SMALL-TOWN APPEAL: Lori Staines doesn’t believe in limiting herself. Just take a look at her salon and you’ll agree. Starnes has managed to turn The Manicurean Nail Spa & Salon into a high-class salon worthy of big-city status. However, she’s eschewed the big city and built the salon of her dreams in Macungie, Pa., a quaint town located about 60 miles away from Philadelphia.
Thanks to the high-class work she offersin a decidedly elegant environment, it’snot uncommon to hear the words “luxury” and “pampering” mentioned around town when it comes to describing the salon.
Starnes has been a working nail technician since 1990. But her experience in about the nail industry began in high school.
“I’ve always been interested in the fashion and beauty industry,” she says. “I began my career in high school as a receptionist in a salon and doing hair and makeup styling for photo shoots and fashion shows in the modeling industry?’
A 1989 honor graduate of Lehigh County Vocational Technical School, Starnes also earned a cosmetology diploma from Gordon Phillips Beauty School in Allentown, Pa., in 1990. Later that year, she was valedictorian of Star Beauty Academy, where she received a teacher’s/manager’s diploma.
“I had worked as a nail technician, hairstylist, esthetician, receptionist, and educator before opening my salon,” she explains. With 14 years of experience under her belt, Starnes went into business for herself. The Manicurean opened in October 1997 and has never foiled to make a profit.
ON THE MOVE: Originally located in Emmaus, Pa., The Manicurean quickly garnered a reputation as one of the best salons around. Working from her home, Starnes was only able to accommodate a set number of clients.
“The Manicurean was open for business only three or four days weekly due to my extensive travel schedule, much of it business-related,” Starnes says.
After resuming a full-time, five-day-a- week schedule, she was still turning away clients, sometimes at the rate of five a week, prompting her decision to move into a larger space.
Starnes relocated to a charming old building in the growing town of Macungie, also home to such big-name companies as Kraft, Nestle, and Keebler. “It has a decent amount of pedestrian activity, and there is an enormous amount of new development happening here,” she says. Plus, it was only a few miles from her old location, which allowed Starnes to retain her existing client base.
Additionally, the second and third floors of the building are apartments. She lives on the second floor and rents out the third-floor apartment. “It keeps my overhead low and is a great investment,” she adds.
Starnes decorated the renovated Victorian building with antiques to complement the classic style of the house, using antique sewing machine treadle tables for nail stations and antique shadow boxes as polish racks. She also added unique touches to keep the salon hip. “I gave the salon an eclectic touch with animal and jungle rugs and fabrics, and painted the walls red and gold,” Starnes says.
SERVICE-ORIENTED: The salon’s true appeal, however, lies in its reputation for quality work. The Manicurean offers a wide array of services, from aroma-therapy manicures to hot stone therapy. “My specialties are pink-and- white acrylics, aromatherapy manicures, great conversation, and even a little therapy — if necessary,” she says. “My employee specializes in hot stone therapy, including manicures, pedicures, facials, and hill-body massages.”
The Manicurean offers a Chinese herb exfoliation pedicure, along with stone therapy and aromatherapy, which are the newest trends in the salon. Clients can add stone therapy to any service for an extra $10. “Mood-changing polishes have also been all the rage,” she remarks.
ALL WALKS OF LIFE: In her 14 years in the industry, Starnes has developed a diverse client base that ranges in age from 17 to 75. Her typical customers include both wealthy homemakers and working professionals, both male and female. And The Manicurean’s vast array of options guarantees there is something for everyone. The menu of available services includes an hour-long deluxe spa-style manicure and a 20-minute express manicure for busy professionals on their lunch break.
Clients can purchase professional products in the salon. Starnes makes the buying experience a fun one, placing retail items in interesting displays like an old globe. She says her choice not to offer consumer products is a result of the upscale nature of the salon. “It’s not necessary to offer products that my clients can buy in a drug or department store.” However, Starnes plans to begin carrying gifts and jewellery to help boost retail sales.
HOW BUSINESS GETS DONE:
Although she originally worked alone, Starnes recently hired another employee to help serve her ever-growing number of clients. The process was not an easy one. “Finding quality employees has been a challenge,” she says. “I have high standards and cannot allow any substandard work in my shop.”
Starnes says she always refers potential clients to another salon if she is unable to accommodate them. “The clients remember and appreciate your help since it is so difficult to find a good nail technician,” Starnes says. “Other salons appreciate the business and this smart risk hasn’t hurt my business at all”
It’s had quite the opposite effect, actually. She hired her new employee after the two developed a relationship by referring clients to each other. “When I received phone calls from clients I was unable to accommodate, I would refer them to her,” she explains. “In turn she gave me a one-hour; full-body hot rock massage to thank me. We really hit it off. I learned she was frustrated with her current employment, so when the time was right I asked her to join The Manicurean.”
Starnes is quick to emphasize the importance of staying on top of developments in the industry. “I certainly make sure that we are well-trained and informed, so I fund continuing education,” she says. “My clients really appreciate having a knowledgeable and up- to-date nail technician. It sets me apart from the rest.”
Along with hiring quality employees, Starnes’ biggest challenge has been bookkeeping. “I consider myself more of an artist, and dealing with numbers just isn’t my strong point,” she says. “So I hired a good accountant to help keep things in order.”
To make life easier, The Manicurean will soon acquire a new computer system and the entire business will be run through the new program. Clients will have the opportunity to book appointments through the Internet. “The online ‘receptionist’ will be open 24 hours a day to maximize booking opportunities and ensure that business is not lost,” Starnes explains.
By Amy Carter
Salon name: The Manicurean
Location: Macungie, Ra.
Owner Lon Stames
Square footage: 1,300
Years of ownership: 4½
Number of nail techs/employees: 2/2
Specialties: pink-and-whites, aromatherapy manicures, and hot stone therapy
Other services: facials, full body massage, waxing
Compensation structure: commission