While the nail area of Diva A Nail Boutique in Fresno, Calif., serves as the hub of the business, the salon’s retail boutique accounts for 80% of its revenue.
The pedicure area is tucked away in the back of the salon allowing technicians to lower the lights during services. Vanessa Ginder Dinkel, co-owner and manager, called the pedicure area “a good massage turf” for the reflexology specialty service.
It’s not easy to be a diva when the going gets rough. But when opportunity knocks, and a nail salon falls into your lap, the diva in you just might come out.
In January 2009, the Ginder family faced a hardship after grandfather Edward “Eddie” Vitali passed away. Vitali was survived by his wife, 85-year-old Diva. A year later the Ginders, who’ve been involved in property management for around 30 years, were faced with something that would normally result in a headache for the family. In May 2010 a business vacated one of their buildings, leaving behind a nail salon in Fresno, Calif.
The Ginders felt inspired and chose to keep it. “We thought, since we have this nail place, what are we going to name it?” remembers Vanessa Ginder Dinkel, co-owner and co-manager of the salon. “Duh,” she laughs, “My grandmother’s name is Diva.” Ginder Dinkel and her mother Debbie Ginder have now owned and managed Diva A Nail Boutique since services began just a month after they were handed the keys.
The nail salon acts as more than just a business to this family because every day it plays a therapeutic role in their lives, especially for Diva, who became sick after the death of her husband Eddie — a man she was married to for 62 years.
“She went into a downward spiral,” says Ginder Dinkel, adding that after telling her grandmother about the salon and their decision to name it after her, Diva’s health changed immediately.
Open for more than a year, Diva is looking to offer classes and training to its technicians, but for now they learn from each other. Pictured are four of the manicurists. (Maria Laursen and Lisa McFall give Andrea Packey and Lori Adams manicures.)
Polishing a Hidden Gem
In its French decor and tulle fabrics, Diva sits next to another family business, Preen Salon. Diva provides the nail services and a boutique specializing in women’s plus-size clothing and accessories, and Preen Salon provides full hair and makeup design.
The two salons are located in what Ginder Dinkel describes as an up-and-coming office park and retail area of Fresno called Palm Bluff. What were originally large, grassy grounds are fast developing.
The family’s largest problem in making the business grow is that Diva doesn’t have street exposure. The salon is tucked behind a law office and financial adviser. “It’s a terrible thing for us,” says Ginder Dinkel, adding, “Whenever a customer walks in amazed at the salon, I always say we’re a diamond in the bluff.”
The nail boutique accepts walk-ins, but without street exposure Ginder Dinkel does a lot of promotion through online advertising via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. She offers first-time client discounts, coupons, weekly giveaways, and other promotions through charities.
Ginder Dinkel notes a deal in December 2010 on the deal-finding website LivingSocial.com was a successful marketing tool for the salon. “People can always find a way to get in for a little cheaper,” she says. The salon also pays to ensure a presence in online search engines, and has been featured in Fresno Magazine.
In other marketing strategies, as of press time Ginder Dinkel was collaborating with a local radio station to have a “Rock Star” event, where people can get deals on rock star nail designs. “We’re just reaching out to the community as much as possible and using what we have to keep people coming back here,” Ginder Dinkel says. Gelish and rock star are favorite nail styles in Fresno, she says. “Everyone likes sparkle, sparkle, sparkle up here.”
To reach a broad range of customers, the salon has a casual feel. “It’s a comfortable place; it’s not pretentious and it’s very inviting,” she says, adding that men can be divas too, making up around 5%-10% of the nail boutique’s clientele.
Diva offers its clients water, tea, coffee, and snacks. The technicians might even spend time helping a customer shop in the boutique.
From the entrance, clients can easily browse while waiting for services.
Managing the Inner Goddess
Diva is a booth rental salon, allowing service pricing to vary among the nail stylists. The services aren’t the cheapest of the area, says Ginder Dinkel, but giving high-quality services is the salon’s goal. “I have a lot of people unwilling to deviate from that $15 manicure.”
According to Ginder Dinkel, Diva salon competes with about half the market in Fresno. Ginder Dinkel and her mother Debbie use the experience of other salon owners to learn about the world of nails, while staying abreast of industry magazines and online sites as well. They used other similar bracketed salons to come up with the initial pricing. The exchange of information also goes the other way. Diva technicians offer training to outside nail stylists.
Cleanliness quickly became a top priority for the nail boutique, says Ginder Dinkel, who avoids using jets for any of the spa equipment due to the bacteria build-up that can occur. “If you think you’re clean, we’re cleaner,” she says. Technicians are required to keep a pedicure log to help keep oversight of cleanliness. They also do mock inspections of each other’s stations and invite technicians to come from other salons to do the same.
Another one of Ginder Dinkel’s mainstays is her management style. “I don’t micromanage,” she says, adding that if there’s one thing she has learned, “People appreciate it more when you treat them with professional respect.”
Ginder Dinkel deals with any staff problems immediately. If someone has an issue, she addresses it. But when it comes to beauty shop gossip, she says, “I won’t allow it because I’ve seen it too many times.” This approach allows a warm environment for technicians and clients alike. “It feels more like a family than a working environment but not in an intrusive way,” she says.
Over the last year, Diva has fared well through penny-pinching times, which haven’t been easy for any nail salon owner. Ginder Dinkel attributes this hard work to her mother Debbie. “I’ve never really seen her afraid of anything — she has always been that strong person, where if anything happens she doesn’t get discouraged,” Ginder Dinkel says. “I don’t see many people with that fire with everything that’s happening; she’s always like ‘oh we can do that.’ ”
A main line of products used and sold is from Diva and Diva’s Eddie for Men, created by Ginder Dinkel.
All Diva, All the Time
Ginder Dinkel sells her own products: the Diva line and Diva’s Eddie for Men. “I had been dabbling with making my own skin care products for a couple of years, and then I found this chemist,” she says. Once she had a place to sell the product, she moved forward with its creation.
Her line includes products such as sugar scrubs, lotions, soaps, salt scrubs, and massage oils. The nail technicians receive discounts on the boutique items and 10% commission if they sell Diva products.
“I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on the product,” Ginder Dinkel says. “My manicurists choose to use the products in their back bar — I do not force anything on them. It’s all their own choice.” The Diva lines include mostly salon and spa-related items, but also consist of items like shower gel and lip balm. Diva’s Eddie line even contains a shoe powder for men.
The boutique, where mostly everything sells for under $50, has proven an important element for Diva. According to Ginder Dinkel, the boutique makes up around 80% of the salon’s revenue. She is currently looking to develop an online retail site for the boutique, which could help market the salon as well.
“Having the boutique definitely helps with the rent,” says Ginder Dinkel, an accountant who actually lives in Los Angeles’ Fashion District. While this forces her to commute regularly up to Fresno — a four- to five-hour drive — living in that part of Los Angeles allows her easy access to the newest styles and wholesale shopping for the boutique.
Though fashion isn’t always the same in the Fresno area compared to Los Angeles trends, eventually it catches up. “Leggings were a hard sell, but it worked out,” says Ginder Dinkel, who added that she also does personal shopping for clients on occasion. She enjoys this part of the job and having access to a large fashion market helps, where recently she had to find a purple cowboy hat for a customer — and was successful.
Salon Name: Diva A Nail Boutique
Location: Fresno, Calif.
Owner: Debbie Ginder and Vanessa Ginder Dinkel
Square Footage: 2,650
Opened: June 2010
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 5/8
Specialties: Reflexology and party appointments