In February, established salon Cali Spa moved into a two-story location in thriving northern Fort Wayne, Ind. The affordably priced salon not only hired additional nail techs, but also brought hairstylists, massage therapists, and estheticians onto their team, with the hopes of expanding into a one-stop beauty shop.
With 70% of its business focused on nails, Cali Spa’s downstairs manicure room can hold and service a large volume of customers at once. Also pictured is the salon’s second story, which features hair stations and private treatment rooms.
Cali Spa, based in Fort Wayne, Ind., might just be one of the biggest nail salons in the Midwest. The two-story, 11,800-sq.-ft. space houses 30 pedicure chairs and five long manicure tables, and easily sees about 100 clients on a busy day.
Husband and wife owners Kenny and Holly Nguyen have been in the business for 22 years. Both nail technicians, they met on the job and eventually opened their own salon together in 1993. Although they continuously moved into bigger and bigger locations as their clientele grew, it was always Kenny’s dream to keep expanding. So in February 2012, the Nguyens opened their biggest salon yet.
“When we finally opened Cali Spa at its current location, a customer came up to me and said, ‘Kenny, you did it,’” says Kenny Nguyen. “She remembered how way back I’d said one day I’d have a big, nice, and open shop with two levels.”
Despite facing a bad economy and a lot of discouragement from family and friends, the Nguyens just felt it was something they had to do. “I love this industry, and at the time I also wasn’t sure if I could make it myself,” says Nguyen. “But I just worked hard and believed in myself, and I think that’s how you make it.”
Based on Cali Spa’s past successes and the number of clients the new location is already bringing in, Nguyen predicts they will reach $1.7 million in its first year of business.
Cali Spa is a two-story 11,800-sq.-ft. salon that employs 25 nail technicians and can easily see about 100 customers per day.
BIG SPA, BIG COMPETITION
Situated on its own property rather than in a strip mall, Cali Spa gets a lot of attention from locals and passers-by, says Nguyen. However, since it’s located in such an up-and-coming part of Indiana, Cali Spa is not the only salon in the city.
To attract and maintain clients, the salon’s goal is to up the ante, making its services more high-end, yet keeping its prices lower than most of its competitors. Treatments at the salon remain within the $26 to $50 range.
One of the only services over $50 is Cali Spa’s popular Tropical Citrus Treatment. At their previous location, the Nguyens charged $45 but have since raised it to $55 due to its new and improved formula.
Clients soak their feet in a tub filled with tropical fruit such as slices of grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes. In addition to the pedicure itself, the treatment also includes a therapy clay mask, hot towels, and a hot stone massage.
For all of its services, Cali Spa tends to use what’s popular industry-wide. Current product brands offered include OPI, CND, and Hand & Nail Harmony. About 35% of the salon’s clients get acrylics, while the rest opt for standard lacquer or gel-polish, according to Nguyen.
“We may have raised our prices by a few dollars, but in the end, that’s not much; we really just want to keep our services affordable,” says Nguyen. “We still try to drop the prices for our loyal customers who we’ve known since we first started out.”
To make a profit, Cali Spa also takes more clients per day than it did before. The salon is open 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and there are about 25 nail technicians employed. Nail techs work on a rotating schedule.
Every year, Nguyen puts money toward promotional materials. “The most important part of our salon is our reputation,” says Nguyen. “If a customer recommends our salon to her friend, that’s how you know you’ve got the customer for sure.”
Cali Spa is almost always voted by residents as the “Best Salon for a Mani and Pedi in Fort Wayne,” which is announced in the local newspaper annually.
A rotunda in the back of the salon features a peaceful water fountain that guards the entryway of Cali Spa’s downstairs treatment rooms, which are reserved for waxing, facials, and massages.
Due to its size, Cali Spa is able to book large groups of clients at a time. And because of the nature of the space, clients can sit together at a round table while getting their manicures done or side-by-side at pedicure stations.
“Customers love the way the space allows for large-scale group conversation,” says Nguyen.
The salon hosts parties as well, where a group can rent out the space and get their nails done privately.
All customers at Cali Spa receive a complimentary beverage — anything from a can of soda to a glass of wine — regardless of how much their service costs.
ONE STOP SHOP
For the first time in the salon’s history, only 70% of its business is focused on nails. Although Cali Spa offers everything from natural nails to acrylics, the Nguyens have now decided to dabble in other areas of beauty treatment as well.
“This is the first time we’re offering hair, skin, and other services aside from nails,” says Nguyen. “I wanted to be a one-stop shop for everything people need for beauty.”
While the first level of the salon is dedicated to nails, the second story is for the other beauty needs. There is a handful of hair stations set up — stylists are commission-based and Cali Spa is looking to open up the space for booth rental in the near future. There are private rooms along the walls for facials, massages, skin treatments, waxing, spa treatments like foot reflexology, and more.
Massage therapy is a major component of Cali Spa’s current business. It’s integrated into some of the pedicure treatments and offered as a stand-alone service. Everything from Swedish massage to hot stone massage is available.
Cali Spa’s boutique section only sells products that the salon uses in their offered treatments. Popular brands include CND, OPI, and Hand & Nail Harmony.
Specialized massage services are also an option. The pregnancy massage, for example, helps decrease swelling, aches, anxiety, and depression caused by hormonal changes in mothers-to-be. It’s priced at $65 for 50 minutes and is only available for women who’ve passed their first trimester. The oncology massage, $35 for 25 minutes, is designed for cancer patients to help relieve pain and stress. It’s performed by an oncology massage therapist and is adapted to benefit each client’s personal situation.
The licensed massage therapists at Cali Spa must go through a week of training at the salon with the designated department trainer in addition to their regular schooling.
The non-nail beauty services at Cali Spa are still growing, and Nguyen hopes customers will soon start to rely on Cali Spa for a wide range of services.
“The unique thing about us is our location,” says Nguyen. “I think we have a very good and spacious spot, and I think it’ll lend itself well to a more diverse client crowd.”
Running a traditional boutique, Cali Spa sells the products they use on their clients. “We sell a lot of polish too, which is popular,” says Nguyen. “For the most part, customers buy products related to the service they receive. Nail clients buy nail products and hair clients buy hair products.”
Overall, the Nguyens are happy with how far they’ve come and the new additions they’ve made to their treatment menu and location.
“I think I’m a little lucky because we’ve only been open five or six months and we’re doing OK,” says Nguyen. “I hope that we grow even more here because we couldn’t ask for a better spot.”
The salon’s well-lit pedicure room features 30 Echo pedicure chairs from Continuum Footspas. According to co-owner and nail tech Kenny Nguyen, clients like booking appointments in large groups and having parties at Cali Spa’s new location.
Salon name: Cali Spa
Location: Fort Wayne, Ind.
Owners: Kenny and Holly Nguyen
Square Footage: 11,800
Opened: February 2012
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 25/38
Specialties: Soak-off gel nails and spa manis and pedis