Polished Day Spa is already leaving its mark on Houston despite being just over a year old. According to owner and salon veteran Sharia Castillo, maintaining customer satisfaction is the secret to its success. Castillo and her employees continually expand Polished’s service menu to wow clientele, demonstrate originality, and stay on top of current trends.
The spa itself is situated in a busy location, so Castillo had to do everything she could to make Polished stand out. She chose simple yet elegant gray and white decor to fill the salon, giving it a modern flare. And chic mirrored furniture lines the walls, making the spacious salon feel even roomier.
“I just wanted a different, classy space that isn’t cluttered,” Castillo says. “I wanted a place where everyone can mingle and see each other, but still have privacy for their own services.” Polished nurtures relaxation and has become a fashionable spot for locals to escape the hustle and bustle of Houston.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
Castillo and her seasoned nail techs, master pedicurist, and masseuse have put their own spin on traditional salon services. “Between all of us, we wanted to find features that would be unique to Polished,” says Castillo. “We threw all of our experiences into a bag and picked out everything good that worked.”
Some of Polished’s most popular treatments include the Citrus Polished Pedicure and the Shellac Manicure, both of which have been modified by the salon. The Citrus Pedicure, designed by Castillo, uses homemade salts and scrubs, in addition to lemon-scented soaps, essential oils, and lotions. This specialty service is completely free of harsh chemicals.
Polished also discovered a noteworthy way to perfect its Shellac Manicure. Through trial and error, Polished employees discovered an out-of-the-box, and greatly effective, heating method to get the most out of its gel-polish bottles: coffee warmers!
“We place the Shellac bottle on the coffee warmers, and it thins the product enough where you can just shake it — it’s so easy,” Castillo says.
Another unique manicure service, which earned Polished a cover story in the Houston Chronicle is the spa’s “Newspaper Nails.” It’s a basic manicure, but with personalized newspaper clippings imprinted on the nail surface after the drying process. While Newspaper Nails are becoming a popular trend, Polished is the only salon in the Houston area to offer it.
One of Castillo’s biggest tricks to staying original and in-the-know about nail fashion is surfing the Internet. “I’m always online seeing what everyone’s doing and offering,” says Castillo. “I subscribe to so many nail blogs, and we all read about fashion shows here too — it’s how we learn about a lot of trends.”
Polished itself now has a strong online presence, according to Castillo, who often posts her findings on the spa’s Facebook page to see which nail trends are a “hit” or “miss” among locals.
NEVER SAY NO
More than anything, Castillo values immaculate customer service. She considers it the most important business tactic she acquired during the 10 years she spent in the salon industry prior to opening Polished.
“Once you establish a relationship with your clients — asking them about their weekend and remembering details about what they like — they’ll feel like you’re a friend and want to keep coming back,” Castillo says. “Really, it’s 70% personality and 30% skill.”
Whether it’s a customer’s fifth or 15th appointment at Polished, Castillo asks her employees to treat them like it’s their first time in the salon. She believes that her staff’s unfailing friendliness is both what sets Polished apart from other salons in the area and generates the relaxed spa atmosphere it’s known for.
Castillo and her employees also try not to say “no” to their clients, even if it means going beyond the scope of services Polished offers. “Whatever they need, whatever they want, if I can do it, I’ll do it for them,” Castillo says. “I have no problem being there for my clients.”
Each customer is offered a complimentary cup of tea or coffee and goodies (like cupcakes or M&M’s) upon entering the spa. Castillo says she has even made dinner reservations for clients. “It’s more like doing a small favor for a friend,” says Castillo, who shares this mentality with her staff. “I’ve always wanted to work somewhere really focused on customer service; somewhere that wouldn’t just say it, but actually do it. And that’s where Polished comes in.”
Additionally, Polished aims to constantly expand its service list to meet customers’ needs. Per request, personalized “vajazzling” has become available at Polished to accompany bikini or Brazilian waxes. The spa also offers sunblock lotion during manicures for clients who are worried about using UV lamps.
But the majority of Polished’s business is comprised of manicures and pedicures, a full wax service menu, facials, massages, eyebrow and eyelash tinting, children’s nail services, and private parties are available as well.
A PLACE FOR EVERYONE
After developing an allergy to harsh salon chemicals, Castillo decided to make Polished Day Spa a place where organic products rule. She wants everyone — including vegans and pregnant women — to be able to enjoy her spa’s services without fear.
“If there’s an organic product I can find that’s going to work just as well, we definitely will get it,” Castillo says. You also won’t find acrylics at Polished because of the fumes they emit. Instead, customers can receive a variety of gel manicures and pedicures.
Polished also tries to respect individual privacy with a myriad of different room accommodations. Because it is on the more spacious side, Polished has a main salon with various nooks and crannies furnished with comfortable chairs and couches. A large round table in the center of the room is a popular spot for clients to socialize and indulge in assorted complimentary snacks.
There is also a private pedicure suite in the rear of the salon complete with padded luxury chairs and flat-screen TV monitors. Clients can request to receive their treatments there at no additional cost. And of course, there are smaller individual rooms for waxing, massages, and facials.
LUXURY WITH A SMALL PRICE TAG
Polished is located in Upper Kirby, a wealthier part of Houston; however, Castillo did not want to let this factor limit her clientele. While Polished does offer high-end services, Castillo has created a menu with a diverse price range to cater to clients on all different budgets.
“I’ve researched a lot of my competitors and there are a lot of markets they leave out whenever they set their prices too high,” says Castillo. “I decided to come in a few dollars under them hoping to be able to offer affordable luxury for everybody.”
Manicures range from $20-$50, pedicures from $25-$58, and facials start at $70.
Polished started as appointment-only, but after getting a large volume of walk-ins, the salon now caters to everyone’s busy schedules or last-minute mishaps rather than being exclusive.
“Our location is on a busy main street, and we are getting two or three walk-ins a day,” says Castillo. “This caught me off guard, so I had to restructure to accommodate this business.”
As the salon is just in its first year of operation, Castillo has high hopes and big plans for the future. Polished is looking to develop its retail section, which currently offers the organic products used in the salon’s treatments.
Castillo is also integrating more training for her nail techs through workshops conducted by product lines, nail distributors, and even the salon’s master pedicurist, who specializes in pedicures for diabetic, geriatric, and cancer clients.
Although Polished’s business model is one centered on constant expansion to meet customers’ needs, the salon is still able to maintain a laid-back atmosphere that Houston residents are drawn to.
“We’re not snooty, we’re really easygoing and fun, and we try to be social with our clients,” says Castillo. “The employees enjoy that too! I think it feels like family.”
Salon Name: Polished Day Spa
Location: Upper Kirby area of Houston
Owner: Sharia Castillo
Square Footage: 2,200
Opened: September 2010
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 6/9
Specialties: Shellac, Citrus Polish Pedicure, Newspaper Nails