Sisters Castle and Lauren Searcy built their business from the ground up, opening their very first salon, Tootsies Nail Shoppe, in 2006. After hard work and diligent cross-promoting, they now run two salons, a certified nail school, and a barbershop, all under the Tootsies brand.
Tootsies’ interior is comprised of one large room equipped with two nail bars and seven individual pedicure chairs. The openness of the space makes the salon’s atmosphere exceedingly social.
Tootsies the Nail Shoppe of Washington Park is one of two locations in Denver founded by sisters Castle and Lauren Searcy. Although Tootsies offers spa-quality services, its atmosphere is anything but pretentious. The 650-sq.-ft. salon is comprised of one open room with seven individual pedicure chairs and two nail bars, which hold about eight clients each. During treatments, customers sit facing one another, and according to salon owner Castle Searcy, this layout has created an exceedingly social environment.
“Everyone talks; it’s kind of family style,” says Searcy. “We’re like an old school barbershop, but with chic decor. So I’d say that makes Tootsies a modern-day beauty shop.”
Checkered floors, wooden tables, and crystal chandeliers give the salon a vintage look, while bright turquoise walls and metallic silver lining add an air of contemporariness.
Searcy says the design is a fusion of inspirations — including the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” the Chrysler Building, and 1940s art deco — all with an industrial twist.
Salon owner Castle Searcy describes Tootsies’ decor as “New York art deco meets ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ with an industrial twist.” Initially, the Searcy sisters put in a lot of personal effort to make the salon’s underdeveloped space attractive.
THE SECRET SERVICE
Denver residents come from far and wide for Tootsie’s unique service. Co-owner Lauren Searcy, who has worked with nails since the age of 17, claims to have discovered a new long-lasting solution that delays polish chipping by weeks.
“We have a special technique we teach our staff and use what we think are the best products,” says her sister. “Our prices aren’t low, but we’re competitive considering the quality we provide. And clients say it’s worth it because of our polishing secret.”
While the Searcy sisters didn’t share their secret with NAILS, they did say they use mostly OPI products.
Catering to a more “on-the-go” type of clientele, which includes young professionals, career women, and people who generally stay active, Tootsies offers an “express” version of almost everything on its menu. Therefore, even clients who come in on their lunch breaks can find something fitting. “As a boutique salon, we aren’t just about the manis and the pedis, but the overall experience as well,” says Castle Searcy.
The salon’s most popular service is the express pedicure, priced at $33. It takes exactly 30 minutes to perform, Searcy guarantees. “Punctuality is part of our reputation. Clients can rely on us and know that we won’t go overtime on a service so they can get back to work without worrying,” says Searcy. “The assurance is what our customers find relaxing.”
Express manicures run 15 minutes and are priced at $17. Both the express manicure and pedicure include all of the basic treatment elements such as a soak, filing, cuticle/callus attention, buffing, and polish.
Clients can upgrade to a spa pedicure ($48) or spa manicure ($32), which tacks on an extra 15 minutes to the service. It includes a sugar scrub in addition to a 10-minute massage with aromatherapy.
While the salon focuses on natural nails, the Searcys recently introduced Hand & Nail Harmony’s Gelish and OPI’s GelColor gel-polish lines, which have become very popular among Tootsies’ clients. The Gelish mani is $37 for express and $52 for spa, and the GelColor mani is priced at $40 for express and $55 for spa.
Featured above is a handful of Tootsies’ nail techs and employees, including founders Castle (sixth from left) and Lauren Searcy (seated in foreground).
INVEST IN TRAINING
Training is a very important part of Tootsies’ operation. Every Tootsies nail tech completes an official apprenticeship before going out on the floor, even if she’s already licensed. “What we teach them is different from anything they’ll learn in nail school,” says Searcy.
The salon has its own training manager, Tracey Moore. She is in charge of quality control and handles all basic and product training. Before acquiring this position, she studied under Lauren Searcy for many years and teaches her students Searcy’s personal methods. Employees can spend anywhere from two days to a month training with Moore, and she determines when they are customer-ready.
“We are all about consistency,” says Searcy. “We want to make sure that every pedicure or manicure is standard regardless of the nail tech performing the service. The intense training leads to better service all around, which leads to more repeat customers.”
The salon is also very strict about refusing service to people with any, even minor, signs of nail fungus or infection. According to Searcy, this is a big problem in Denver since many people ski recreationally, frequently injuring their toes. These injuries can lead to fungal problems without a customer even realizing. Employees are trained to handle this situation in a respectful manner.
This large “Tootsies the Nail Shoppe” sign sits outside Tootsies’ Washington Park location. Its color and design echo the decor of the salon’s interior, which is described by salon owner Castle Searcy as “New York art deco.”
BUILDING A BRAND
After the success of their in-house training programs, the Searcys started Tootsies University, a certified nail school for people who have never done nails before. There are two campuses in Colorado. With the university, the Searcys hope to reinvigorate the nail industry in Denver and create more nail techs.
“As Tootsies salons grew, we needed more skilled nail techs and had a hard time finding them,” says Searcy. “With a local education program available, we hope to increase the market.”
Clients can obtain services from students at these locations for a discounted price. The University website reads, “These students are trained under the same Tootsies System…Clients can enjoy the same quality service, just with someone a little less experienced and maybe a little less timely than a Tootsies Signature Nail Technician.”
In addition to the Nail University and the second Tootsies salon location in the Highlands of Denver, the Searcy’s also oversee a barbershop called Proper, which offers nail services.
Tootsies Nail Shoppe has also partnered with Beauty Bar, a salon-themed nightclub, for “Martinis and Manicures.” Attendees can get a free mini manicure with the purchase of a $10 martini; nail techs are there five nights a week.
The Searcy’s have partnered with a few local yoga and dance studios over the years as well. “We’re building a cross-promotion network between our salon and other entities,” Searcy says.
While Lauren is the master nail technician at Tootsies, Castle has a background in marketing and sees even greater potential in their brand.
“I want to expand Tootsies even outside of Colorado after expanding organically in Denver,” says Searcy. “The main plan is to eventually franchise or license our locations out.”
Tootsies has two nail bars at its Washington Park location, each sitting seven to eight clients at a time.
Salon Name: Tootsies the Nail Shoppe
Location: 2 salons in Denver
Owner: Castle and Lauren Searcy
Square Footage: 650 and 550
Opened: 2006 (original location)
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 11/40
Specialties: Express manis and pedis, long-lasting polish