A one-stop shop, Nails Icon in Montclair, Calif., boasts a bustling retail area, clean, affordable services, and isn’t afraid to stay open ’til 1 a.m. for mani-pedi parties. The owner credits the salon’s customer service as key to surviving the recession.
After threatening my fiancé (second from front) with colored polish, nail tech Lee Tran whipped out Orly’s Nails for Males matte nail finish.
No Means No
Salon owner Mai Tran (right) is a Vietnamese immigrant, has other relatives in the nail salon business, and is well-aware of the potential culture clashes that can occur. To that end, she trains her techs that it’s OK to take no for an answer regarding add-on services. “Don’t ask the customer why she doesn’t want the callus treatment or make her uncomfortable,” she tells her techs. “Many clients tell me they feel uncomfortable in other salons.” Mai purposely went to an English-speaking beauty school, so she could “get the culture right.”
Honestly, I think the retail boutique was the main component of my friend Lisa’s — who suggested this salon to me — infatuation with Nails Icon. She kept saying, “It’s a one-stop shop, Sree!” And that’s accurate actually. Let’s see: there are shoes, purses, blouses, headbands and barrettes, necklaces, bracelets, and, of course, polish. Owner Mai says, “My customers love it. While they’re waiting, they look around.”
A Clean Freak’s Dream
Stainless steel bowls without jets leave little room for bacteria to hide. While this practice is popular in salons in neighboring Los Angeles County, in San Bernadino County jetless spa chairs are rare, Mai says, which gives Nails Icon a selling point to sanitation-conscious clients. The salon also states its commitment to sanitation on its menu, which was key to my decision to book an appointment.
> Not content with just the typical bridal parties and birthday parties, Nails Icon has played host to breakfast meetings, direct sales groups (think Avon or The Pampered Chef), and even Bible study groups. Sometimes the staff works until 1 a.m. on party nights.
> Mai takes karma seriously. “Do not compete against the salons where you learned, then someone will do that to you,” she cautions. How does she beat her competition? Attending shows like ISSE Long Beach and IBS Las Vegas and making all of her clients feel like her No. 1 client. A bystander piped up, “It’s like family here.”
> It may be a little weird when she’s not on the job, but Mai wears a different nail art design on each of her nails so clients can choose from several choices literally at Mai’s fingertips. More conventionally, she also keeps a portfolio on hand.
De-wrinkle Manicure: $20;
Intensive Callus Pedicure: $30;
Fiberglass/Silk Wraps (full set): $40; Nail Design (per nail): $3;
Eyelash Extensions: $100
Polish: OPI, China Glaze, Essie, Orly; Brush-on Gel Polish: Gelish;
Lotion: CND; Cuticle Oil: Haken.