V Spa-Salon’s sophisticated ambiance and big city treatments with small town service give Long Island residents the opportunity to relax, refresh and unwind
Owner David Kim credits his mother Annie, an award-winning makeup artist who works at the salon, for his interest in the nail spa industry. She brought him to work with her when he was a young child.
CHILD PRODIGY: David Kim has been in the nail business for 19 years. Hardly a record, until you realize this fresh-faced purveyor of relaxing treatments is just 23-years-old. “I started when I was four,” he admits, “and by five I realized how powerful it was to make women feel beautiful. It amazed me.”Now the owner and spa director of V Spa Salon in Garden City,. N.Y., a well-to-do Long Island enclave just 30 minutes from Manhattan, Kim has set his sights on bringing one-stop beauty treatments to a growing list of clientele.
Located on a fashionable strip of high-end retail shops and restaurants, V Spa Salon is a carefully designed mix of bright, punchy reds and soft greens, with cantaloupe-colored chairs, warm yellowy-beige walls, and glossy padded natural wood floors. After firing an architect and deciphering an endless volume of restrictive community building codes, Kim designed it all himself, right down to the perfectly placed halogen track lighting that illuminates clients’ hands at the manicure stations but doesn’t make them hot. It took months to convert the space, a former fur vault with two-foot cement walls and security wire everywhere.
The 550 Green Tea Spa Pedicure is V Spa's top of the line foot treatment. Although salon patrons can watch mvoies during their pedicure, they turn down the sound during hte massage portion of the service.
“It’s modern,” Kim explains, “but cozy and comfortable. We sectioned everything off.” Clients can enter the salon’s hair area from Franklin Avenue or enter from the salon’s hair area from the rear parking lot to the manicure room. A large pedicure and drying area is next, with two roomy restrooms, and unobtrusive spotlights guide a path to the serene and private spa area, where aromatherapy candles flicker on the floor and the floor and the treatment rooms have soothing dim lighting and a soft lavender scent. Ceiling tiles block out about 85% of the sound in the treatment areas – any more and the space wouldn’t comply with fire code.
Salon Name: V Spa Salon
Location: Garden City, N.Y.
Owners: David Kim
Square Footage: 2,500
Years of Ownership: Since 2005 in this location, previous salon since 1998
Number of Nail Techs/Employees: 8/16
Specialties: UV gels, pedicures, Brazilian bikini waxing
Other Services: Party planning with on-site catering; custom events; networking groups; fully accessible to disabled clients, including live video weblinks to interpreters for the hearing impaired
MATCHMAKER, MATCHMAKER: “Ambiance is what our customer pays for,” kim says. “I’ve been doing this so long, I know exactly how everything should look, feel, and smell.” A self-described micromanager, he knows each of his eight nail technician’s strengths and matches clients with the right staff member to keep both sides of the table happy.
Clients entering the salon from the rear parking lot walk directly into the manicure room. The salon derives 40%-45% of its business from nail services.
“Some of our clients like to talk during their service,” he explains. “Others are unwinding after a rushed day at work and prefer to stay quiet. Also, because our techs have cosmetology licenses, we can offer clients a full-spa experience with just one person. Instead of going from person to person, clients see one tech for everything - manicure, pedicure, waxing, massage - even make-up. I think they appreciate the seamless service, and the fact they’re only tipping one person.”
Open in Garden City since October 2005 (Kim’s previous location in the next town closed after a fire next door), V Spa salon now sees 40%-45% of its business from nail services, “especially our pedicures,” says Kim. Spa services make up another 35%, with the balance coming from hair services, including color, cuts, and thermal Japanese straightening. A licensed acupuncture therapist is available on-site by appointment.
The top treatment? The Green Tea Spa Pedicure, a $50 custom-blended indulgence that includes grooming, soak, a massage “that makes your legs feel like butter,” and polish. Clients can select from a menu of pedicure upgrades, including reflexology or a warm gel soak. Pedicures take place in massaging pedi thrones, with upbeat romantic comedies playing on the large-screen plasma TV. “We turn the sound down during the massage portion of our service,” says Kim, “so clients can totally relax.”
Kim is especially proud of the products used at V Spa Salon, most of which are imported from Korea. “We use a custom citrus body scrub that’s fantastic; very clean, very fresh. The honey for our Princess Honey Pedicure is flown in from Arizona.”
Fastidious about cleanliness, Kim points out the industrial autoclave in the pedicure area. “We make sure our spa and salon is always cleaned with medical-grade sanitizers and disinfectants, and most importantly, most of the products we use are pre-packaged for one-time use.”
Kim opened his Garden City spa in 2005. He designed and decorated the modern but comfortable space himself.
HE OWES IT ALL TO MOM: Kim credits his mother Annie Kim, an International award-wining make-up artist who works at the salon, for sparking his interest in the nail spa industry. “She is the ultimate tech. She does everything by the book. She takes a leadership role.”And she does - handing one tech’s red-faced client a bottle of cool water, fluffing another’s pillows, adding an extra drop of lavender oil to a foothbath, or warmly welcoming new arrivals who’ve just stopped in for directions to the pizza shop up the book.
She brought her young son to work whenever he wasn’t in school, and he learned the business by observing her and the other staff with customers. When David Kim set off for upstate New York’s Colgate University, the seeds for starting his own spa had already been planted. He graduated cum laude with a double major in economics and environment studies. “I became very good at statistical analysis - and I learned how to build a business model.”
The combination worked. “I’ve done this my whole life,” he says. “I decided to be innovative. Everything here is state of the art: hair, massage, facial techniques. And it’s small things. Some customers like to take their products home in a bag. Others like a box. We give clients a little teddy bear when they buy a gift certificate, so it’s a complete experience, not just a piece of paper. Our Valentine’s Day gift packages came with rose petal potpourri this year.
“One client likes warm towels and tow bottles of water on her left side after her service,” he continues. “We remember that.”
DISPOSABLE INCOME: Kim describes his clientele as “wealthy professionals and mothers” with about ^0% drawn from Garden City and Its neighboring towns. Women outnumber men, but his list of male clients is growing. “We get a lot of celebrity athletes, and their wives. The men don’t like to be fussed over. They come in quietly, get their service, and go.” But they come back, again and again, he admits.
V Spa Salon also has a growing list of teen and young adult clientele. “Their mothers bring them in for a special occasion, but then they come on their own and bring friends.” A sophisticated bunch with disposable income, Kim’s younger clients don’t limit themselves to basic services, but instead choose luxury spa treatments and high-end nail services. “We get a lot of 16-and 17-year-olds who ask for bikini waxing and spray tanning.” Kim caters to them, advertising V Spa Salon in school folders, and promoting his services for graduations, weddings, summer parties, and charity events.
Advertising and marketing have been key to V Spa’s success. The spa has a website, www.myvspa.com, with playful images and cheerful descriptions of services and prices. Kim designed and built it himself, using a content management program. “You can’t beat the website,” he says. “It helps the customer know what she’s getting before she walks in the door.”The site is marketed to local and national search engines, so V Spa Salon shows up at the top of most queries for manicure or spa facilities on Long Island.
“We have relationships with all the local concierges,” Kim says, “and they send their guests to us for special treatment. We also advertise in local newspapers and magazines.” That client outreach works-and when new customers see what their money gets at V Spa Salon, they’re hooked.
“We offer the best value. Our competitors charge more. We don’t have a corporate look. We’re not rushed. We give them a beautiful, personalized, unique experience.”
Pamela Yaeger is president of Scarlet Communications, a Long Island-based agency that provides editorial and design services to clients in the U.S. and Europe.