The Paris-inspired salon The Pampered Girl is co-owned by friends and former coworkers Christina Yang and Alexandra Armstead. In divvying up the responsibilities and bringing new ideas to the table, they’re finding that two heads are better than one.
Salon Name: The Pampered Girl
Location: San Francisco
Owners: Christina Yang & Alexandra Armstead
Square Footage: 900
Opened: December 2006
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 4/8
Specialties: Natural services
Salon owners Christina Yang and Alexandra Armstead met as bridal consultants at Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco. After going their separate ways (Yang to New York and Armstead taking time off for a baby), they reunited and together opened The Pampered Girl in the Hayes Valley district of San Francisco, turning their attentions to adorning the hands and feet of their clients. In starting and running the salon, they’ve found that their differences in expertise have been a major advantage.
French Inspiration Walking into The Pampered Girl is like walking into girly-girl heaven. Yelp.com reviewers rave about the decor of this cozy salon, a celebration of the femininity of another era. Walls are a soothing pink, and white furniture adorns the entire salon, ranging from comfortable pedicure chairs to a pristine credenza that displays retail items. Giant chandeliers hang from the ceilings, framed silhouette profiles stand side-by-side, and numerous mirrors of different designs line the walls.
Upon entering, clients can take a seat at the waiting area/drying station that sits in front of a black-and-white patterned wallpaper (the only wall that’s not pink), or browse through the strategically placed retail items by the entrance. A small reception table greets clients, and behind that six white pedicure chairs with matching ottomans sit facing each other. Manicures are performed here as well. French pop music plays in the background and each service is identified with a French girl’s name, completing the Parisian-chic look and feel of the salon.
Nails and More The Pampered Girl specializes in natural services, choosing not to offer acrylics or gels. In addition to Essie and OPI polishes, the salon also carries natural products from Zoya, PeaceKeeper, and Soulstice, which, according to Yang, are more often requested by pregnant clients.
The salon’s most-requested service is the Amelie, which comes with a relaxing lavender soak and essential oil cream massage. Its most luxurious service, for clients willing to splurge, is the Chloe, which starts off with a glass of champagne, followed by a honey milk soak, exfoliating sugar scrub, essential oil cream massage and finally, lavender paraffin dip. “Our Chloe is the crème de la crème,” says Yang.
Other services available are waxing and tinting, which is done in a back room of the salon, its entrance covered by a striped curtain.
Also popular are the salon’s parties, which take place weekends and nights whenever there’s a reservation. Although there are only six chairs, Yang says there haven’t been problems with larger parties, as guests simply rotate around to get their service. While events are still popular, Yang has noticed a decrease in corporate parties due to the lagging economy.
The Daily Routine Yang estimates about 30% of The Pampered Girl clients are neighbors from the area. However, that doesn’t mean happy clients don’t trek in from all parts of the city, and other areas, for parties and their own reservations.
To compensate for the recent trend of clients stretching out their appointments or changing their polish at home, Yang and Armstead started a “happy hour,” offering a 20%-off promotion Tuesdays through Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The promotion brings in people who work from home, students, and stay-at-home moms.
With the basic mani/pedi service costing $18 and $28, and the Chloe costing $40 and $60, Yang says The Pampered Girl prices are a bit higher than other salons in the surrounding area. However, she says with the 20%-off special, their prices have become more competitive with neighboring salons.
With a small retail area, the owners try to keep their products unique and in constant rotation. “We’re always trying to change what we carry,” says Yang. “Alex will go out and look for locally based jewelers.” Other products include the sugar scrubs they use during services, baby clothes, candles, and lotions. Bestsellers are always the lotions and jewelry.
Separate Responsibilities Neither Yang nor Armstead have manicure licenses, instead leaving the operations of the salon to manager Sandra Gong. Armstead handles the advertising, marketing, and merchandizing side of the store while Yang handles the financial side. The two split up work days, alternating weekends and working around each other’s schedules.
The most challenging aspect of owning the salon is marketing it. “There’s just no rhyme or reason to what works and what doesn’t,” Yang says. For example, while some free efforts have worked, some paid advertisements and marketing efforts didn’t have the expected results.
Still, running the salon together, as friends, does have its benefits. Instead of facing the challenge of a start-up alone, the two look to each other for mutual support. “The best part is that you always have someone on your side who is going through the same exact thing, business-wise,” says Yang. “I have my strong points and Alexandra has hers. I feel we get to bring the best of both to our business.”