Rooted in History: Profiles of Family Salons

For some, being a nail tech isn’t just a job; it’s a way of life. Meet five families who have a shared passion for their profession. Working together has helped to build a solid foundation for each of their family trees.

The Etchamendy and Peterson Family

TWO TECHS IN A POD: Lucia Etchamendy and her daughter Nicolette Peterson have much more in common than just their genes. Both were single mothers who supported their children through hard work in the beauty industry. They both currently work at Lucia’s Hair and Nail Salon (owned by mom) in Hesperia, Calif. Teamwork gets them through spa parties, rough clients, and personal family issues.

Lucia Etchamendy

WHERE SHE WORKS: Lucia’s Hair and Nail Salon, Hesperia, Calif.

SPECIALTIES: nail art, including gel, 3-D, and encased

IN LUCIA’S WORDS: It was neat seeing beauty school vicariously the second-time around. Alcohol was no longer used for sanitation and there were HIV questions on the board exams.

I always have someone to go to tradeshows with. We’ve both been told the other does better nails. My response is never put family members against each other, and sometimes we’ve refused service to troublemakers.

I’ll ask Nicolette if she needs help. She’ll say she’s taught me everything I know, why would she need my help?

Nicolette Peterson

WHERE SHE WORKS: Lucia’s Hair and Nail Salon, Hesperia, Calif.

SPECIALTIES: colored acrylics, mylars, and glitters

IN NICOLETTE’S WORDS: My mother became very successful in the industry. She raised my sisters and me with no outside help. I wanted the same for myself. Mom showed me if you want something bad enough you can get it, even if the odds are against you. For the age I am, I have a comfortable lifestyle and am remarried with two children.

When I’ve had difficult clients I know I can count on my mom to help me out. For example, there have been times a client wants me to do something I feel uncomfortable about. I’ll say I should double check with the ‘owner’. Then, I refer to my mom as ‘Lucia’. (When I refer to my mom by her name, she knows it means business.) My mom will come over and explain to the client why the service has to be done a certain way. After my client gets this special attention from the owner, she’s usually satisfied and we continue on with the service.

The Bui, Pham, and Ma Family

A TALE OF TWO COUNTRIES: This family’s story is about achieving the American Dream. It all started when Khanh and Kathy Bui immigrated in the 1970s. With her husband’s help, Kathy then opened a nail salon—Kathy’s Nails—in Los Angeles. Seeing how hard their mother toiled in the shop, her daughter’s Debbie, Christie, and Cyndi all dropped out of or put off school to help their mother make her salon a success. They were very successful. Today, Debbie owns her mother’s shop, Kathy’s Nails; Cyndi’s opened a salon in Studio City; Christie owns her own salon (named after her daughter, Victoria), and Kathy, though she tried to retire, couldn’t keep herself out of the business and works part-time at daughter Christie’s shop.

Kathy Bui

WHERE SHE WORKS: Victoria’s Nails, Oxnard, Calif.

SPECIALTIES: ingrown toenails

IN KATHY’S WORDS: I was a nurse in Vietnam, but when I came to the United States it didn’t seem practical to go through the work of getting that certification here. A friend who worked in a beauty shop encouraged me to become a manicurist. I worked with her for about two years and, when I was ready, I told my husband Khanh Bui, that I was ready for my own shop.

People say that I’m lucky—and I think I’m lucky—because my children work with me. My children speak English better than I do, which is a big help with the business. I think everyone’s happy.

Debbie Bui

WHERE SHE WORKS: Kathy’s Nails, Los Angeles

SPECIALTIES: acrylic nails

IN DEBBIE’S WORDS: Our father passed away a few years ago, so now I want to keep Kathy’s Nails open as long as I can to memorialize my dad and how he helped start the family business. He started the business for my mom by giving her the money and naming it after her. Now I don’t want to sell it.

In Vietnam, we had nothing. Now, we all have something. We’re all powerful women running our own businesses.

Christie Pham

WHERE SHE WORKS: Victoria’s Nails, Oxnard, Calif.

SPECIALTIES: silk wraps

IN CHRISTIE’S WORDS: My mom always told me if I gave 100%, I could get anything I wanted. She was right, but of course now that I own my own business I realize it’s not 100%, it’s 200%!

Mom works at my salon part-time now. It’s now different. We sometimes have different approaches, especially with the new tools and equipment that’s available now. But the basics, like customer service, are the same, and I learn a lot from her.

My 11-year old daughter, Victoria (who the shop is named after), is already showing an interest in nails too. She paints her own fingernails and creates her own flower designs with polish. Just from watching me, she’s learned how to give a mini-manicure.

Cyndi Ma

WHERE SHE WORKS: AQ Nail Spa, Studio City, Calif.

SPECIALTIES: management and customer service

IN CYNDI’S WORDS: I think in life certain things are meant to be. Nails weren’t really passion, but I kept being exposed it. When I was in high school, I would hang out in my mom salon and do odd jobs like putting money in customer’s meter Later, I had a good friend who opened her own salon and she basically threw me in there and taught me how to run it. I all managed my sister-in-law’s salon for a while.

It’s really special bond that a family has, especially in the Vietnamese culture, so it’s great that we’re all in the same industry. With nail tech turnover being high, it helps to have family members working in your salon because you’re more loyal to each other.

The Poliez Family

THE NAIL POLICZ: Tammy Policz, mom, and DevanPolicz, want to leave their own little mark in the nail industry. The two have worked together at The Creative Studio in Waynesburg, Pa., and have volunteered together at Right Way Academy, where they give beauty services to troubled teens. They are about to open a salon together called Nail Policz, a police-themed salon that’s pun off their last name.

Tammy Poliez

WHERE SHE WORKS: Will work at Nail Policz in Waynesburg, Pa., after the shop opens

SPECIALTIES: airbrushing, odorless acrylics, pedicures

IN TAMMY’S WORDS: When my daughter was in high school, she’d come to the shop and help out but I never really thought she’d stick with this career. When she told me she wanted to enter vocational school at the high school, I honestly didn’t want her to go into the field. Even though I remember saying, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ when she told me she was going to school for nails, I’m so proud knowing she wanted to be like mom.

She’s the one who started me on odorless acrylics. I’d never go back to the regular kind. I never thought I’d be taking direction from my daughter, but I’ve learned a lot from her. I was her model at the state boards. Since the boards are so nerve racking, she threatened me to not even blink funny!


WHERE SHE WORKS: The Creative Studio, Waynesburg, Pa.

SPECIALTIES: specialty pedicures, nail art

IN DEVAN’S WORDS: When I was taking nail classes, my mom gave me the opportunity to practice on people in her salon to help me get the feel of working on real clients, not just the hand dummies we used in school. She then was willing to be my model for both my hair and nail state boards.

My mom knows I really enjoy doing pedicures, so whenever she has a client who wants a pedicure or toe art, she sends then my way to help boost my business.

My mother and I do have a history of having our mother-daughter spats because we’re so alike. Sometimes we have our differences about techniques. So, when my mom does my nails I try not to watch because I know I’ll just bug her by saying how I’d do this or that differently. Even though at the end I never have a reason to complain because they look awesome and exactly how I would have done them!

The Stephenson Family

LIKE MOTHER, LIKE SONS: Mom Glenda Stephenson entered the nail industry in 1973 and competed for the first time in 1997. Her sons, Scott and Brian, soon joined her both in the salon and on the competition circuit. An exciting family mini-claim-to-fame occurred in a 1998, competition when, between mother, sons, extended family, and Glenda’s students, the clan cleaned up five of the Top 10 spots.

Glenda Stephenson

WHERE SHE WORKS: Traviss Career Center, Lakeland, Fla.; All About You, Winter Haven, Fla.

SPECIALTIES: education, competitions

IN GLENDA’S WORD: I didn’t actually encourage my sons to follow in my footsteps, but I took them to tradeshows and they liked all of the excitement surrounding the shows. When they were in high school, they did their girlfriends’ nails.

Even now, my sons come to school and give classes for me on subjects like airbrushing and sculpturing.

At one of the shows, Brian, Scott, and I were competing together. Vicki Peters announced that I was there competing with my two sons. I guess that made an impression. We may not make the Top 25, but we have a lot of fun.

Scott Stephenson

WHERE HE WORKS: All About You Personal Consulting, Winter Haven, Fla.

SPECIALTIES: competitions

IN SCOTT’S WORDS: I had taken a few really tough jobs right after high school, like construction, warehouse work, and fast food. I said to myself, ‘There has to be something better out there for me.’ My mom took us to tradeshows, and they were really hyped up like concerts. Not to mention the girls were really hot! One night we were talking after dinner when mom said, ‘Why don’t you take my nail class?’ and that started my adventure into this industry.

I think the industry has brought our family closer together because of the time we’ve shared working, competing, and sharing our skills with others.

Brian Stephenson

WHERE HE WORKS: Free house calls in the Olympia, Wash., area, until his upcoming move to Georgia.

SPECIALTIES: airbrushing, competitions, speed

IN BRIAN’S WORDS: We all love to compete, so we also like to raze each other. In the middle of one competition I got a text message from mom; it said, ‘Tell my son he better have a kick-butt set of nails cause I’m going to whoop him.’ Well, I wound up finishing fifth, while mom finished ninth. Her jaw hit the ground. I laughed so hard.

I think we’re unique because we have so many people in our family who are interested in doing nails. We’re able to help and support each other, to encourage each other, and to work together.

The Franklin Family

LAUGHING ALL THE WAY: The Franklin have had their ups and downs. Mom, Ginny Franklin, originally got her cosmetology license in 1964. But she was forced out of the hair industry because of severe allergies to hair products. She stopped renewing the license in the 80’s and turned to office jobs. Meanwhile, her daughter Maggie got her manicurist license in 1992 and worked in several salons. In the late ‘90s, Ginny had lost her job as a shipping manager and needed something new. She went back to beauty school, got her manicurist license, and together she and Maggie opened up Laughing Lady Salon in Visalia, Calif., where they both worked for more than seven years. Recently, Maggie moved to Attitudes Salon in Visalia as a booth renter and mom is taking her massage service (she got that license in 2003) mobile.

Ginny Franklin

WHERE SHE WORKS: Mobile massage services

SPECIALTIES: natural nails, pedicures (done on the massage table)

IN GINNY’S WORDS: Maggie did my nails when I was in beauty school. I wouldn’t let anyone else touch them. When I started working in the salon, Maggie tutored me. She was showing me all of the things I should have learned in school. It wasn’t really humbling at all, because she’s always been bossing me around—she wasn’t even born when she was supposed to be!

At Laughing Lady, she’d fire me once or twice a week, even though I was an independent contractor. I think the best thing about working with her is her giving me all the lip. I think the worst thing about working with her is the same as the best thing—her giving me all the lip.

Maggie Franklin

WHERE SHE WORKS: Attitudes Salon, Visalia, Calif.

SPECIALTIES: pink-and-white sculptured nails, glitter and pigmented acrylics, hand painted nail art.

IN MAGGIE’S WORDS: Mom’s and my memories diverge on the topic of how she got back into the industry. Mom remembers me saying (all chipper and eager-like), ‘Hey Mom! Why don’t you come do nails with me?’ But I remember it more like me giving her several ideas of different companies she could apply to before she said in a timid and hopeful way, ‘I guess I could always come work with you.’

Clients think it’s great we work together. They comment on it all the time. Mom is very easy-going and can be really naïve, whereas I’m very sarcastic and not afraid of confrontation. Everyone knows mom is the ‘nice’ one.

I like having mom around the salon. I can send her to the bank, the supply store, or Starbucks. Having a mom around the salon is handy; I recommend everyone get one!


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