This Southern California salon has only been open for a few months, but its unique location and hip look have already given clients something to talk about.
NAILS AND HAIR: Since 1984, Donato Bianchini, who hails from Italy, has called the United States home. After visiting his brother in sunny, upscale Newport Beach, Calif., there was no doubt in his mind where he wanted to live or work. “After visiting my brother, I decided to come back and stay for good,” he says. A hairstylist by trade, Bianchini opened his own salon a few years later in the town. The salon’s industrial, warehouse-themed decor soon caught on with locals. Now, 12 years later, Bianchini is hoping to recreate that success, albeit in a much different atmosphere. “Since we’re in a hotel and right next door to a spa, we had to create more spa-type services,” Bianchini says.
He’s betting that his newest venture, Vogue Salon, will be just as popular as his first locale, which also goes by the same name. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the salon is located inside the ritzy St. Regis Hotel in the equally upscale, seaside town of Dana Point, Calif. And judging from the clientele he’s had since the salon opened a little more than three months ago, it’s almost a given that he’s got another winner on his hands.
A BUSINESS WITHIN A BUSINESS:
One advantage of being located inside a hotel is the fact that the guests make for instant clients. In feet, they can opt to have a service done in their rooms — or even by the pool if they’d like.
Salon Name: Vogue Salon
Location: Dana Point, Calif
Owner: Donato Bianchini
Square Footage: 2,200
Years of Ownership: Salon opened in August 2001
Number of Nail Techs/Employees: 6/20
Specialties: Ultimate St. Regis Manicure and Pedicure.
Other Services: hair and makeup
Compensation Structure: commission
Notes: Men make up about 40% of the salon’s clientele. The salon offer’s two manicures targeted especially toward them.
The fact that the salon is located right next to the hotel’s spa is another advantage. In feet, a hallway connects the two buildings. So if a client is getting a massage at the spa, there’s no way to miss the white frosted double doors with the Vogue Salon logo emblazoned across them.
When the hotel held its grand opening celebration on Aug. 11, 2001, the salon was also ready to celebrate and take advantage of the many invitees who might just become regular clients in the future. All were treated to complimentary manicures. The pampering must have paid off because since then, Bianchini says a steady stream of celebrities have frequented the salon. “We’ve had quite a lineup of people ranging from musicians to actors,” he says.
ALL NATURAL: The salon actually fell into Bianchini’s lap. Since he’s been at his original location for 12 years, he’s become well known in the area, and has appeared in several local publications. Hotel management contacted him and four other salon owners, asking each of them to provide a sales pitch for the soon-to-be salon. “They asked us why they should choose us,” Bianchini says. “We used the words ‘global,’ ‘sophisticated,’ and ‘innovative’ to describe the salon and stressed that the decor would follow along the same lines.” Those words, along with renderings of the salon’s decor, pretty much guaranteed Bianchini the salon.
In about seven weeks, Bianchini not only set up the decor, he also built the salon. That meant working all day and into the night practically around the clock, constructing the various rooms — including the nail room — installing plumbing, and selecting tile for the floor. The four nail tables were custom made, with two- inch wells specially built to hold the various blue glass bottles and jars of product. Two metal polish racks were also custom built and hang on either side of the nail room. In keeping with a global theme, Bianchini chose blue as the salon’s dominant color. After all, the earth is made up primarily of water, he says.
Upon entering the salon, clients are greeted by a hostess — as Bianchini refers to them — and the front desk, which is actually two quarter circles split in the middle to allow easy access to clients. The hostess usually walks the client to her nail technician or other beauty professional. “When clients come to our salon, they should feel like they’re visiting a friend,” Bianchini says. “I don’t want there to be a disconnection from them.” Directly across from the reception desk is a long blue wall that’s lit from behind, with a television screen constantly flashing fashion runway images. Taking the fashion image even further is an actual runway that connects the front desk to the blue wall.
Besides featuring four manicure stations and two pedicure thrones, the nail room itself contains a water fountain and a wooden runway floor surrounded by blue tile. Trendy music plays softly in the background All of the salon’s nail enhancers, as Bianchini calls them, are odor free. But the most popular nails are decidedly more natural and pampering than any service containing any kind of chemical. The salon’s Ultimate St. Regis Manicure and Pedicure (aptly named after the hotel) feature all-natural ingredients such as lavender flowers and citrus lotion and also happen to be among the most expensive services on the menu. The pedicure, a 75-minute service, is $85. The 60-minute manicure is $60.
Regardless of the service, nail techs place a buffer, a brush, an orangewood stick, and a nail file in a pouch and hand them to clients to take home. If they don’t want the kit, it is discarded.
MARKETING SAVVY: One thing about being located within a hotel is that while guests may get a service, they usually don’t make for loyal, return clients. But that’s something Bianchini hopes to change. “We want clients to think of us as an entity and to feel like they’re getting the best manicure and pedicure around,” he says.
To that end, he’s begun working with hotel management to put together special packages that feature a stay at the St. Regis and a service at the salon. He also hasn’t forgotten about the locals. He’s planning on sending direct mail pieces to area residents and has placed ads in several local publications. Then there’s the advantage Bianchini says the salon has over other salons in the area: “There’s really nothing that compares to us,” he says. That positive outlook is something that will certainly serve the salon well in the long run.