Salt Lake City-based salon Nailed blends the best aspects of an express nail salon and a high-end spa to offer clients a hybrid that delivers premium services on the double.
Tricia Bennion never imagined that her afterschool pedicures with her daughter would serve as the inspiration for Nailed, her Salt Lake City-based salon that’s been booming with popularity for the last seven years. The salon’s appeal stems from the fact that it’s a combination between moderately priced express service salons and higher-end luxury spas with sophisticated services. Quality is the focal point at Nailed, but walk-ins are welcome and services are catered to the client on the go.
The modern salon is situated in a 100-year-old house that’s been restored and remodeled in an upscale neighborhood shopping area. In addition to being near the University of Utah, the salon is adjacent to two upscale neighborhoods as well as lively downtown Salt Lake City. “We’re right next to an upscale restaurant and on the other side of us is an upscale bakery,” Bennion says. “I love the fact that it’s in this trendy location.”
While she was a stay-at-home mom some years ago, Bennion began volunteering at the nearby Rape Recovery Center. She spent almost eight years there and was eventually promoted to director of education. As the workload grew heavier, Bennion began to feel that she needed to do something lighter, though she did love the work and was passionate about it, she says.
As a special treat for her daughter, the duo would often visit a nearby express service salon for pedicures once a week after school. “I started taking her there on Fridays and I was thinking, ‘Someone could do this so much better,’” Bennion says. She loved the idea of being able to enjoy a 45-minute pedicure without having to make an appointment, but couldn’t find a salon with good ambiance. “I came up with the idea that there needed to be a hybrid developed between the express salons and the higher-end salon/spas,” she says. Despite not having any experience in the nail industry, Bennion set out to obtain a business license and rented the space from a social contact.
Working with multiple business partners didn’t pan out the first year, but through trial and error, Bennion was able to develop the salon into a success. “It took us several years to find our niche in the market but when we found it, we kind of took off,” she says. “It was hard branding that express-feeling in a high-end looking salon. But people caught on over time and they really responded to that.”
Pricing was also an issue at first because although the salon wanted to stay competitive with nearby salons, higher costs associated with cleanliness standards and premium services came into play.
Fresh Perspective “People come in and they love the welcoming and high energy atmosphere,” Bennion says. “A lot of companies market in the colors we chose so we’ve been able to find boutique items to sell that look really good in the store.” Nailed’s decor is youthful and modern, complemented by bright accent colors like candy apple green, warmed yellow, and reddened orange. The wide range of hues used in the salon creates a contemporary but welcoming appearance thanks to the warm undertones in the palette.
Pedicure seating for nine is offered on russet chairs in the center of the salon, while six manicure stations are set up toward the entrance of the salon next to the boutique area. A variety of couches, benches, and chairs also are available for clients waiting for a service or drying their nails. “We also have some furniture to highlight our boutique items,” Bennion says. Nailed recently added two additional manicure stations to accommodate the growing number of clients who request gel-polish services. “We had to take out a lot of our boutique area,” she adds. “We’re running out of space here now that Shellac manicures are so popular.”
Services for Everyone Although about 75% of Nailed’s business is comprised of manicures and pedicures, the current menu offerings are wide ranging and include a full wax service menu, mini facials, chemical peels, paraffin dips, teeth whitening, eyebrow and eyelash tinting, children’s nail services, and private parties.
“We do almost 1,000 pedicures a month in our high season,” Bennion says. “It’s easy to come with two or three friends because we have so many pedicure stations.” Despite only having five to seven nail technicians at a time in the salon, Nailed is able to meet the demand for natural nail services with the help of its estheticians who perform both nail and skin care services.
“Probably 80% of our business is returning clients — mostly for their monthly maintenance pedicure and manicure or their waxing,” she adds. The salon makes its own sugar scrub and uses lines like OPI, Zoya, and Essie on clients.
Referrals typically come through word of mouth and the local newspaper, but Nailed has found that e-mail blasts also work well. Weekly specials and promotions offering discounts and special services have been successful at bringing clients in. “Because we’re next to the two high-end neighborhoods, we get a lot of stay-at-home moms,” Bennion says. “But because we’re close to downtown, we have some very prominent professionals who come and they make standing appointments.”
From athletes and husbands to elderly gentlemen, the salon also sees a variety of male clients, making up about 15% of the salon’s total clientele. “We actually have several men from the armed services that come when they’re on their leave,” Bennion says. “We also have a couple of musicians who come to get Shellac and build up the nails where they strum the guitar.”
Staying on the Beat “The last couple of years, business has boomed. We’ve had a 40% increase in services in 2011 over 2010,” Bennion says. In addition to the extensive service menu, the salon’s boutique has been a major point of interest for clients.
Nailed offers a wide variety of women’s accessories, including handbags, sandals, jewelry, scarves, headbands, and hats. “I do believe that’s what sets us apart. Women love to be able to come in here and pick up a gift or the perfect bracelet,” Bennion says.
Despite the popularity of the boutique, Nailed employees aren’t encouraged to help sell retail items. “We found that it was too hard to have them push things while they’re talking,” Bennion says. “A lot of times they’ll be wearing something and clients will ask, ‘Oh did you get that here?’ and we’ll sell it.”
Employees at Nailed are paid on a piecework scale, which is based on a commission-type structure but pays a dollar amount per service that they complete, Bennion says. “We run three different pay scales. You work to get up to each one depending on who is a bigger producer, has a great attitude, and is not missing work.”
Many employees were used to booth renting or commission-based pay scales, so piecework was definitely something new for them to get used to. “Trying to figure out our pay scale was probably one of the most challenging things,” she adds. “That was really difficult, getting people to buy into the idea that you’re still a service-oriented employee.”
Turnover at the salon is relatively low, with almost 60% of current employees having returned after leaving to attend school, have children, or move out of the area. “The current manager, Anna Evans, has been with me for five years. She started as my receptionist and then she went to school and got her license and then I gave her more managerial duties,” Bennion says. “We have a family feeling here.”
Depending on their experience, new employees are given ongoing training and must pass certain standards before they are allowed to work on clients. Nailed focuses considerably on teamwork, so employees aren’t driven to find their own clientele. “We have plenty of clients walking through the door,” Bennion says.
As a means to give back to the community, Nailed performs many service projects throughout the year and plans to kick off a campaign next April for Sexual Assault Awareness month. “For every pedicure we do during the month of April, we’re going to donate $1. We’re also going to ask clients if they want to kick in and match it,” Bennion says. Because the salon industry is female dominated, she adds that she hopes to work with others in the field to help women in need.
Salon Name: Nailed
Location: Salt Lake City
Owner: Tricia Bennion
Square Footage: 1,500
Years of ownership: 7
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 5/29 (5-7 nail techs; 4-5 receptionists; 18 estheticians)
Compensation: Piecework (techs receive a dollar amount per service)