Coupling the luxury of upscale services with the expertise of a podiatrist's care has proven to be a winning forumal for Columbus, Ga.-based salon owners Dr. Alap Shah and his wife Pinki Shah.
“We really saw this need in Columbus for something unique,” says Pinki Shah. A few years ago, her husband, podiatrist Alap Shah, was having a hard time recommending a qualified nail salon that could care for his patients’ special pedicure needs.
“A lot of my husband’s patients were asking him where they could go for safe pedicures,” says Shah. “We never felt like there was any place that was safe enough in town because we didn’t know anybody’s sanitation or hygiene practices.”
After several years of general planning, the pair got serious last year and teamed up with the best product consultants and designers they could find. Meticulous attention was paid to ensuring that the salon they planned to open — called Footique — would not only be aesthetically pleasing, but would also feature luxury services performed in a space that went beyond state sanitation requirements. The couple takes pride is running the only podiatrist-owned nail salon in Georgia, located in a boutique shopping area called The Landings.
“Location is key,” Shah says. “Being that there are a lot of specialty shops here, people look for the unique factor in this space.”
Her background in finance and banking on Wall Street combined with her husband’s expertise in podiatry has helped the duo institute the highest standards of service and cleanliness for the benefit of all their clients.
IN addition to pedicure products and an in-house brand of polish, statement jeelry pieces shipped from overseas are top retail sellers.
COOL, CLEAN, AND CONTEMPORARY
Footique’s decor is a blend of clean modern with comfortable contemporary to create relaxing atmosphere with soft creams and teals throughout. With the help of Habachy Designs, a sought-after Atlanta design firm, the Shahs were able to create a space that is not only welcoming, but comfortable and plush as well.
All of the furnishings in the salon are custom made and created to complement the European-made wallpaper and water-themed color scheme.
“As soon as you walk in, it’s relaxing,” Shah says. Upon entering, clients are greeted by an ornately carved white reception desk and a custom Italian chandelier. Sheer teal curtains act as dividers, creating the illusion of separation while still keeping the space relatively open. Immediately behind the reception area are four manicure stations, followed by a banquette-style pedicure area with seating for eight. The custom-made jetless pedicure bowls are especially noteworthy because they prevent bacteria by always running fresh water. The salon also takes great measures to ensure that cross-contamination does not occur and that implements and tools are cleaned with the highest-grade solutions and sterilization tools.
After a manicure or pedicure, each client receives the bottle of the salon’s private lab anti-fungal mini polish that was used on her hands and toes. The salon also takes sanitation one step further and uses an autoclave for sterilization. “Using an autoclave is pretty uncommon,” Shah says. “Being that the salon is owned by a podiatrist, clients just feel safe.”
Dr. Shah isn’t always in the salon, but he does train the technicians on how to care for fungal infections and clients with special illnesses, like cancer or diabetes. “We make his business cards available to all our clients, but we don’t try to push them to go see a podiatrist,” Shah says.
Dr. Shah also trains the nail technicians to look for certain symptoms so they know when they have to turn someone away. “That’s when we recommend a doctor,” Shah says. “We have to keep the safety of our salon as well as our clients in mind.”
Details on the custom-made manicure chairs feature the same European motif tht appears on the salon's ornate wallpaer.
Shah is not a licensed technician but she oversees all of Footique’s operations and makes sure that clients are being pampered as much as possible. The salon offers five different manicures and pedicures that allow clients to choose their scents, as well as other options from the a la carte menu that can be added to any of the salon services.
One of the most important service steps is that the antifungal base coat and private label polish be applied on every client, Shah explains. “We let you pick out a polish color from our color wheel and then we give you a mini bottle to take home,” says Shah. “It’s all included in the price.”
Another added feature is every pedicure includes a warm towel treatment. The salon does not offer acrylic services but does offer OPI Axxium Soak Off Gel manicure — one of the most popular services along with the oft-requested “The Dessert” mani pedi.
The Dessert service is “really good for diabetic patients because we are trying to say that you can’t eat it but you can defi nitely treat yourself with The Dessert,” says Shah. “For The Dessert, we use LaLicious products and they’re made from natural oil, scrubs, and sugars with no harsh chemicals.”
Manicures range from $20 to $45 and pedicures range from $30 to $60, with a la carte services starting at $4. Some of the other lines used for the services include Cuccio Naturalé for The European and Shea Terra for The Organic services. Options on the a la carte menu include “Soyaffi n” treatments with one-time-use mitts, alphahydroxy hand peels and heel therapy, nail whitening, and spray tanning.
Most of the clientele are professional women in their late 30s to early 40s, often referred by word of mouth. However, men make up about 5%-10% of the clientele and know The Gentleman service by name. “They buy gift certificates for their wives,” Shah laughs. “Men are the ones who come every two weeks.”
Alap and Pinki Shah pose in Footique's reception area.
BEHIND THE SCENES
“For us just being open a few months, I think we’re doing really well,” Shah says. “Our weekend appointments are usually booked and we usually can’t accommodate walk-ins on those days. On the weekends, we do about 30 services per day and on the early part of the week, we might be able to do 10 to 12 services.”
Commission is an incentive for employees who sell retail items, which make up for 15%-20% of the salon gross. In addition to the private label polish, the salon sells product lines used in the services, along with French soaps, candles, statement jewelry from overseas, and special fungal products that are usually only available at a podiatrist’s office.
The salon currently has five technicians, four of whom have been there since the salon’s opening. The lead nail tech has 25 years of experience as well as an instructor’s license, which is useful for helping newer technicians learn how to perform services that meet the salon’s standard.
The employees appreciate the sanitary hygiene factor and getting training from a medical doctor who knows all about nail care, Shah explains. One of the most important sessions has been on how to be sensitive during services for clients with cancer or diabetes.
“They are so prone to infection that we make sure there are no cuts or openings on their feet,” Shah says. “We just know not to be too aggressive with a massage or cuticle work to avoid any light little cut.”
The training has proved to be especially fruitful, as the salon continues to see a fair share of return clients who appreciate the special care they receive.
Despite all of the progress and increasing numbers of clientele, the biggest challenge has been finding licensed nail technicians, something in short supply in the Columbus area. “Besides doing a good job on the client and having a good personality and being thorough, the other factor is you have to put a big emphasis on cleanliness,” Shah says.
Though it’s too early to tell, she and her husband would love to add to their services and turn Footique into a full spa one day.
Salon Name: Footique
Location: Columbus, Ga.
Owners: Alap and Pinki Shah
Square Footage: 1,400
Opened: July 23, 2010
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff : 5/7
Specialties: Pedicures and foot care
Compensation: Salary plus commission