Run by nail tech Terri Silacci, Nail Candy Lounge gives clients out-of-the-box nails and all the sweets they can eat. This small Monterey, Calif.-based salon made a big splash in the fashion world last year with its snakeskin pedicure.
Silacci workshops the techniques needed for her more creative services in her home studio, which has a duplicate of everything she keeps in her salon.
Nail Candy Lounge owner Terri Silacci has never gotten a pedicure. Though an industry veteran of 17 years, she refuses on principle and attributes part of her success to this personal choice.
“I’m not saying I won’t eventually get a fabulous pedicure from someone else, but as of now, I want to keep it this way,” says Silacci. “I don’t want to be influenced. I’ve always relied on my own vision and I’ve been fearless, which is why I continue to do such crazy, out-of-the-box things.”
Silacci’s creativity allows her to work as a one-woman show. She’s known for her custom manicures and intricate design work. She experiments with unique materials — such as snakeskin, real gold, and recycled bras to name a few — crafting something original for each client. Silacci’s book is always full, so clients wait an average of two to three weeks to snag an appointment.
Nail tech Terri Silacci rents space in Euphoria Salon and Spa in Monterey, Calif., to run Nail Candy Lounge.
In September 2010, Silacci opened Nail Candy Lounge, a small salon within Euphoria Lounge Salon and Spa in Monterey, Calif. There, she combines her love for off-the-wall nail treatments with a seemingly endless supply of candy for her customers to snack on. Being the sole nail tech, Silacci only has one luxury pedicure chair in her space and a manicure station built for two.
A SWEET ESCAPE
Aptly named, Nail Candy Lounge serves everything from jellybeans to Pixie Stix. When Silacci was creating the concept for her new salon, she was inspired by old apothecary jars she had and decided to fill them with candy for decoration. The concept quickly evolved. “The candy went from an idea to a decoration, and now it’s literally feeding the entire salon and spa,” says Silacci.
All salon customers, including those who aren’t Silacci’s, frequent the candy jars several times an appointment. And from week to week, the candy selection is never the same. This amenity is an expensive trademark, but one Silacci doesn’t have the heart to cut back on.
The waiting room features black leather couches, marble floors, and modern light fixtures. Silacci describes the salon as having an upscale feel with a relaxed attitude.
“It’s funny because the candy created an ambiance throughout the entire spa,” says Silacci. “For adults and the elderly, they get a sense of nostalgia; they love it because it’s a treat they haven’t revisited for many years.”
According to Silacci, her treatments — as well as her candy — serve as literal therapy for many of her clients. Since her pedicures average about 90 minutes and focus on one customer at a time, the relaxed clients end up talking about what’s going on in their lives.
A good listener, Silacci tries to cater her treatments to her client’s specific needs. “Someone might come in complaining of a cold, so I’ll put some lavender, eucalyptus, and peppermint into the footbath, or if a client has a hormone imbalance where she’s getting hot flashes, I’d put some ylang-ylang into her lotion or scrub,” says Silacci.
Colors are also custom blended for clients at Nail Candy Lounge. Silacci doesn’t want her clients to settle for something else. “Many people come in with a bottle of nail polish asking if I have that color in gel polish. Then I custom blend that shade for them,” says Silacci. “I like when my clients breathe a sigh of relief when they leave, feeling better than they did when they came in.”
Nine out of 10 of Silacci’s clients get gel manicures or pedicures, and the majority of clients request design work as well.
Between the candy, the personalized services, and the one-on-one attention, Silacci says a lot of her clients describe Nail Candy Lounge as an escape. “I didn’t even see a decrease in business during the economic downturn,” says Silacci. “My take on it is: When the economy slips, people look for a place to escape. It makes them feel better, so they factor it into their budget.”
The salon has an upscale feel with a relaxed attitude. The decor is predominantly black and white with iridescent chandeliers and puffy leather couches. Silacci defines its style as “rocker chic meets glam girl.” In Nail Candy Lounge, tall candle fixtures and transparent candy jars give the sophisticated space a splash of color.
BIRTH OF SILACCI’S SNAKESKIN
Nail Candy Lounge features an assortment of free candy stored in apothecary jars. The sugar supply feeds not only Silacci’s clients, but Euphoria Salon and Spa customers as well.
Silacci receives a lot of attention for her snakeskin manis and pedis, which use real snakeskin. Also called the “Python Pedicure,” her treatment was named Vogue’s best pedicure of 2011. And to whom does she owe the credit for this innovative creation? Her children.
According to Silacci, her children came home one day with real snakeskin sheds they found while playing in the backyard. It sparked an idea for Silacci, who had to find a way to sandwich the snakeskin between coats of gel and get it to last the full six to eight weeks, as customers would expect.
“I was giggling thinking, ‘Wow this is great,’ as I put it on people’s nails,” says Silacci. “Getting the science behind it took a while, but I managed, and then when Vogue asked for the pedicure exclusively, the rest was history.”
Realizing that not every manicurist was going to be able to get a hold of real snakeskin, Silacci came up with a synthetic version that looks almost identical, but with more color. Silacci charges $300 for a real snakeskin pedicure, which takes about two hours to complete, and $150 for the synthetic version.
“Clients who fly in just for the snakeskin manis and pedis are a special breed of client,” says Silacci. “Those are the ones I ask: Do you want to try the synthetic version maybe with some 24-carat gold lining? And they say absolutely not; they only want the real thing.”
EVERYTHING’S AN INSPIRATION
Silacci’s personal motto is “inspire and be inspired.” Therefore, any pattern or design she comes across can become groundwork for a future pedicure.
“Everything around me is a possible adornment for a toenail,” says Silacci. “I went into a department store once and saw a Betsey Johnson handbag that just struck me, so I bought it because I didn’t want to forget the pattern.”
She hand-paints patterns onto her clients’ nails, and, similarly to her snakeskin pedis, she also uses real material to achieve intricate designs. She calls this process “couture coating” — Silacci dresses a nail in a piece of fabric and cures it with clear gel.
One of the most popular fabrics among her clients is lace. Silacci uses recycled lace bras in a myriad of colors, and cuts lace from the backing into small pieces that fit each client’s nail individually. It’s a highly custom-tailored process that can take anywhere from 75 to 90 minutes.
Silacci workshops the techniques needed for these services in her home studio, which has a duplicate of everything she keeps in her salon. “I have a workbench, a corkboard, a wall-sized chalkboard, blank nails, and swatches,” says Silacci. “When my kids are asleep at night, I’m in there doodling on my chalkboard, playing, and trying to figure out how to duplicate patterns effectively.”
Personalized pedicures, custom nail work, and an endless candy supply make Nail Candy Lounge a relaxing place.
And to stay abreast of what’s going on in the industry, Silacci prefers to read about fashion rather than nail trends. “I like looking at Italian magazines from two years ago to see what trends will happen here or resurface,” says Silacci. She also teaches classes once a month and attends a training center a block away from her salon in an upscale beauty supply shop.
Since her business has only grown in the past couple of years, she is considering hiring a back-up nail technician to support her while she’s doing special nail assignments out of town. She’s hoping to find someone with the same fearless attitude she possesses. “The one thing I always tell people is to inspire and be inspired, invent and reinvent,” says Silacci. “You should never be afraid to do nails. It’s not permanent, so go with your vision and try anything.”
Salon Name: Nail Candy Lounge
Location: Monterey, Calif.
Owner: Terri Silacci
Square Footage: 120
Opened: September 2010
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 1
Specialties: Gel nails, custom manis/pedis, “couture coating”
Compensation: Booth renter