Made from Scratch

A risky start-up, Beauty Bar spices up Toledo, Ohio, with its custom-made services and growing vision.

The smells inside the nail room at Beauty Bar in Toledo, Ohio, are usually more reminiscent of a gourmet eatery and bar than of a nail salon. Citrusy scents of lemon or an indulgent aroma of chocolate waft through the space as clients enjoy the homemade service concoctions of co-owners Sara and Joe Spallino. The husband-and-wife duo create many of the manicure and pedicure products in-house in the salon’s mixing lab.

Using cocktails and coffee as their inspiration, the Spallinos offer nail services including a Limoncello (lemongrass ginger) Salt Glow for hands, a Bellini (peach) Pedi, and a Peppermint Patty (chocolate mint) for the hands or feet.

Self-Made Success

Beauty Bar originally got off to an unsure start. The Spallinos’ requests for bank loans for their original location were all turned down. “The first time we went to three different banks, and because we had no business history, they denied us,” remembers Sara. “We had to go with personal credit. We knew it was risky, but we wanted to give it a shot.” The original salon opened its doors in October 2002 and three years of double-digit growth later the Spallinos had a solid track record — and a request for a loan to move into a larger space — to show the banks. This time, the lenders approved.

The new space opened in November 2005 and, at 5,000- sq.-ft., is more than three times the size of the original. “We’d outgrown our l, 500-sq.-ft. space so quickly. We only had six styling chairs and two pedicure chairs,” Sara says. “We didn’t have a treatment room, and our clients were asking for services we couldn’t provide.”

Salon Name: Beauty Bar

Location: Toledo, Ohio

Owners: Sara & Joe Spallino

Square Footage: 5,000

Years of Ownership: Old location three years, new location one year

Number of Nail Techs/Employees: 6/38

Specialties: Express services, signature services like the Bellini Pedi, spa parties

Other Services: Haircuts and styling, facials, Shirodhara (an Indian ritual that nourishes the scalp), waxing, massage, and other spa services.

Nails currently make up about 40% to 50% of Beauty Bar’s business and it’s the fastest-growing department in the salon. The nail room features four pedicure chairs and five nail tables and has the option for more. “I thought it was funny how quickly our nail department grew,” Sara says. “Originally, we were just going to do hair and add a few pedicure chairs, but then we started making our own products. Nails became so fun to me.”

Sara’s own background is in hair- dressing. She went to beauty school while in high school, and then held jobs as a hairdresser at a local salon and later as a manager at another salon in Ohio. She still spends three days behind the chair doing hair at Beauty Bar.

Homemade Treats and Good Eats

Prices at Beauty Bar are comparable to other area salons, but what sets the salon apart from a client’s perspective is the value-added services, like serving themed drinks and adding paraffin treatments. “We do seasonal specials, like an Apple Spice pedicure, which includes hot apple cider,” Sara says. “For Christmas, we offer a gingerbread pedicure, which is served with hot chai tea.”

Year-round, the most popular nail services are the on-the-go 30 minute pedicures, especially the “Happy Toes” service, which is a half an hour peppermint pedicure.

The custom-made products — including ones with peppermint, French vanilla coffee, lemongrass ginger, chocolate mint, peach, and the recently added lavender, and rose scents — are also packaged with a Beauty Bar label and sold in the salon’s “apothecary,” or retail area. Beauty Bar’s custom-made hair care line is also sold here, along with a variety of name- brand hair and nail products.

The Spallinos are working with a consultant to get more distribution for. Beauty Bar’s proprietary lines and are even looking into venues such as QVC and the Home Shopping Network.

Something Old, Something New

Beauty Bar gets a lot of traffic from its great location. Located in the heart of Old Orchard in Toledo, the affluent area is minutes from the University of Toledo, allowing the salon to draw in students, locals, and even some male clients (who make up about 10% of the salons clientele).

To passers-by the salon appears traditional; it’s housed in a white, colonial-style house. Inside, the design is modern and open. The salon’s renovations (its previous incarnation was as a furniture store) were completed by Joe, a mechanical engineer. The Spallinos selected many of the furnishings from IKEA, adding to the streamlined look Pops of color, such as a fuchsia wall in the entry, add fun to the space, and almond walls and pedicure chairs create coziness.

All of the salon services are housed on the main (middle) level of the three- level house. As clients walk in, they are greeted by employees at the front desk. The circular layout allows clients to walk through from the salon to the spa to the nail room to the apothecary and then back into the reception area.

The downstairs is devoted to the mixing lab and an employee area. Beauty Bar also offers personal training, so renovations are underway to reno­vate the downstairs into a gym.

The upper level is home base for spa parties. Boasting a TV, stereo system, snacks, and tailored decor, the area allows party-goers to leave their personal belongings here as they enjoy their services on the main level.

Planning for the Future

The Spallinos take staff training — including hiring an in-house educator who travels to various shows around the country — seriously. Sara also stays in the know by travelling to various countries and states for training. The Spallinos ensure that new employees are trained in Beauty Bar’s branding strategies and product lines.

The next step for Beauty Bar is franchising. The salon’s website,, now includes a “professional” section for prospective salon owners who are interested in franchising a Beauty Bar salon or even just carrying the custom products. The franchises will be l,500-sq.-ft. –the size of the original Beauty Bar, which started as a hope and a dream four years ago.

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