have the ability to give back, you should.”

chris talked about how Kiehl’s does have this ability and it’s with thanks to its customers. i never thought of it like that but it’s true! he told me that Kiehl’s has never used advertising in the traditional sense, which is insane because they’ve been around for more than 164 years. they would rather not put those costs on the customers – they would rather give to the community.

kiehls portland

he also talked about how it’s very important to value the staff and hire the right people, many who spend time giving back in their communities. he said that “of course money is important so yes, write that check because programs need funding but it’s also incredibly powerful to give back in tangible ways, with your own hands.”

this was my favorite part of the interview because i could hear just how important these causes are to him on a deeply personal level. he shared a story about losing a close friend to AIDS and how even one person lost to AIDS is one person too many. he talked about the environment and what a vital role in plays in who we are a species. he talked about his passion for feeding hungry children right here in the united states because our own country has people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

he’s most proud of LifeRide, which he started and said that “if i could get on the road and get the conversation going around AIDS, i could give back in a small way.” they are doing their 5th ride this year in august!

how does Kiehl’s maintain the indepdent, handmade, boutique feel while being part of  a larger corporate structure?
great question jessica!)

chris talked a lot about customer service being paramount and nothing drives him crazier than when a company touts that it’s so great in customer service but then you have a less than stellar experience interacting with them. he never wants Kiehl’s to be like that so they take great pride in offering generous free samples of their whole line, while being helpful and never pushy in the store. the company also invests in their employees, which of course contributes to a high quality business.

obviously Kiehl’s also has a commitment to high quality, USA-made products that people love and trust. they must be doing something right because “164 years is how long we’ve been around and that is before lincoln ran for president!” well when you put it that way, chris, yes indeed.


the last piece he mentioned was honoring the history and past of how Kiehl’s has grown and this is showed cased in the new washington square mall location.

what’s the strategy around opening stores in airports? (great question, holly)

since the retail landscape is ever-changing, they see this as a service opportunity. Kiehl’s has a big international following so people like the convenience of airport stops. it’s an in and out stop and they have a ton of great TSA approved sized products too. it also helps build awareness in the 6 US cities where they are in airports.

so why the Kiehl’s location at washington square in tigard?

chris told me he’s actually been looking for another location in the portland area for 3-4 years! there is a store on NW 23rd but not one out the other way and he wanted to bring the full experience to washington square mall.

you also get the full experience there with the iconic Kiehl’s motocycle, the teaching skeleton mr. bones, and it’s history literally on the walls.

and because i’m nosy…

what is the best relationship advice you’ve received?

“you must date. there are no short cuts so take the time to date and get to know someone fully.” he gave the analogy that if you want to lose weight, you have to work out and eat healthier. there are no magic short cuts or serums, you have to put in the work and the same goes for relationships. #thenewwifestyle.

what is the worst relationship advice you’ve received?

“follow your heart, even if you’re following blindly.” chris expanded on this by talking about even if our heart feels one thing but we know or experience something else, like lack of communication from a partner or they are always late, we should not just follow blindly. eventually these things will catch up and not be healthy for the relationship so he doesn’t think that’s very good advice.


i’m not quite sure what i was expecting when i knew i was going to interview chris salgardo but he far exceeded my expectations and now i feel like we are best friends. too soon? maybe, but regardless of the status of our friendship, he’s a kind, funny and warm guy to talk with!

Kiehl’s sent over some samples for me to try and i do have to say they have exceeded my expectations as well. my new favorite is this creamy eye treatment with avocado. i especially love that it stays in place and doesn’t run into your eyes.

i realized how important this is in anything you put near your eyes when i used different facial cream and i looked like i was a sobbing mess while i walked my dog with tears streaming down my face last week. super sexy.

kiehls portland creami am also kind of snooty when it comes to lip moisturizer (see, i couldn’t even refer to it as the regular chapstick) and this stuff rocks. i put it on in the morning and it miraculously makes my lips feel hydrated all day. it’s also scent free and i like that because i feel like it’s focusing on hydrating my lips and not trying to taste good at the same time. i think i might put this to the test in antarctica…

kiehls lip balmas you can see, these are awesomely under 3oz and if you’re traveling a lot so these are the perfect size to have with you! they also do travel sizes of other products too.

new raving fan of Kiehl’s over here and if you’re in portland, definitely get in on the freebies tonight at the grand opening in washington square mall!

1) what’s your favorite lip moisturizer to use?
2) how important is it to you that companies you buy from give back?
3) what’s the best or worst relationship advice you’ve received?

ps. apologies if you had to click over from a feed or from your email, the settings have been updated to make sure the full articles appear again! sorry for the inconvenience but technology is often out to get me. 

i did receive these products complimentary and all opinions and weird questions are my own, unless otherwise attributed.


  1. Brittany

    April 24, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Sounds like a great guy! Love this brand!
    Brittany recently posted…5 Things on Friday

    • chelsea

      April 24, 2015 at 8:16 am

      he really is, brittany! i’m also impressed with the ingredients and quality of the products too!

  2. Lindsay Ingalls

    April 24, 2015 at 8:22 am

    My Favorite lip moisturizer is Kari Gran Lip Whip- it’s amazing!
    Lindsay Ingalls recently posted…Fitness Friday | My Run Analysis at Therapydia PDX

  3. Alison

    April 24, 2015 at 9:00 am

    It’s always interesting to hear from successful people about their thought process behind their successful brand. Thanks so much for sharing.
    Alison recently posted…Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Super Friends

  4. Pech

    April 24, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    The rationale behind airport presence sounds pretty spot on to me- similar to a mall unlike a standalone location, it gets lots of traffic and eyes on the brand. Even more so, people who get through our PDX security surprisingly to them super fast then have time to linger and explore! And the TSA sizes are great!
    Pech recently posted…Beer Pairing Dinner: The Bruery and Coquine Supper Club

    • chelsea

      April 25, 2015 at 9:17 am

      isn’t it great how quick you can usually get through the PDX security, pech?! i’m always astounded and you’re totally right, then people have time to explore!

  5. Tracy

    April 24, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    It’s wonderful that this company “gives back” to society. Having core values like that make me want to support them more.
    Tracy recently posted…5 Helpful Websites to Improve Hashimoto’s and Thyroid Health

    • chelsea

      April 25, 2015 at 9:18 am

      i definitely agree, tracy! when i hear of companies giving back and participating in the community, it definitely makes me want to buy with them!

  6. Monica Louie

    April 24, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    What a great interview! This makes me want to try more of their products. I didn’t know how much they give back and that they have been around so long. It’s easy to understand their core values reading this post. 🙂
    Monica Louie recently posted…55 Frugal Date Ideas for Couples on a Budget

  7. Farrah

    April 24, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    I’ve heard of Kiehl’s before, but had no idea that they were so awesome!((I love companies that give back! <3 ) I love all the causes they support! :]
    Farrah recently posted…Foodie Friday: Peanut Butter Cornflake No-Bakes

    • chelsea

      April 25, 2015 at 9:19 am

      i’m all about companies who give back too! it’s an important value of mine so i feel more drawn to support them because they are doing powerful things with their money! thanks for your comment farrah!

  8. Marlynn @UrbanBlissLife

    April 24, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    The airport question is a great question! It’s a great market for Kiehl.
    Marlynn @UrbanBlissLife recently posted…Thin Mint Cookie and Coffee Dairy-Free Ice Cream

  9. Ashlen

    April 27, 2015 at 7:50 am

    So cool! I love Kiehl’s – I wish there was a store closer to me! Their products are so great. I like to think it has something to do with the fact that Kiehl’s started as a pharmacy 😉
    Ashlen recently posted…A Discussion About Essential Oils

    • chelsea

      April 28, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      that was super interesting to me about the pharmacy start (this article could have been like 6 posts)! i wish you had one closer too but be on the look out for smaller stores in airports that you might be traveling to! i also saw on their website that they do free shipping on orders over $50!

      i’m super interested in reading about your essential oils post!
      chelsea recently posted…Choosing Love Over Work

  10. Amanda

    April 27, 2015 at 10:23 am

    I’ve actually never used a Kiehl’s product before, and in fact I hardly even knew who they were before now. But I’m super impressed by this and love how he prioritizes giving back and investing in his employees and customers. That is my kind of business!
    Amanda recently posted…TV Roundup: What I’m Watching Lately

    • chelsea

      April 28, 2015 at 3:16 pm

      i hadn’t really either amanda and i’m pleasantly surprised by the quality products and even better mission behind the company’s giving policy. i want to be conscious to support more companies who are doing good!

  11. Annessa @ Seeking Sunshine

    May 1, 2015 at 10:39 am

    I’ve always wanted to try Kiehl’s products, but have never taken the plunge. This article def makes me want to check them out now!

    Annessa @ Seeking Sunshine recently posted…Striped Straw Fedora

    • chelsea

      May 1, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      you definitely should annessa and i hear they are super generous with their free samples so you can try out a product before you invest in it too!