Las Vegas: Land of the Large Salons

Owners of the largest salons in Las Vegas say the right location, the right people, and a desirable atmosphere helped them achieve their size, but after that it was just plain hard work.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that Las Vegas, Nev., which attracts 1.8 million tourists each month, is home to nine of the 10 largest hotels in the United States. The vacation getaway is well-known for its huge gambling casinos, international celebrity shows, and unearthly warm weather. So it should stand to reason that a town known for its extravagance is home to some of the biggest salons in the country.

In NAILS’ 1993 Top 100 Salons report, 13 Las Vegas salons made the list. That’s more Top 100 salons than in any other city, let alone any other state.

Las Vegas is not just a vacation paradise anymore — the city population 838,882, attracts 2,400 new residents each month, which creates a wide open market for nail salons in city whose residents love to look good. Several of the big salon owners are themselves transplants from other states.

“Las Vegas is a city of glitz and glamour,” says Marion Durk, owner of Concept salon (12 technicians). “Beautiful women are a clime a dozen here.” Durk says her customers view nail services not as a luxury, but as a necessity. She explains that because many Las Vegas residents work in the public eye- in restaurants, hotels, casinos, and retail outlets— their hands and nails have to be well-groomed.

Paula Phillips, owner of Artistic Nail Design (15 technicians) agrees: “Everyone loves having their nails done. Women here are very conscious of their appearance because this is traditionally a service-oriented city.

Several other salon owners attribute their growth to the lack of discount salons in Las Vegas, which they say means less competition.

But in most cases, the large size of these salons can be attributed to simple economics, has Vegas is a booth rental town, and nail salons have found that to afford advertising and a receptionist, both of which help salons grow and prosper, they have to have more renters to cover the overhead.

Brenda Leaver, co-owner of A Hair & Nail College, also cites high space rent as another reason to have a larger salon.

But just opening a salon with a lot of technicians is certainly no guarantee that a lot of clients will come. What arc their secrets to success? The common denominators for these salons are the right location, the right people, and the right atmosphere.

All but one of the Top 100 salons in Las Vegas are located in shopping centers with strong anchor stores such as Wal-Mart, Boss, Vons, TJ Maxx, or Smiths. Most are located near affluent residential areas rather than near the strip or downtown areas, where most of the hotels and casinos are.

In addition to the right location, each salon has created an environment that appeals to its clientele. As these salons demonstrate, there is no “dress for success” code for a salon. Each salon has a distinct look that expresses the owner’s preference and personality. There are no blank white walls in these salons, from high-tech black to soothing creams to country charm, each salon has a visual appeal that invites clients to come in and relax.

Location and decor mean nothing, however, if you don’t have the right people. These owners and their .stalls believe in servicing customers, not just doing their nails. Each salon has its own personal touches, but a few basic rules consistent with all the salons include greeting clients and making sure they’re helped as soon as they enter the salon, offering refreshments, and never hurrying a client.

Mini-Salon Concept Takes Off

Ultra Salon (23 technicians) owners Don and Kathy Smith had 64 enclosed work areas built in their10, 500-square-foot salon. Each space has four walls, a window, and a door. Kathy likens renting a station at Ultra Salon to renting an apartment.

Says Kathy, “The salon appeals to independent operators who want to be in business for themselves but don’t want or can’t afford the overhead and hassles of their own salon.”

Although the setup appears isolating, clients like the privacy, says Kathy. “They can talk about anything with their technician and they don’t have to worry about anyone overhearing them. The technicians like it because the can operate as their own business, and they don’t have to be involved in salon politics.”

Ultra Salon is located on the second floor of a shopping center and is accessed by elevator through the Smiths’ retail beauty supply on the first floor. Kathy says the arrangement is ideal because the retail beauty center downstairs attracts customers for the salon. Although the salon does not profit from the beauty center’s sales, the Smiths do pay- to advertise the salon and beauty center. The Smiths also pay for a salon receptionist.

A World Away

Bob Couch wanted to create a restful getaway, so he designed an open floor plan with plenty of space between workstations. His salon, Fox & Co. Hair & Nail Studio (19 technicians), has a greenery-filled fountain in the center and plants scattered throughout the salon. Workstations are turned away from each other to give clients a sense of privacy.

“I went to all types of salons — big and little — in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose There were only a handful that did not treat clients like school kids by lining them up in rows. I knew that the concept of soft colors, open space, and lots of greenery would appeal to clients.”

To ensure that his salon is restful for clients, Couch has one strict rule for technicians and stylists “You’re the first one to know there’s a problem, I’m the second person, and no one else better know,” he says.

“Some people think grandiose size creates success, but you have to have something that takes it to another level. There’s got to be something the client remembers and feels good about,” he says. “I have an excellent mix of people who treat their customers well. They’re not late for appointments and they do quality work.”

Couch is planning to expand Fox & (Jo. another 2,000 square feet at its current location, and he is actively pursuing a second location on the other side of town.

Small Salon Feeling

The first year for A Hair & Nail Cottage was rough, admits co-owner Brenda Leaver. She opened with 10 nail stations, but only she and one other technician had an established clientele. “There wasn’t another salon anywhere around us and the demand for nails is just incredible,” says Leaver. “It wasn’t long before we needed more space.”

When the suite next door became available, Leaver leased the space and added hair services. She soon took over another suite and added more nail stations. The salon, which just celebrated its seventh anniversary, now has 18 nail technicians and 12 hairstylists, and is planning to add an esthetician by Christmas 1993.

“It’s a lot easier with a smaller shop because there’s less cleaning and so on. But you can’t afford to pay a full-time receptionist with just 10 people,” says Leaver, explaining - why she expanded. “The rent is pretty high everywhere in Las Vegas, close to $2 per square foot, so I found that a small salon is just not profitable.” To retain the feel of a small salon, Leaver kept the walls between each suite and limited the number of operators in each room to 10.

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