Having just opened in January 2016, Dolls & Dandy offers a salon experience that’s big on pampering and free of strong chemical odors. Dissatisfied with the nail salons she was familiar with, Ezzeddine was determined to make a hygienic space focused on exceptional customer service and natural nail services. Ezzeddine has been an entrepreneur for 10 years and has worked in both the beauty and fashion industries.
Ezzeddine co-owns the salon with her husband Saied, who is also an entrepreneur and has been a finance professional for 18 years. “We wanted to create a clean, beautiful space that customers would enjoy and would actually come to relax and socialize. We also offer a large collection of 5-, 7- and 8-free polishes and gels,” says Ezzeddine.
The couple named it Dolls & Dandy to let customers know it was not exclusively a salon for women; the owners felt it was just as important for men to treat themselves to a spa experience. A “dandy” was a term used in the 18th and 19th centuries to describe a man who took particular care in his appearance.
Mill Valley is located in upscale Marin County, about 14 miles north of San Francisco. The town is close to its own redwood forest, the Muir Woods National Monument, and has many tourists coming for the outdoor activities and views. Close-knit and family oriented, the town hosts a vibrant community with a population of over 13,000 residents. With a focus on the arts and all things creative, Mill Valley even hosts its own film festival annually. The downtown area where the salon is located has many locally owned and managed businesses including restaurants and retail.
Dolls & Dandy Nail Lounge does not offer acrylics. It does, however, have a wide selection of natural nail polishes and gels to choose from, as well as many nail art options, such as glass nails.
The Nail Lounge offers a menu for both its female and male clientele, broken up into its Classic, Signature, and Pronto services. The Signature-level services include a keratin mask and extended massage on top of the regular service. Services for men start at $20, and for women, at $30. Since Ezzeddine wanted a space that also felt family friendly, children under 10 can receive manicures or pedicures as well, with a service called The Darling.
Clients can sign up for a salon membership, which includes two manicures or pedicures each month and a 10% discount on salon merchandise. With the membership, clients also receive a free manicure or pedicure on their birthday and free monthly polish removal. If the membership is unused for a month, the services roll over and never expire.
The salon is dedicated to maintaining strict sanitation standards. During manicures and pedicures, the nail technicians use single-use files and buffers, and other implements are stored in surgical-grade autoclaves.
At Dolls & Dandy, 10% to 15% of the customers are men. “We have a wide variety of clientele — women, men, children, and families. Some come for relaxation, while others come to socialize and have fun,” Ezzeddine says. The salon also caters to large groups who come in before events like weddings. The salon provides drinks, like champagne or coffee, to fit the needs of each client.
Ezzeddine sought foremost to create an experience that was relaxing and spa-like. The salon consists of one large, open room flanked by pedicure chairs. Images of dolls and dandies line the walls, looking like cameos from a vintage brooch; each charming profile was hand painted. Dolls & Dandy has a 1960s London theme that carries through to the black-and-white photos that decorate the salon. Using a neutral palette with colors like light gray and beige, the decor feels sophisticated and chic, but not overly feminine.
Each design element within the salon was carefully selected to balance “old world charm” with modern and sleek lines. “All of our furniture, including our mani/pedi stations, was custom designed and made. Several pieces of furniture, as well as our back wall, are styled in men’s suiting stripes,” says Ezzeddine. Antimicrobial copper pedicure bowls are another focal point of the design. Each pedicure chair is equipped with an iPad so that clients can read magazines or watch videos while they get pampered.
Out of the 20 employees at Dolls & Dandy Nail Lounge, 15 are nail technicians. Ezzeddine herself is a licensed manicurist and will occasionally help out on the floor when the salon gets busy. Her biggest problem, she says, has been finding enough qualified nail technicians to keep up with demand. “We offer a premium service and our clients expect premium results,” she says. The salon’s nail technicians are hourly employees and receive vacation time and health benefits. The salon provides in-house training and reimburses employees for any classes they attend.
Dolls & Dandy may have just opened in 2016, but things are looking up for the new endeavor. The salon is often fully booked on weekends and hosts local events as well as private parties for special occasions. The salon offers retail items for both women and men, though Ezzeddine says that she is still trying to figure out which products work best. “We found most customers are not interested in nail-related products — they come to the salon to get their nails done and don’t do them themselves.” In addition to retail items, Dolls & Dandy recently started offering chair massages for clients, and plans on adding eyelash extension services soon.
Salon name: Dolls & Dandy Nail Lounge
Location: Mill Valley, Calif.
Owners: Katie and Saied Ezzeddine
Square Footage: 1,900
Opened: January 2016
Number of Nail Techs/Employees: 15/20
Specialties: Natural nails, nail art
Compensation structure: Hourly wage plus tips