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.

Clients can also enjoy a variety of fresh bakery items, sandwiches, and beverages at Scandals’ Cafe Capricho’s.

She Has It Her Way

Deanna Ticker, owner of The Nail Patch (11 technicians), says clients come for the relaxing decor, country music, and the chatty casual atmosphere. Her reasons for opening her own salon were simple:”I felt it would be a good experience for me. I like doing nails and I wanted to get into my own salon, run it the way I want, do the books the way I think best, and decorate it the way I like.”

So, with her mother, Nancy Harkess, Tucker found the ideal location in a shopping center next to a grocery store. With the help of a few friends, she tore out: walls and countertops, painted, installed tile and sinks, put up ceiling fans, and had carpeting installed. She does nails 40 hours a week and spends another 10 to 20 hours managing the salon. Harkess man ages the books.

The Nail Patch doesn’t have a receptionist, hut Tuckers station is next to the front door and she greets clients as they enter. The salon atmosphere is casual, and when the radio isn’t playing, the television is usually on. There’s a phone at each station and technicians take turns answering.

“Trying to keep everyone happy is the biggest difficult. says Tucker Everyone works a lot of hours so it’s a challenge to keep everyone in harmony.” She says keeping the salon clean takes more time than anything else.

Nails Are Booming

The first person you see when you enter Concept salon is Marion Durk, the well-dressed owner whose own grooming speaks well for her salon’s services. Durk greets each customer and notifies the technician of the client’s arrival through the intercom system.

The next thing you notice is the soothing cream decor that gives the salon a fresh and clean look. Class retail display cases on either side of the entrance and at the reception desk invite customers to browse while they wait.

After 30 years as a hairstylist, Durk decided to get out from behind the chair and get behind the desk as a salon owner. She opened Concept salon 3 1/2 years ago. Durk wasn’t prepared for the large demand for nail services, and had to remodel after being open less than one year to make space for more nail stations. The salon now has 12 nail technicians, IS hairstylists, and one esthetician.

Concept is across the street from one Top 100 salon and just a half- mile down the street from another, but Durk says she doesn’t have to compete for clientele. The majority of new customers are referred by regulars, and most clients crossover for more than one service.

Management of the salon is a full- time job, and Durk savs she spends her days answering phones, looking appointments, and selling retail products. “Management of the salon is very hard. There are always problems and personality’ conflicts, but I just deal with them as they come up.”

A self-admitted clean freak, Durk says that even though a cleaning crew comes each evening, she also spends a portion of each day spot-cleaning the salon. And every Saturday night she stays late with the cleaning staff to scrub each station from top to bottom.

Partners Share Work, Wealth

While Edie Engstrom was negotiating the lease for her new salon, the enormity of what she was taking on hit her. “The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn’t want to be in the salon six days a week,” she says. Engstrom remembered that Donna Perez a nail technician she went to beauty school with, had planned on opening a salon as well, so Engstrom contacted her to see if she was interested in a partnership. That was five years ago, and the owners of Sante Fe Tan & Nails haven’t looked back.

Sante Fe Tan & Nails has 12 nail technicians, one hairstylist, and four tanning beds. Engstrom says they were prepared to support the salon financially for a few months, but it filled with technicians and clients almost immediately.

Fortunately for them, there were no competing nail salons in their area. To keep things that way, Engstrom negotiated an exclusivity clause into the lease, which guaranteed that no salons offering nails, skin care, or tanning could open in the same shopping center. That, and the large grocery store that moved into the center, has spelled continued success for the salon.

Perez and Engstrom both like the freedom and flexibility that a partnership offers them. How do they split the responsibilities? Engstrom handles the bookkeeping and Perez collects the rents and makes the deposit each week, but otherwise they share management responsibilities equally. Whoever is in the salon when a problem arises handle’s it, says Engstrom.

Santo Fe Tan & Nails has a low turnover rate, says Engstrom, because there is never a lack of clients. “In fact, we had to turn seven full sets away last Friday because we were all booked up,” she says.

Engstrom and Perez work to make technicians happy “Donna and I don’t take walk-ins ourselves unless no one else is available because we don’t want to take business from our renters,” says Engstrom.

The salon offers technicians one week’s free rent for vacation each year and a few weeks’ free rent for technicians on maternity leave, They also try to help new technicians by reducing their rent in exchange for help at the reception desk. An additional bonus is free tanning for renters.

Do Your Homework

“Walk-Ins Welcome” reads the banner hanging below the Paula’s Nail Garden sign, and walk in they do. Owner Paula Bayer says walk-ins account for at least 25% of salon business. This isn’t just luck: Before realizing her 10-year dream of owning her own salon, Bayer did some homework and found a location in a shopping center off of busy Sahara Boulevard.

She says it was scary when she first opened, but within one week she had five technicians working with her. She says choosing the right technicians has made managing the salon much easier and has contributed to its success.”I look for people who fit the salon. I want someone who’s established and a little older. I can’t have a lot of turnover because a salon gets a reputation really quick,” says Bayer who judges applicants by their appearance, size of client base, and number of years in the business. Paula’s Nail Garden now has 11 technicians.

It’s also helped that Paula’s Nail Garden and the hair salon next door refer clients to each other. Bayer has thought about opening a second salon but says her success conies from her being in the salon, accessible to clients. “It’s mine and I’ve created it. I own it and people like me here,” she says.

Sit Down, Relax

Judi and Mario Sabatini originally didn’t plan to purchase a salon when they mewed to Las Vegas from Now York in October 1992, but wheal they saw an ad for the sale of Chippenails, they decided to take” a look. “It was really busy and the’ technicians were nice,” says Judi.

“I thought it would be a good way to build my clientele,” says Judi, a hairstylist. Since the salon’s two hair stations were in the back of the salon behind a wall, the first item eat the Sabatini’s agenda was to remodel. They knocked out the wall, removed one of the hair stations, and moved the other to the front of the salon so Judi would have high visibility with the nail clients.

The 13-station salon currently has 10 nail technicians, and the Sabatinis plan to add more when the time is right. “I want it to be as comfortable as a smaller salon. I don’t want customers to feel like they’re in a ‘get ‘em in, get ‘em out” shop. I’ve worked for large beauty salons in the past and that’s not how I want mine to be,” says Judi.

The salon attracts a lot of walk-ins, and many of them return as regular customers. Judi attributes that to the salon’s reasonable prices. “This is a lower income area and our prices have really helped. I like that because I want to deal with working people.” she says.

Common Denominators

  1. With one exception, all 12 large Las Vegas salons are located in shopping centers on busy streets.
  2. All 12 rent space to independent contractors, who are carefully screened and judged on appearance and personality, as well as their ability to do good nails.
  3. Las Vegas has very few discount salons.
  4. While the decorating styles vary, each salon boasts clean floors and work surfaces, gleaming walls, and tidy bathrooms.
  5. These salon owners spend their energy on what they do best. For some, that means managing the salon full-time, while others do nails all day long and hire someone else to answer the phones and do the bookkeeping.



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