After a stint managing a salon in Boston, Sallyanne Austine decided to return to her native Nantucket, Mass., to open her own salon, where she’s now known as The Nail Lady.
ONE-WOMAN SHOW: Sallyanne Austine hasn’t taken a vacation in eight years. That’s all going to change in a few weeks, she says, when she closes The Nail Spa in Nantucket, Mass., for three weeks and heads off to a tropical paradise. Her much-deserved vacation comes after 17 years of doing nails four years of salon ownership.
For her, it all began at an early age. “I’ve always had an interest in hair and nails,” says Austin. “I had a mentor in high school who was a hairstylist and makeup artist and interest and passion bloomed from her. I went to cosmetology school in 1985, but my main interest has always been nails.”
After attending cosmetology school in New Hampshire, she moved to Boston where she managed a salon for five years, tired of city life, she decided to return home to Nantucket, but found work was too seasonal. She settled for working at a salon on Cape Cod, and that’s where she found her true passion, natural nail care.
“This was in 1990 and the salon was very successful offering only natural nails,” says Austin. “I saw how popular it was becoming and when I moved to Nantucket in 1998, I saw there was a need for a chemical-free salon. Plus, the population had doubled since I left.”
The location fell in her lap when she inherited the family home she grew up in. “With the area around my home becoming trendier, it seemed natural to use the abundant yard space to build a salon.”
Getting the location had proved to be easy, but building it was not. “I designed the salon myself with the help of an architect and builder. Then i went through numerous battles with various town boards to build the salon adjacent to my home,” says Austin.
After nearly a year of battles planning and zoning commission before she could even start the building process, Austin spent another year completing the building.
Throughout all of these obstacles, Austin never lost sight of her goal.
“I was constantly on top of this project and even called off my wedding five months before the date to concentrate on opening my salon,” says Austin.
She finally saw her efforts pay off in 1999 when her salon opened. In addition to owning and managing the salon, she started out as the sole nail technician and hairstylist and has maintained her single status.
“During the summer I hire an extra nail tech, but I try to keep it simple,” says Austin. “We try to answer our own phone to give our customers real one-on-one service. I do all my own ordering and return each call personally a day long. I probably put in another three to four hours in the evening in my office.”
HOITIE TOITIE: With a clientele that rival Barney’s, Austin is used to catering to the rich and sometimes-famous.
“My salon is located on Nantucket Island, which is a resort area,” explains Austin. “The average house goes for a million dollars and in the summer it becomes an extension of the Hamptons.”
Austin’s salon is located directly across the street from the local high school and is surrounded mostly by businesses including other salons, an orthodontist, and a market.
“It’s in an area that most people have to drive through at least once a day, which is why the location is so perfect.” says Austin.
The summer brings more vacationer and summer residents, which is when she hires help. And even though Austin’s location is seasonal to most peop0le, she still has a year-round local clientele that she worked hard to build.
“I want to be here for for the community. It upset me when I see businesses open just to cater to the high-end summer people, and then close down for the winter like the residents don’t matter,” she says. “When i opened my business, I promised I wouldn’t do that. People who love here and work here still have needs.”
Austin says even if she’s only seeing five clients a day, she’ll stay open, but just cut back her hours.
Her warmth has been well received by clients and she says she actually embraces the winter, because it’s when she’s able to enjoy her clients the most.
“I like the downtime of winter,” she says. “Clients come in with coffee and pictures from their vacations or of new family members and we have the time to sit and talk. It’s really nice,”
The nail spa’s interior is simple with Austin’s aim being comfort.
“I want people to feel relax and at home when they walk in,” she explains. “For clients who never had a service before, I don’t want them to feel put off or intimidated by a lot of peop0le in the salon or loud pumping music and bright lights.”
She chose lavender for the salon’s walls and a Victorian decor.
“I used a lot of family antiques and heirlooms to decorate,” she says. “Instead of pedicure chairs, I use oversized recliners with a dark chair cover.”
Even with the Victorian decor, Austin says she still has a lot of male clientele, but women 18-60 make up her basic clientele..
“I worked in a friend’s barber shop for the year my salon was being built and I built up a good following of male clients while I was there,” boast Austin.
SUCCESS SECRETS: Because of the small community and close-knit social circles of Nantucket, the nail Spa’s best form marketing has been word of mouth.
“We only have one town newspaper and two phone books, so I put my advertising dollars into phone books ads. I’ve found I get a better response from that than anything,” says Austin. “I also donate gift certificates and hand out business cards. My mother source of advertising is my red sports car. My license plate reads ‘NAILDY.”
Austin’s foresight to open a chemical free salon in her area was true to mark and the word-of-mouth marketing stems from the salon’s signature service, natural nail care.
“We’re also becoming known for our pedicures,” says Austin. “But our specialty is caring for clients who are coming off of enhancements. I work with them to get their nails back in shape.”
Despite her busy summer season, Austin prefers to keep her staff small.
“Sometimes I’ve hired two people to work with me and have found that one good one who works right alongside you is the best way to go,” she say.” I had that last summer and couldn’t have asked for a better employee had I cloned myself.”
As for future expansion, Austin of course, has a plan.
“I’d like to be able to devote more time to customer service and reach more clients. I’m all about the pampering.,” she reflects. “If I can go home at night knowing everyone left here a little more calm, a little less frazzled, and feeling better about themselves, I know I’ve succeed.”