Big, small, upscale, and discount salons heavily dot Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley (about 20 miles northwest of Los Angeles). Here’s a look at doing nails on this well-travelled street.
New to the boulevard is this nails-only salon, which has its discounted prices visible to passersby shopping for bargain nails.
When Aleda Myers moved to California’s San Valley as a child 35 years ago, Ventura Boulevard was a lovely oak-tree-lined commercial district. Today, although many of the oak trees are gone, Ventura Boulevard is still a prestigious place to see and be seen. The 15-mile street spans five Los Angeles County cities — Woodland Hills, Tarzana, Encino, Sherman Oaks, and Studio City—and is a hot spot for businesses because of all the activity along the street such as trendy outdoor cafes, coffeehouses, and boutiques. Salons are no exception here, where upscale salons charge around $50 for a full set while neighboring salons did assembly line nails with prices to match. Approximately 100 salons call Ventura Boulevard their home, with new ones opening and closing every day.
A nail technician for 19 years, Myers recently opened The Nail Scene, a nails- only salon on Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills. “I knew there would be a demand for quality work in the area,” she explains. “There are only about two high-end nails-only salons within a two-mile radius of us. The rest are discount salons that move out as fast as they come in.”
But about six years ago, before she got the urge to be a sole salon owner, Myers co-owned a salon on Ventura Boulevard that suffered from the competition of discount salons. “It was rough,” she says. “Some of our clients wanted to try them out” But the majority of Myers’ clientele, many of whom started going to her before the discount salons began surfacing in the area, have remained loyal. ‘We have grown together and are committed to one another.”
Welcome to Ventura Boulevard! Near-perfect weather throughout the year makes the San Fernando Valley a shopper's paradise.
One of the other high-end nails-only salon in Woodland Hills is Extremities, co-owned by nail technician Jill Dalmau. The salon has remained in the same location on Ventura Boulevard for 18 years, and Dalmau believes that the reason there are so many salons along the street is convenience. Like Myers, Dalmau’s business also took a hit about six years ago from discount nail salon competition. “Many of our clients eventually returned because of the quality of our work, and because there is no language barrier among us. Our customers come first, and we do whatever we can to accommodate them,” says Dalmau.
NAILS tried contacting several discount salons, which happened to be all Asian-owned, along Ventura Boulevard. We wanted to get their point-of-view on the nail business there, but we were met with either an “I’m too busy” or “The owner isn’t here.” After several callbacks, we realized our efforts were futile.
We did get in touch, though, with a middle-of-the-road salon, that charges $25 for a full set and $15 for. The salon has been in a strip mall far eight years, and competition from discount salons has been tough for the last three years, says the salon manager/nail technician. “Many of these salons have lowered their prices, which hurts my business. I do good quality work and have a good clientele so I won’t lower my prices to match theirs,” she says.
Tina Glasser, a nail technician who has worked at several salons along Ventura Boulevard during her 17 years in the business, believes there is a demand for all types of salons along Ventura Boulevard because “women want a total look and feel.” Says Paul Canter, owner of Allen Edwards Encino (where Glasser works), “Ventura Boulevard is a prestigious location to open a business,” a sentiment shared by many other-local salon owners.
Michael Ruth, owner of Michael Ruth Salon in Sherman Oaks has been in the salon business for24 years in California. “We moved to Ventura Boulevard about 12 years ago because it’s the ‘Rodeo Drive’ of the Valley,” says Ruth. The discount salons in the area haven’t affected business, says Ruth, because not everyone is on a tight budget. “There’s a niche for everyone,” he says.
Mae Hare, who opened A Place For You in Encino four years ago, chose a location on the Boulevard because it’s central to where her client base has been for many, many years (she has been doing nails since 1956), and it attracts the type of client she wants to pursue.
When Hare started doing nails on Ventura Boulevard 25 years ago, she says it was a rural area deep in the heart of horse country with a small-town feel. However, it was still somewhat of a commercial district with many beauty salons and a couple nails-only salons.
Andrée Burns, co-owner of Michael Joseph Furie Salon in Tarzana, Calif., says since there aren’t a lot of major boulevards in the Valley where you can have a visible storefront, Ventura Boulevard is the key street on which to open up a business. Its close proximity to a major freeway also makes it a popular place for salons, says Susan Kerby, a nail technician at Simbiotica in Tarzana. Ventura Boulevard is also the “link” to other major boulevards in the Valley.
A Taste of the Boulevard
Winding its way through the heart of the valley, Ventura Boulevard is a self-contained street with a big city feel. Strip malls, office buildings, theaters, restaurants, banks, gas stations, and more — everything you need is at your fingertips along the Boulevard.
During the summer months, the Valley’s warm weather draws even more people to stroll the Boulevard at night, which resembles the Las Vegas strip because of all the bright lights, says one Valley resident A typical Saturday night scene along Ventura Boulevard is a casual twenty-something crowd gathered at the local coffeehouse or a yuppie- looking young couple and their children enjoying an alfresco meal at one of the many eateries. Ventura Boulevard attracts all types of people because it has so much to offer.
The Client Connection
“Affluent” was the overwhelming response people gave us when asked what type of clientele their salon caters to. Canter’s salon clientele runs the gamut from housewives to professionals, including lawyers.
Linda Hohmann, a nail technician at Casablanca Salon in Sherman Oaks, services everyone from people in the entertainment industry to housewives to single parents. Myers sees all types of clients from high-school students to Hollywood celebrities.
With all the salons to choose from along Ventura Boulevard, why is it that so many clients have remained loyal to their technicians for so many years?
Helene Stahl, a client of Myers’ for 18 years, says, “I won’t let anyone else do my nails. My nails never lift, and I like Aleda’s work. I always get compliments on my nails.”
Hare says that about a third of her clients have been coming to her for 25 years. “Nail technology has changed, not the clients,” says Hare. Ninety-percent of her clients are standing appointments. The majority of them are non- working women who come in during the day. Hare’s working clients usually book appointments in the early morning and evening.
Although discount salons haven’t affected her nail business, Kerby says the reason many people may frequent them is because of the time factor. For example, she says, a fill at a discount salon may take 20 minutes, whereas the same service at an upscale salon takes about one hour. Also, some people may like the convenience of walking into a discount salon without an appointment, she says. Finally, many discount salons on the boulevard are close to office buildings, says Kerby, so women walk to one during their lunch hour without having to drive and park.
Kerby goes the extra mile to retain her clients. Most of her standing appointments are working women who come in the late afternoon, early evening, and Saturdays. “I get a lot of full-time moms with wealthy husbands and housekeepers during the day”
So what nail fashions are popular among clients along Ventura Boulevard? Pink and white acrylics are all the rage with clients, say Myers and Dalmau, because of their natural look. As for polish colors, a resounding “pastels,” say Hohmann, Salsburg, and Hare. Salsburg, who primarily works on natural nail care clients, also receives a lot of requests for neutral polish colors, as does Glasser. Among Hare’s clients, pedicures and paraffin treatments are increasing in demand.
From a Distributor’s Point of View
To be successful, distributors of beauty products have to be aware of the needs of their clients and their customers. This varies, depending on the region, and in some-cases, from city to city. Adelaide Muro, a salon consultant for Maly’s (Sun Valley, Calif.), distributes to salons in Woodland Hills, Tarzana, and Encino, many of them along Ventura Boulevard. Says Muro, “Ventura Boulevard is an important area for distributing nail products, because manufacturers want their new products to hit the Boulevard first, since it’s the most prominent area in the Valley with a concentration of high- end salons.”
Muro believes that there is a convergence of salons along the Boulevard because it’s the most heavily traveled area in the Valley. “It’s where everyone drives; it’s central,” she says.
Muro, who has been distributing in the area for three years, says salons are requesting more natural nail products, and she is seeing a trend toward fiberglass nails because, “it’s a different service and not a lot of technicians offer it,” she says.
In the past three years, Muro has seen her share of salons pop up along Ventura Boulevard. “There are new salons opening every day,” she says. “In the past month alone I’ve seen five new ones. I think whether you’re a nail technician or a hairstylist, the fact that there are so many salons on the Boulevard makes the competition very strong.”
Although the discount salons are making it tougher for the higher-end beauty professional to compete in the marketplace along Ventura Boulevard, the bottom line is this: Every type of business has to deal with “the competition.” But, like most of the technicians we spoke with, sticking to what you do best is a sure bet to retain your clientele whether you’re servicing clients along Ventura Boulevard in California or any other Main Street, U.S.A.