Opened this January by Rosemary Weiner, The Brass Rose Spa & Salon houses manicure stations with localized running water, hospital-grade autoclaves, and a negative-pressure nail enhancement room.
In a northwest corner of New Jersey, close to Pennsylvania’s Poconos Mountains, in the midst of a rural community, sits The Brass Rose Spa & Salon. Opened in mid-January, the salon was designed to be an elegant retreat with a subtle twist-a salon that reaches a level of sanitation and sterilization that is virtually unparalleled.
With a background in nursing, and later consulting, Rosemary Weiner is now new to the business world. She used her medical training to move into nursing administration, consulting, and finally big business, where she was involved in healthcare cost containment. While involved in nursing, Weiner was director of quality assurance at a major hospital as well as director of infection control.
In 1990, she started her own business, Preferred Payment Systems, with “two phones, a fax, and myself.” In just five years, it grew to be a Fortune 500 company. After six years of running this national company, Weiner found herself burnt out on the healthcare industry and wanting to do something that she would enjoy.
“I used to go to spas and I was not always comfortable with where I got my nails done,” Weiner attests. “I became frustrated trying to find a place where I could go. And I began to think that this was something I could do.”
The seed had been planted. Weiner decided in 1996 that she would leave Preferred Payment Systems and start her own salon and spa. Along with reading magazines and professional journals, and doing extensive research, she come across a video of Noelle deCaprio from Noelle The Day Spa in Connecticut. “I was very much inspired by her,” Weiner explains. “I liked her style and liked her approach to customer service.”
Cleanliness Is the Key
Weiner’s main complaint about the salons she had visited was their sanitation procedures-or lack thereof. “I made a commitment to sanitation and infection control because I thought that you could be elegant and still provide these services,” says Weiner.
Several key issues plagued her thoughts. Ventilation, water, and sterilization were all fundamental elements that had to be addressed. She wanted to present nail stations that were properly ventilated, with localized running water, and autoclaves to sterilize any equipment that would be used on more than one client.
One of Weiner’s main design goals was virtually unheard of in the salon industry-manicure stations equipped with hot and cold running water. This enables the client and the nail technician to remain at the station throughout the service without having to get up to wash their hands. She turned to professional contractors to build equipment customized to her vision. Working with people who were not familiar with what she was trying to accomplish meant the stations had to be rebuilt three times before they met her strict standards.
Weiner even took it one step further by adding autoclaves at each station. That’s big investment, but according to Weiner, it was worth every penny.
Her approach to infection control is nonpareil. To help educate her clients on proper sanitation procedures, she designed a pamphlet that is handed to all nail customers. Inside the tri-fold brochure, Weiner explains her policies and why it is important to her to make sterilization such a priority at The Brass Rose.
And the policies at The Brass Rose are firm. Anything that cannot be sterilized after use (nail files, buffing blocks, nail brushed, etc.) is offered to the client to take home. If the client does not want them, they are simply discarded, never to be used again on another person. All metal implements are sterilized right at the manicure station and presented on the client in a clear, sealed pouch. Disinfectant is also poured fresh for each customer.
“The pouch is what impresses people the most,” claims Weiner. “They related that to a doctor’s office, no matter how much we talk about infection control, when they see the tech opening the pouch and removing the implements. That’s when they really get it.”
Making a conscious decision to educate her staff and her clients, Weiner places much emphasis on training.
"The biggest misperception that I found in the staff that I used to help me develop the services is that they truly did not know the difference between sanitation, disinfection, and sterilization," explains Weiner. "To my horror, I realized that nobody really understood what sterile meant. So I went on a big education campaign.
"We have a very formal training, where each of the technicians in all of the departments must learn each of the services we offer," explains Weiner. "We have written policies and procedures for each of the manicures, each of the pedicures, and so on. Each one is demonstrated to the techs in their training and then they have to perform each of the procedures."
In addition to this, Weiner has manufacturers come in and talk to the staff about their products. This is one of the requirements she has before choosing products to use in the salon - if they are not willing to come in and educate and demonstrate, they do not get her business.
A Touch of Elegance in the Country
A little more than two years from the inception of her idea, the doors of The Brass Rose Spa & Salon opened in rural Blairstown, N.J. Located in a farming community with a population fewer than 4,000 (but within 40 minutes to an hour from several metropolitan areas), The Brass Rose sits above a historic trail at Paulins Kill river. The brick mansion boasts pillar columns and round storefront-type windows, inscribed with The Brass Rose logo. Upon entering the front door, customers check in at a hotel-inspired counter, complete with four separate stations for check-in, check-out, gift certificates, and future booking.
"It looks as if you are checking into a grand hotel," Weiner explains. "When I was traveling for my other business, I always felt welcome when I finally got to the hotel. I knew that I could check in and go to my room to unpack and take a shower, relax, and get a good night's sleep. So I stole that idea from the hotel industry."
The front section of the salon and spa is 1,200 square feet of elegance and comfort. Opposite the check-in counter, customers find a "boutique" offering unique retail items that are used in the many services the salon has to offer. Double French doors open from the retail environment into the salon, which is decorated in browns and neutrals, with cherry wood and rich umber tones. The downstairs salon houses a hair department with three chairs and two shampoo bowls, as well as two of the custom-built manicure stations, a private pedicure room, and a special nail enhancement room for artificial nail services.
The L-shaped manicure stations were designed with both the client and nail technician in mind - spacious and comfortable with good lighting. Each station is identical, from the running water and the autoclaves, to the inventory inside the drawers, and the procedure manuals. "We keep the stations clean and neat, making the nail tech accountable for the aesthetics and cleanliness. We do the 'white glove test' every day."