A 15-year resident of Rome, Stephanie Alliman owns Ari’s Nails, which caters to English-speaking tourists who flock to see the city’s ancient ruins, expatriates who have decided to stay, and Italians looking for some nail pampering.
Salon Name: Ari’s Nails
Location: Rome, Italy
Owner: Stephanie Alliman
Square Footage: 645
Opened: May 2006
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 2/3
Specialties: Nail enhancements
Miami native Stephanie Alliman is no American tourist in Rome. Alliman opened the successful Ari’s Nails in 2006 in the historic city center, at the site of the Pompey Theatre, famous for Julius Caesar’s assassination, and walking distance to the Coliseum.
Alliman’s story is one of love — first of a man, then of a city, and after her divorce, she’s managed to create a successful salon for tourists, ex-pats, and Italians alike.
An Adopted City
“The reason I moved to Rome was for love,” Alliman says. She married a Roman in 1992 and moved to his hometown in 1995. When love took a different turn, she began exploring the dreams she had put aside for her family.
Unwilling to uproot her two children who had grown up in Italy, and having become accustomed to the country, she decided to stay in Rome after the divorce. Alliman had previous experience in hair and nails at her aunt’s salon in Miami, and her desire to return to something familiar led her to open Ari’s Nails — named after her daughter, Arianna.
If one considers the American bureaucracy of starting a business difficult to wade through, imagine the heck of a time Alliman had, in another language, learning the laws and steps to creating a business abroad. “Things take a little bit longer here than they would back home,” she explains.
As Alliman sees it, the Italian nail industry only took off about seven years ago. Back then there were only one or two salons in the city, but now there are 10 or 11 that she knows of, two of which are also American-owned.
A Home for the Foreigners and Natives Alike
Alliman estimates that 40% of her clients are Italian, while the rest are English-speaking expatriates and tourists from around the world. Rome attracts a large ex-pat community that includes employees of embassies and international organizations.
Word-of-mouth has been the most successful form of marketing, but Alliman also advertises in print and online publications, distributes leaflets and flyers, and invested in a road sign. Eighty-five percent of the salon’s clients are returning customers.
In a salon catering to English-speaking clients, Alliman makes sure that her employees are bilingual, usually native English speakers with dual citizenship. “For some clients who might be homesick, this is their sanctuary, where they can chat comfortably in their native language, English,” Alliman says.
The staff can answer sightseeing questions for transiting clients and those new to the city. They’ll also sometimes tell the story of the historical site where Ari’s Nails stands, adding, “If Ari’s Nails dated back to 55 or 61 B.C. and Julius Caeser had gotten his nails done that day, he would still be alive.”
With the help of an interior decorator, Alliman chose to design the salon as “a home away from home,” to look more like a living room than a salon.
The front of the salon houses two manicure tables, a reception desk, and a retail area stocked with polish and nail and skin care products. The back area holds a massage pedicure chair with whirlpool footbath that Alliman says is a big hit. “I’ve had people just come in and ask me if they can just sit on the chair,” she says. The back room is also where massages, waxing, and facials are performed.
Much of the salon’s business is walk-in clients, but during peak season, spring and summer, advance booking is more common. Pricing is competitive with other salons, with spa manicures and pedicures at €24 and €48 — equivalent to about $33 and $65, respectively.
The Nail Business in Italy
Working with distributors in Italy, Alliman is able to get the latest polish collections and products without any delay. From what she’s seen in her salon, OPI polishes are popular, while Nailtiques is often used for problem nails. Acrylics are requested often, although she also offers gels.
According to Alliman, the Italian nail industry is working to catch up to American salon standards in service, hygiene, and quality of products. One of the salon’s biggest marketing points is that it is American-owned and uses exclusively American products.
Alliman attends the Cosmoprof Italy show yearly to keep up with trends, for ongoing education, and to meet other beauty professionals and distributors. However, with their more laid-back mentality, she finds that communication with Italians on a business level can sometimes be a challenge.
That’s not to say that Alliman has problems communicating in general — she, in fact, has become quite integrated into Italian culture. She’ll admit that when she first arrived, there was a culture shock and the language barrier was a big issue. It took her five years to become fluent. But, 15 years into living in the ancient capital of Italy, there’s no doubt that Rome is her home.