With two salons, a licensed “concept,” and a third spa in the works, salon owner Cindy Huynh is leaving her tropical mark on Texas. Isle Pedi Spa’s design and services are as interesting as they are original.
This custom-built drying bar and manicure area is a friendly place where clients can relax before heading home. There is also a complimentary candy bar offering various snacks for clients to munch on.
After the success of Houston-based Isle Pedi Spa, which has generated over $2 million in revenue since its 2003 opening, salon owner Cindy Huynh had to open a second location.
Before the idea of another Isle Pedi Spa came to fruition, Huynh was booking more appointments than she knew what to do with. She hired additional nail technicians and extended the salon’s hours — to 12 hours a day, seven days a week — but it still wasn’t enough to accommodate her ever-growing clientele. Huynh began planning.
Finally, in July 2011, Isle Pedi Spa’s sister location was ready for business, and within months of its opening, it had already proven to be just as successful as the first. Huynh estimates that within the first year, they’ll make over $700,000 from the nail services alone.
Huynh strategically set up shop in the Memorial area of Houston, only a few blocks away from two affluent neighborhoods as well as a popular Houstonian shopping center — or the “mecca for all high-end clothing stores,” according to Huynh. This counterbalances Isle Pedi Spa’s first location, which borders Rice University and a large medical center, attracting a faster-paced crowd of working professionals.
“The great thing is the clientele who work near the first Isle Pedi Spa actually live near the second one, so they have the option of visiting both,” says Huynh. “The second location is still close enough to the first that we are hoping to push some of our overflow there.”
Between the two locations, Huynh has 55 employees. Of that, 36 are nail technicians, some serving as cosmetologists as well. The Memorial area location is about 2,700 square feet with 20 mani/pedi stations total. Ten are in the main area of the salon while the rest are in private two- and four-person suites available with advanced booking.
The “romantic suite” offers privacy and coziness. Large pillows and padded seats line the walls, while a hand-picked warm color scheme focused on shades of teal and gold.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME
What makes Isle Pedi Spa so distinct is that everything in it — from the decor to each service offered — is custom designed by Huynh.
“I had a vision to do something different — something outside the box,” says Huynh. “I wanted to make all my products myself with natural ingredients, and I wanted all of the furniture to fit perfectly. That’s how I came to the decision to open the first Isle.”
All of the lotions, scrubs, soaps, and oils used in Isle Pedi Spa have been developed especially for the salon and are blended in-house by Huynh and her staff. The original manicures and pedicures also aim to give customers something they can’t find anywhere else.
When Huynh sat down to create Isle’s long list of treatments, she noticed she was naturally incorporating a lot of tropical fruit like coconut, mango, and papaya. “I wanted the salon to be an escape, a paradise,” says Huynh. “So we chose to have an island theme because it was cohesive with everything we were doing.”
Isle’s signature manicure, and most popular treatment, is the Isle Naturale Manicure. Before nails are polished, clients’ hands are exfoliated with mango peel and a house-blended vanilla salt glow, dipped in a warm rose petal milk bath, and then conditioned with a milk and honey shea butter to seal in the moisture.
The salon also has well over 20 branded pedicures treatments to choose from including Sangria Sunset Pedicure, Herbal Green Tea Pedicure, Mangolicious Pedicure, Bahama Mama Pedicure, and Peppermint Sea Breeze Pedicure. Isle’s manicures range from $24 to $40, depending on the service, and pedicures are between $24 and $70.
In the mani/pedi area of the salon — which Huynh describes as looking retro-modern with a splash of glam — every piece of furniture is either custom built or hand-picked. Early on, Huynh experienced difficulty finding tables, chairs, and cabinets that fit the large and unconventional space, so rather than trying to find perfection, she designed it herself.
Isle Pedi Spa allocated 400 square feet to its retail section, which features over 600 different shades of high-end polish to purchase. Also available are candles, bath bombs, nail care products, neck wraps, flip flops, sandals, and all of the salon’s house-blended products.
“When you’re passionate about something, everything comes to you so naturally,” says Huynh. “People always ask, ‘Who is your designer?’ They don’t believe that I took measurements and then sat down with a paper and pen and drew it all out myself. Doing it all myself worked out a whole lot better.”
Each room in Isle features different designs, making the salon appeal to a diverse crowd. One of the private suits is nicknamed the “purple princess suite” because it is adorned with glitzy crystals, and its walls and pillows are lined with royal purple patterns. There is also the “romantic suite,” which has a warm color scheme focused on shades of teal and gold. According to Huynh, you’ll find a lot of male clients and couples occupying Isle’s suites because of the innate privacy they offer.
In total, there are over 30 crystal chandeliers throughout the spa and wall decals imported from designers in Beverly Hills. “I’ve always envisioned making the nail industry a little bit better and greater,” says Huynh. “I wanted to do something that would bring the spa-like atmosphere to customers without them having to go to a high-end spa.”
The front reception area of Isle Pedi Spa’s Memorial location has a clean and sophisticated look. The white walls, cabinets, and desks are balanced with splashes of bright pinks, purples, oranges, and silver.
Another reason Huynh was initially interested in customizing her salon space was to make sure that cleanliness was incorporated into every detail. “Even before the stories about whirlpool jets being unsanitary, sanitation was one of my most important priorities,” says Huynh. “Isle has been focused on that since the day we opened.” The salon only uses stainless steel pedicure tubs without whirlpool jets.
Isle Pedi Spa’s staff also includes housekeepers who focus specifically on disinfecting tools. Since each nail technician has about 20 to 30 pairs of nippers, they can simply throw used equipment into a bin; the housekeepers will then disinfect them using an autoclave and re-bag the tools for future use.
“Having that many nail techs to look after, making sure everyone is properly disinfecting equipment was a big issue for me,” says Huynh. “I don’t want to take any risks, so not allowing them to clean their own tools ensures that the process is done correctly every single time.”
As a nail technician, Huynh says she learned a lot from what her previous coworkers were and weren’t doing and used those observations to better her service. “I’m very meticulous,” says Huynh. “I host monthly meetings for my nail techs, and we’re always doing continuing education or going to trade shows to improve our techniques and remain sanitary. At the end of the day, the service speaks for itself.”
Nicknamed the “purple princess suite,” this is one of three private two-person suites available to clients via advance booking. The suite is adorned with glitzy crystals and very popular among Isle Pedi Spa’s regulars.
RETAIL: A SMALL BUT NECESSARY KICK
On top of having televisions built into every station, a coffee bar, and mimosas on the weekends, Isle Pedi Spa also offers a handful of extra nail- and skin-oriented amenities to clients during their service. Included are neck wraps, lotions, callus softeners, and over 700 polishes and 300 gel colors to choose from.
These extra amenities not only make a client’s experience more enjoyable, but also boost retail, as Isle employees make it a point to sell everything they use. “We encourage our clients to have a beauty regimen of their own at home, so we offer a wide array of products for upkeep in between services,” says Huynh. “My whole thing is I want to be able to offer everything to our clientele.” Huynh also pays her nail technicians 10% commission on all products they sell.
Only 3%-5% of revenue comes from retail for Isle Pedi Spa. However, Huynh considers this outcome well worth the effort. “Although only 3%-5% of our revenue comes from retail, that’s out of two million, which is a decent amount,” says Huynh. “The goal is to have the retail help pay for things like utilities or electricity bills, so an extra $5,000 to $6,000 a month is a huge kick.”
Another large source of income for Isle Pedi Spa is its gift certificates, which come pre-wrapped and decorated with a fresh orchid. “Clients love them because they’re already packaged nicely so they make great and easy gifts,” says Huynh. “Gift certificates are the best advertising because they get someone new through the door.” Huynh has calculated that about 95% of purchased Isle Pedi Spa gift certificates are redeemed annually.
The Sole Relief pedicure features fresh citrus and sliced grapefruit in a personal foot bath. Clients also receive a house blended grapefruit sanitizer and exfoliating bath salt.
Isle Pedi Spa has become such a marketable brand that Huynh even began licensing out the concept. Other individually owned salons can pay to use Isle’s unique menu. So far, a total of two salons — both featured on Isle’s website — are doing this. Huynh was also approached recently by real estate firms asking her to build a third location in a posh Texas shopping center.
“When we first opened, getting into a nice shopping center was difficult, but after the second Isle Pedi Spa opened, it was easier to get the space we wanted.”
For the third location, Huynh plans to custom design all of the furniture again.
Salon Name: Isle Pedi Spa (Memorial location)
Owner: Cindy Huynh
Square Footage: 2,700
Opened: July 2011
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 36/55 (rotated between two locations)
Specialties: Tropical custom-designed manicures and pedicures