Growing up Linda Duong was surrounded by those in the beauty industry. Her mother owned a full-service salon in Atlanta and her aunt owned a nail salon in Washington state. Rather than going to day care, Duong remembers tagging along with her mother to work. So it’s no surprise that Duong owned her first salon by the age of 19. The salon, Christina Nails, had belonged to her aunt and was given to her as a wedding present by her mother.
Duong ran Christina Nails for two years and sold the salon after having her first child. She took a part-time position at a high-end day spa as a lead manicurist and esthetician. She was also working at salons with a quick in-and-out mentality, which wasn’t what she wanted. Through the support of her loyal customers and a push from her second husband Ty Vo, Duong decided she would take another shot at being a salon owner. “My husband has been very supportive of my career. I feel blessed that he acknowledges my talents,” she says. She attributes much of Bliss’s success to him.
Duong and Vo found a shop north of Seattle in the residential area of Everett, Wash. The city of Everett is located near Port Garner Bay and has a population of more than 100,000. Duong says it was a combination of the area and the people in it that made her choose this location.
Because the salon is a high-end day spa, her customers are typically middle to upper class. It caters to those who are looking for a specific service rather than the cheapest price. In 2014, Bliss had its best year in sales yet. Duong knows the reason her clients keep coming back: “We treat our guests like family members, and nowhere else can you find our quality at a lower price.” In addition to her regular clients, she continues to gain new ones.
Bliss has come a long way since it first opened its doors. The original space Duong purchased was a cozy 1,000-sq.-ft salon. “Just starting out again, I wanted something that was smaller and a bit more manageable,” she says. “I knew it had potential.” Duong and her husband rebranded and revamped what was formerly Leanne Nails into a spa that brings natural elements indoors with a warm, earthy color palette.
Business took off during the first year and by September 2008 Bliss expanded into the vacant space next door. The plan was to become a full-service day spa. With the additional space, the salon now spans a total of 3,000 square feet. Duong doubled the number of pedicure chairs from four to eight and added two more manicure stations to the existing four stations.
Just last year, the salon underwent another makeover. Duong added more pedicure chairs bringing the total to 12 and she also made space for four more nail stations. Duong and her husband also took the opportunity to upgrade the decor. She describes it as “modern rustic.” It still carries a natural vibe, but has a few more punches of color. The purple accent walls match the suede benches in the waiting area. The pop of orange and other vibrant colors make the salon chic, but still cozy.
The traditional manicure starts at $15, but for $10 more you can try out the salon’s signature manicure, which includes a salt scrub and a paraffin wax. Following its all-natural motif, customers can also indulge in a rose mud manicure or a Raw Earth pedicure. But Bliss’s most popular nail treatment is Shellac manicures.
As a licensed esthetician, Duong also offers services outside of manicures and pedicures. Clients can choose from a menu of six different facial treatments, three different types of body wraps, and eyelash extensions. Duong wanted Bliss to appeal to both men and women. She says often men will book appointments with their girlfriends or wives.
Bliss offers a “happy hour” special for $3 off any service running Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. But if you can’t make it during that time, the salon offers a different special every day during the week.
Duong knows there is a direct correlation between how well-trained her staff is and Bliss’s high-end reputation. When new products are released, she brings in an educator and holds classes for her nail technicians. Duong also gave a nod to NAILS Magazine. “I keep articles on hand for training and for customers if they have questions about treatments or services,” she says.
Duong encourages her staff to attend beauty shows and seminars to learn what modern trends are. “Old school styles aren’t cutting it anymore. These customers are seeing trends on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram,” she explains.
Duong’s number-one rule in the salon is to have her employees speak English while they are on the work floor. “I don’t want my customers to feel uncomfortable, or possibly think someone is talking about them,” she says. Many of the nail technicians at Bliss are Vietnamese, and English is their second language. Although the language rule may seem trivial, Duong puts her relationships with her customers at the forefront, and Bliss’s accolades reflect that. The Daily Herald named Bliss “Best Manicure/Pedicure” in its Readers’ Choice Best of 2014. Citysearch ranked Bliss as the “Best Nail Salon in Seattle” in 2010, and locals have ranked Bliss in the Top 5 for the King5 Best of Western Washington awards on five separate occasions.
One unique feature that Bliss offers is the option of private parties. Whether it is a birthday, bridal shower, baby shower, or graduation, Bliss is available for after-hours parties and group events. The price starts at $100 per hour, but includes a spa hostess, set-up and clean-up, and the entire salon to yourself.
Bliss also has a small boutique in its spa. Infinity scarves, satchels, and totes are the main accessories available, but Duong also sells a selection of retail items from Me! Bath. The salon makes an estimated 10% of its income from retail.
Salon name: Bliss Nail Spa
Location: Everett, Wash.
Owner: Linda Duong
Square Footage: 3,000
Opened: December 2007
Number of Nail Techs: 11
Number of Employees: 12
Specialties: Nail care, skin care, eyelash extensions
Compensation Structure: Commission for nail techs