L to R: manager Esther Ton, owner Fawn Ton, and nail tech Mia Yang
Ki Nail Bar in downtown Los Angeles is the girly Japanese sister of Chi Nail Bar in Beverly Hills. Earlier this week, I got to visit this newly opened nail salon and spa in downtown’s Japanese Village Plaza and chat with owner Fawn Ton. For those of you long-time NAILS readers, you may recall my boss Hannah Lee’s visit to Chi Nail Bar about three years ago when the original location opened.
Ki really takes on its own personality from big sister Chi (where “Chi” means life force in Chinese; “Ki” means the same in Japanese). There is a family resemblance. Both spaces are beautifully designed, but, while Chi is more earth-tones and neutrals, Ki is unabashedly pink. The wallpaper pattern is identical, but the colors are different. And newly opened Ki has the advantage of a lower density of nail salons in that area, Fon says.
Whereas Chi targets Beverly Hills celebrities and other affluent clientele, Ki targets the everyday salon-goer. To that end, the service menu pricing is lower at Ki. Ki also has the advantage of learning from her big sister’s mistakes. For instance, at the original Chi Nail Bar, manicures and pedicures weren’t intended to be done at the same time. Fawn figured that with an affluent clientele, folks would want to slow down and be pampered. However, as it turns out, even these clients are generally on the run. So, Chi has an ad hoc set up for mani-pedis to be done together. But at Ki, comfortable manicure tables were built into the custom pedicure benches from the start.
Fawn is helping Ki through her growing pains by running a promotion through Gilt.com, a higher-end group-coupon site. At only three weeks of being open, the salon was empty when I visited on a weekday afternoon; however, there was some walk-in traffic and potential clients who came in to get a brochure. Fawn says even though business is slow to start, it’s still doing better than Chi was when it first opened. Fawn relied on word-of-mouth to grow Chi, which is now a bustling salon. I’m impressed with sister Ki’s potential too, so I’m hoping that more clients discover this new gem in downtown Los Angeles.