He’s in It for the Long Haul

Not only is Jerry Cook a guy and a former truck driver, he has most of his clients on a monthly fiberglass regimen that brings in $1,500 a week.

There is nothing usual about nail tech Jerry Cook. Not only is he a guy and a former truck driver, he has most of his clients on a monthly fiberglass regimen that brings in $1,500 a week. What’s more, his nail career has played a surprising role in his love life.

The story began in 1989 when, after 13 years as a truck driver in his native Texas, a neck injury and carpal tunnel problems forced Cook off the road. After several surgeries and a bit of convalescing, he was on the lookout for a new occupation. His sister-in-law — a hairstylist — suggested doing nails and somehow the idea clicked: “Women have always been my best friends, and I enjoy working with my hands,” he says.

After completing nail school in 1992, Jerry placed a call to Tans and Hands Beauty and Fitness Center in Henderson, Texas, to inquire about a nail tech position. The voice on the other end of the phone sounded familiar. It belonged to his ex-wife Karen. “We’d lost touch after the divorce. We’d both remarried and hadn’t spoken in about nine years,” explains Cook, who was divorced from his second wife by then. Two years later, he and Karen remarried and recently celebrated their eighth anniversary. More good news: He got the nail tech job at Tans and Hands, where he still works today.

Clients were drawn to his natural-looking fiberglass nails — he uses Backscratchers’ French Pearl tips — and it wasn’t long before he had to turn clients away. Then he made a remarkable discovery when a client missed her biweekly fill appointment — a month later, her nails still looked great. Working with a few clients at first, he began skipping fills and simply applying a new set once a month. The clients loved it — not only did they make fewer trips to the salon, they saved money. Now they were pay­ing $40 per month for a full set versus $50 for two fills. Soon the rest of his clients got on the plan. For Cook, who can do a full set in the same hour it takes him to do a fill, this meant a big boost in income. He was earning a higher hourly rate, and with clients coming in monthly instead of biweekly, he suddenly had slots for new clients.

“I’m making more now than I did as a trucker,” says Cook. His earning power has opened the eyes of some of his trucker buddies and also caught the attention of his brother Danny. The pastor of a small church in Ponchatoula, La., Danny got his nail license a few months ago and has now added nails alongside his preaching duties.

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