Refined is the word that comes to mind upon entering the minimalistic and ultra-trendy Polished Nail Bar. Owners Sonny Kim and Haley Tran are veteran nail technicians who have made a name for themselves in Charlotte, N.C., as a result of their innovative approach to doing nails.
The tan and brown hues of the pedicure thrones accentuate the hanging lights and white walls of the nail bar.
With a combined total of 35 years in the nail industry, both Sonny Kim and his wife Haley Tran know a thing or two about their industry and their market. And from that experience came their desire to reimagine and create something of their own. The first step was to create a space to bring the couple’s ideas to life. Polished Nail Bar became a reality in May 2004 with the launch of their first location in Charlotte. Fast forward to 2012 when Kim and Tran opened the doors to their fourth successful location.
Polished doesn’t focus much on designing or nail art. Instead, Kim and Tran’s emphasis is on providing a clean environment with quality service. “Ninety-five percent of our clients receive manicure and pedicure services,” says Kim. “We have an 80% to 90% client retention rate. We even have out-of-state bookings.”
The bold white Polished Nail Bar logo is hard to miss.
With its cosmopolitan vibe, Charlotte is the perfect place for Polished’s nail bars. The fast-growing community currently hosts four locations, with two more opening soon. With their experience in the industry, Kim and Tran know that targeting newly developed areas will allow them to build long-standing connections with an array of clients. The new locations will feature a state-of-the-art ventilation system that eliminates vapors and odors — for the sake of both the employees and salon clients. Polished’s older locations are also being retro-fitted with the systems.
Polished Nail Bar’s menu features five sections: nail bar, massages, facials, waxing, and eyelashes. Prices start at $15 for a basic manicure and $25 for a pedicure, with a $35 combo price for both. It also offers organic manicures and pedicures for expectant mothers or chemically sensitive salon-goers. Man-E-Cures were designed to appeal to the nail bar’s burgeoning male clientele and specially priced services are available for little divas aged 10 and under. Polished was one of the first salons to offer mink eyelash extensions, and it also offers threading.
Nail techs line up behind the nail bar and prepare to serve incoming clients.
Kim has 24 employees at each location, whom he considers to be family. He gets to know salon employees on a personal basis at staff-only events and in the day-to-day operations of Polished. “We do a lot of events outside of work for our employees,” says Kim. “We strive to provide an enjoyable environment for all.” Kim encourages his nail technicians to continue their education. As a group, they attend trade shows like CosmoProf North America in Las Vegas.
Kim is in charge of design and decor for all of Polished Nail Bar’s locations. His background as a nail technician allows him to understand what clients do and don’t like. In conceptualizing the design and look of Polished’s Ballantyne location, Kim set out to create a minimalistic yet trendy space for customers and employees to enjoy themselves in. “We are younger salon owners and we wanted to appeal to that demographic. So we opted for an ultra-modern look,” he notes.
The walls are off-white and the pedicure and manicure stations all complement the pristine atmosphere. Their motto — look clean and be clean — speaks for itself. With three spa rooms, 31 pedicure chairs that double as manicure stations, and a nail bar, the location can accommodate parties for all occasions.
Rows of pedicure thrones await customers.
The salon’s website contains a weekly schedule of the special events and offerings. Sunday afternoon is set aside for beer and pedicures, for example, while Thursdays are dedicated to girls’ nights.
Polished’s owners also recently formulated their own gel top and base coat because they wanted to provide clients with something reliable and durable. “We retain clients because of our top and base coats,” says Kim. “We are known for having the best gel products in our area.”
Above all, clients appreciate the complimentary wine, beer, and soft drinks.
A client looks on as a Polished nail tech works on her manicure.
Welcoming former suburbanites, housewives, and men looking to catch the latest football game, Polished Nail Bar hosts clients from many different backgrounds. Kim estimates that 20% of Polished Ballantyne’s clients are under the age of 18. “Our male clients are 20% to 30% of our business now,” says Kim. “If you walk into our salon at any time, you will spot at least one man receiving services.” The salon is also able to host large groups, making it a social hub.
Salon Name: Polished Nail Bar
Locations: 4 current locations in Charlotte, N.C. (with 2 more opening soon)
Owners: Sonny Kim and Haley Tran
Number of Nail Techs: 20+ at each location
Employees: 24+ at each location
Specialties: Mani/pedis, gels, mink eyelashes
Compensation Structure: Commission or salary-based