If there were a celebrity to embody the vibe of Stash House Az, a specialty salon based in Phoenix, it would likely be Prince. A mugshot of the acclaimed multi-talented musician hangs in the lobby, aiming to remind staff to celebrate their unique personalities and develop their distinct styles of nail art, says founder Summer Olson.
“When I first opened, I was watching Purple Rain all the time and as an artist, Prince was such an individual,” Olson says. “Here at Stash, everyone is their own person, and that’s really worked to our advantage.”
One of the most unique aspects of Stash House is its dynamic, which is modeled after a collective with no authority figure. The nail technicians and makeup artists are all self-employed, each bringing their own “flavor” to the Stash House brand.
“We all take home 100% of our pay, and then we split things like rent equally,” Olson says. “The focus at Stash House is for everyone to build themselves as an artist.”
Despite being an advocate of artistic development, Olson is primarily focused on pedicures (all named after Prince songs, such as “Uptown” and “Pop Life,” of course). Perhaps this is because she’s relatively new to the nail art game. She had been working as an esthetician, but left the profession in 2012 after noticing an influx of nail art on Instagram. She founded Stash House just two years later.
It’s not surprising, then, that Olson and the two other Stash House founders, Jimmy Nguyen and Adreanna Corrales, met through Instagram after Olson sought out locals who were well-versed in the nail art world. They helped her establish a sophisticated, trendy, yet relatively affordable brand with their elaborate nail art, while she offered them the support and resources to become self-employed.
“I knew I had to start reaching out to artists in the community for the salon to execute the service style I envisioned,” she says. “In the beginning, we were able to bounce ideas off each other to get the ball rolling in terms of redefining the salon experience in Phoenix.”
The team mainly works with Japanese gel, which makes their menu stand out, says Olson. All of the nail art is executed with Presto or Vetro, and all of the acrylic nails are done with Young Nails.
“I don’t think anyone was familiar with Japanese gel, and it’s become this niche product that we’re now known for,” Olson says.
Their art is always posted to their Instagram feed (@stashhouseaz), along with the name and phone number of the individual artist so potential clients can contact the appropriate tech directly.
All five nail artists currently working as Stash House have a distinct style. Nguyen, the second founder on board, designs manicures inspired by anything from prison-style graffiti to Gucci’s lion to Chinese take-out boxes. “Architecture and street art have always inspired me, and through nail artistry I’m able to combine the two,” Nguyen says.
The work of Adreanna Corrales, the third founder, often features feminine flowers and fruits, intricate line work, and marble and geode designs. Stash House offers a full-service makeup team, too, and more recently, one of the techs became certified in Tooth Kandy, a service where a gem is mounted onto a tooth.
While much of their individuality is showcased through the team’s killer nail art, Olson also encourages each tech to decorate their respective areas to embody their artistic personality. Some visual elements featured at the individual stations include paintings of Tupac, Frida Kahlo, and a woman donning Day of the Dead attire. They also all contribute to a “wall of fame,” which features daring women like Tina Turner, Iris Apfel, Stevie Nicks, and Olson’s own mom.
“The whole wall is dedicated to these iconic women in music and art, to all the ladies who went out and did something totally fearless and changed the game in their industries,” says Olson.
The wall of fame embodies the spirit of those who frequent Stash House, the majority of whom are social media savvy professionals, both young and old, who have a keen eye for bold, chic nail art.
“Our clients are kind of like these rebels and they’re very independent,” says Olson. “They’re just as eclectic and diverse as the team, and people are welcome to just be themselves.”
Phoenix has diversified recently with a burgeoning restaurant scene that Olson attributes to the city’s growing population. “Our area is a huge destination for foodies and there are lots of vintage shops,” Olson says. “But there are no nail shops quite like ours.”
It’s probable there are no salons quite like Stash House in the entire city, state, and perhaps even beyond. As Phoenix’s population expands, so will the Stash team, and Olson says she eventually plans to offer nail art lessons and retail nail art supplies. That was actually the original idea behind the name “Stash”; it evoked the days before she founded Stash House when she would carry her supplies around with her, due to a lack of products at a previous salon.
“I wanted a name that was going to be provocative and not too prissy,” Olson says, “because I wanted it to be an extension of myself.”