When sisters Molly Donovan and Elisabeth Tynberg opened Polish in January, they wanted to give their neighborhood what it had been missing for years: a luxury nail salon.
“We heard so many friends talk about how much the area needed a higher-end, luxurious, and sanitary place to get your nails done, so we started looking for locations to open our own,” says Donovan.
Polish focuses on natural nails, offering traditional polish and gel-polish only. “We wanted to keep it simple,” Donovan explains. “That’s kind of the desire here in Austin. A lot of people are looking for a healthier way of enjoying the service.”
Though they aren’t nail technicians, Donovan and Tynberg have been into the craft since they were children. Donovan, the youngest of four, loved painting nails. Conveniently her mother and sisters loved getting their nails painted. She became their unofficial home manicurist.
Bryker Woods, a central city neighborhood in Austin, features tree-lined streets and quaint homes. It has its own elementary school and is close to the University of Texas. Within Bryker Woods, Polish sits right off of a busy street near the medical district. Donovan says its location is a big draw, as clients can get their nails done in between errands and before or after school.
According to Donovan and Tynberg, sales have been pleasingly healthy since the salon’s grand opening at the start of the year. “It’s exactly what my sister and I were predicting when we were brainstorming,” says Donovan. “Residents have been looking for a salon like this.”
Polish’s menu mostly consists of manicures and pedicures. The most popular service on the menu is the Mani/Pedi Combo, which runs $70. It includes a hand and foot soak, nail trimming and shaping, cuticle attention, nail buffing, callus smoothing, an exfoliating scrub, hydrating hand and foot massages, and nail polish.
For clients on the go or frequent color changers, Polish offers a speedier Polish Change service for either regular or gel-polish. At a more economical price, clients receive color removal, nail shaping, and polish.
Simple is the motto, but Donovan and Tynberg also offer a few popular extras for those seeking a bit more luxury. Clients can choose from hydrating paraffin, Vinylux Wear Polish, French or American manicures, a 10-minute massage, foot masks, ridge fillers, and nail strengtheners.
Polish is stationed in a mid-century modern home with large windows that let in heaps of natural light. The space is typical of a Bryker Woods-style property, with its modest size, open front yard, and large mature trees. One of the oldest oak trees in Austin sits directly in front of the salon. “It’s the perfect spot, something of pleasure and beauty,” describes Donovan.
The sisters first picked their pedicure chairs based on comfort and the salon’s design concept blossomed from there. The interior color scheme is black and white with natural elements peeking through such as wood grain, leather, and glass. This mimics the pedicure chairs, which feature cozy black cushions and wooden legs and arms. The space is lined with planters, pond rocks, and orchids.
“It feels very calming inside,” says Donovan. “To come here is an experience. We offer things like marble coasters, striped straws in our glasses, chocolate-covered almonds, and a collection of antique hands as part of the decor.”
There’s one central room for all services and smaller spaces off to the side for reception, a waiting area, a sanitation room, and more.
Because of its central location near primary schools and universities, the salon’s largest group of clients is made up of mothers and students. However, Polish has seen everyone from brides-to-be to children to high school students getting ready for prom.
“We want to share with Austin women — women looking to relax and get a great service,” says Donovan. “People come in here for a lot of different reasons, and everyone should get one-of-a-kind treatment.”
Polish’s staff of four nail technicians is diverse. Two of the techs have logged more than 20 years in the business, while the other two are relative newcomers. But what links these manicurists is their similar passion for nails. Donovan and Tynberg went through several rounds of interviews to find nail techs whose love of the industry is palpable.
“We have a staff that genuinely loves nails and is very good at them too,” says Donovan. “They are on top of new trends and what’s coming in and out of the nail world.”
Donovan and Tynberg also look for people with a natural ability to make customers feel comfortable and a strong desire to enhance their industry qualifications.
As a company, Polish values teamwork — a principle that stems from the salon’s co-owners’ personal practice. “This venture has been one big team effort,” says Donovan. “My sister and I work really hard and really well together.”
A business niche that has generated a lot of profit for Polish is private parties. Polish goes above and beyond to accommodate an event, making sure there’s enough staff on hand, closing the salon to the public, and even providing a spectrum of extra amenities. Most recently, Polish hosted a birthday party for a 9-year-old girl. Her parents brought the cake, but Donovan and Tynberg provided popcorn, gummy bears, and pretzels in addition to party decorations. They set up flash tattoo and coloring stations for the party attendees to take advantage of while waiting for their nail service.
Salon Name: Polish
Location: Austin, Texas
Owners: Molly Donovan and Elisabeth Tynberg
Square Footage: Just under 1,000
Opened: January 2015
Nail Techs/Employees: 4/4
Specialties: Natural nail care
Compensation Structure: Hourly
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