I made the hour and a half drive to Middletown, Del., to meet up with NAILS Cover Tech contest winner Celine Cumming. The young tech has already accomplished much in her career. In addition to winning the January 2017 cover of NAILS, she has also been featured in the Scratch Shoot Out. She recently graduated with a degree in geology and obtained a job relating to her degree. But she tells me that she isn’t done with nails yet, and is in fact considering doing that full-time instead.
Her studio is colorful and filled to the brim with the photographs and geodes she is now known for. She explains to me that the geodes on her shelves are in fact not the ones used for her cover, as they aren’t perfectly clear or have dents. The ones she propped her cover with were on loan from the university and she says, “are worth more than my house.” The model for her cover was actually her sister, who was nervous to learn of the stone’s worth while holding them. Her secrets for an amazing cover are simple: 1) brainstorm (she came up with her geode concept a year in advance); 2) work with a model and photographer you trust 3) go with your gut and don’t overthink the concept. Case in point: she nixed a concept where more than one geode was in the shot.
Cumming’s wall was covered with actual photos of her nail art. She explained that in the area there are maybe 10-15 salons, none of which really offer nail art. The local salons are more about express services, so Cumming couldn’t really take her time while doing elaborate artwork. Nail art may not be big in the Middletown area, but being so near to Philadelphia (only about an hour away) and New York (only a few hours away), she knows there are ample opportunities within reach.
Her logo is also elaborate and is branded on everything from mini cornhole to her backpack to her nail table. She sketched the design out then hired a designer to execute it. Cumming is a breath of fresh air, with an embrace of color, texture, and design that rocks Delaware, and I’m sure will continue to rock the nail industry.
Two hours away from Middletown is Silver Spring, Md. This city borders Washington D.C. and is home to upscale living. The downtown area is very much a dense city, with high-rise apartments, a train, and businesses on the bottom floor of the apartment buildings.
Maisie Dunbar has had three salons in this area. In June, she moved in to do nails with her best friend, a hairstylist (Condoleeza Rice’s hairstylist to be exact), in his space. Because the move was only a block or so, most of her clients were able to stay. However, Maisie had to cut back her work schedule to take on other projects, so she began referring clients to other salons in the area. In Silver Spring, there are three nail shops in the downtown mall alone. There is also a nail salon next door to Dunbar’s new space. Down the street is a Sola Suite with two nail spaces rented out already. In other words, there’s not shortage of nail shops in Maryland. And because Maisie Dunbar is Maisie Dunbar, she seems to know almost every tech and salon owner in the area. In fact, she took me to The Emerald Door Spa, to meet the owner.
The Emerald Door Spa is a green/eco-friendly salon catering to the women of the high-end neighborhood nearby. The spa does facials and nails. Nail lines offered are “green” as well and include Smith and Cult and Zoya. Mischo Beauty is a full-line that’s offered in part because of its health benefits and in part because owner Sandra Magwood’s daughter went to school with the lacquer line’s founder. The salon employs five nail techs and the receptionist is also attending school to get licensed and help out. Gel-polish manicures are the Emerald’s most popular service, and we even ran into one of Maisie’s former clients while visiting. Dunbar and Magwood explained that salons in the D.C. area service professional women (many of whom have political ties) and therefore nails are natural and solid in color.
The nearby mall, however, boasts a slightly different demographic. Downtown Silver Spring is home to Kibana Salon & Spa. This salon is full-service and has three nail techs working there. While gel-polish manicures and pedicures are still their main business, they mention that dipping powder is extremely popular because clients like the health benefits. With two other salons so close by the main struggle for Kibana is the over-saturation of the market. Oddly enough, one of the other nail salons in the mall is owned by the sister of the owner at Kibana. So if any clients can’t be seen there, they are quick to find a tech at the sister’s salon.
Maisie’s involvement and training with neighboring salons has proved to be a successful business networking venture, and it definitely paid off for me. Thank you Maisie for helping me discover the nail scene in the D.C./Maryland area!
To prove how close Maryland is to D.C. and to show that we went from the state capitol in Sacramento to the country's capitol, I made the short 30 minute drive to Capitol Square. I couldn't think of a better way to cap off this magnificent tour.
For everyone who helped me schedule an appointment, conducted a service, took the time to talk to me, or just met up for a meal -- thank you! And a big thank you to everyone who followed along! This tour was for you, our readers, and I feel like I've learned a lot. Stay tuned for more content from my eight days on the road.