Profiles

Lulu’s by Travis Parker

As we walked by an empty storefront, my flip-flopped feet wanted a rest, and the storefront was simply a tease. The cream-colored paper plastered to the window taunted me with stories of manicures and pedicures, and the logo — with its bright colors and intricate font — promised me that this would be an adorable nail spa.

The back wall of Lulu's has the easily recognizable bird illustration that adorns the salon's media materials. 
<p>The back wall of Lulu's has the easily recognizable bird illustration that adorns the salon's media materials.&nbsp;</p>

I always misjudge things. OK, it’s actually just driving distance and time it takes me to get somewhere that I misjudge. Growing up in a one-stoplight Midwestern town, I have a tendency to constantly underestimate traffic or distance. In Southern California, that means I’m always late.

Last year I was visiting a friend in San Diego, and after arriving about an hour later than I said I would, we were walking to a bar she claimed was “about a block away.” It turned out it was actually about two miles away (she grew up in the Midwest as well). On the return trip, my feet paid the price for this misjudgment. As we walked by an empty storefront, my flip-flopped feet wanted a rest, and the storefront was simply a tease. The cream-colored paper plastered to the window taunted me with stories of manicures and pedicures, and the logo — with its bright colors and intricate font — promised me that this would be an adorable nail spa. It wasn’t open yet. So, we trudged on, and I returned to L.A.

Nail tech Maki Otani is originally from Japan, but she didn't do nails until moving to the United States. 
<p>Nail tech Maki Otani is originally from Japan, but she didn't do nails until moving to the United States.&nbsp;</p>

When I had to make a last-minute trip to San Diego this summer, I made an afternoon appointment at that now- opened nifty spa, Lulu’s by Travis Parker. As my 4 p.m. appointment time rolled around, I wasn’t there yet. I was still sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic waiting in the long line of cars vying to get into downtown San Diego.

Thirty minutes (and a phone call warning them I’d be late) later, I stepped through the glossy red door. Inside, it was just how I expected — welcoming and quaint. It was the kind of place both my grandma and I would describe as “pretty.”

Nail tech Maki Otani gave me the luxury pedicure while I noticed the elaborate interior of the salon. As she placed the heated neck wrap around my collar, I studied the extra-large parrot mural on the wall. When I was enjoying the aromatherapy soak, I peered out the extra-large window that had once given me a peek into the spa; now that same window was a view into a perky neighborhood, complete with couples strolling hand-in-hand and 20-somethings jogging with their dogs. While my feet soaked up the mask, I took note of the manicure tables, which were converted antique sewing tables. And while she massaged and polished me, I noticed the extra room my rump had in the thrones, which were designed by co-owner Travis Parker, a hairstylist for the stars.

As I paid and snapped a few last-minute photos, I overheard (OK, so I was eavesdropping) the conversation of two other clients. They were next-door neighbors who often visited Lulu’s. Hearing them talk about how Lulu’s is the only place they’ll go for services, I knew my first impression of the salon months before was right on. Even though all I’d seen was a huge swathe of paper with a mission statement on it, I hadn’t misjudged the place. It kept its promise and keeps customers coming back. I’ll definitely try to go again—but I’ll try even harder to judge my time better. Sigh.

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