The salon’s mini-library holds an assortment of books that are always available for clients to borrow and bring back on their next visit.

The salon’s mini-library holds an assortment of books that are always available for clients to borrow and bring back on their next visit.

Elizabeth Ashton Ayurvedic Nail Spa’s services incorporate a traditional alternative medicine system from India that dates back thousands of years. Owner and manicurist Elizabeth Ashton is certified in ayurveda and focuses her downtown Long Beach, Calif., salon’s hand and foot treatments on wellness, beauty, and enjoyment.

“The reason I chose the area is because it’s one of a kind,” Ashton says. In addition to being located in one of the fastest-growing and trendiest parts of Long Beach, the salon is two blocks away from the ocean and the Long Beach Convention Center. The newly created bike lane in front of the shop has also helped bring in traffic from neighboring high-end clothing boutiques and art galleries.

Elizabeth Ashton’s husband, Brenzil, not only constructed the entire salon with the help of their son Byron and friend Ray Montoya, but also chose the color scheme and floor design.

Elizabeth Ashton’s husband, Brenzil, not only constructed the entire salon with the help of their son Byron and friend Ray Montoya, but also chose the color scheme and floor design.

Ashton originally purchased the space in July 2009 and spent the next nine months working with her family to transform it into a nail salon in their spare time. Her husband Brenzil oversaw construction, her daughter Paradise helped create the salon’s decor, and her son Byron, a safety engineer, took care of the safety rules and business regulations. “I worked from paycheck to paycheck to put my business together,” she says. “It was a little tough but I decided that this is what I want and whatever it takes to get it, I’m going to do.”

Previously, Ashton ran a mobile salon called Pretty Nails on Wheels for more than 30 years while also working as a train dispatcher. She also managed two salons in Inglewood, Calif., before getting licensed as a nail tech. Ashton says her passion for nails stems from the times she spent taking care of her family’s nails when she was younger.  

The salon is currently appointment-only as Ashton is the only manicurist on staff and serves one client at a time. She does have three on-call manicurists she calls in for different events. “I’ve served up to six or seven clients at a time when I do spa parties. I’ll have an assistant there and that’s all I need,” she says. “I’m about quality work. It’s not about the quantity that’s fast; it’s about the quality of the person and the quality of the work and your products.”

 

Serene Setting

“It’s calm, relaxing, personal, and intimate,” Ashton says of the salon’s decor. “I like it because it gives you that one-on-one touch, feel, and privacy with clients.” Her daughter Paradise incorporated furniture and artwork from local vendors to help enhance the salon’s light atmosphere while friend Ján Montoya of Ján Montoya Design created the logo and branding strategy.

Ray Montoya, father of designer Ján, assisted Ashton’s husband Brenzil with all of the salon’s construction and painting. “It worked out beautifully,” she adds. “I have an Indian theme as far as the colors and the materials to tie in the ayurvedic theme, but it also has a regal look.”

The salon features two chairs for pedicures and two manicure stations as well as partially frosted windows to give clients a sense of privacy. Ashton explains that the salon’s pedicure stations do not use whirlpool baths in order to avoid using recycled water on clients. Considering that most clients request natural nail services, she also avoids using an electric file as much as possible unless a client comes in with acrylics or requests it specifically.

In addition to the calming atmosphere and music, a large white bookcase stocked with a diverse assortment of books is another main point of interest for clients. “I’m making a little library for them so they’ll have something to read. If they come in for their service, they may check out a book and they’ll bring it back to the next service,” Ashton says. “We’re getting ready to do a book club.”

Clients also appreciate the fact that there isn’t a language barrier between them, she says. “They want to be able to have a conversation and to be able to tell someone how their day went.” Clients also compliment her on the salon’s tidiness and pleasing smells. “Business is great,” Ashton says. “The area is coming alive and I’m a part of that.”

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The main decor aspects for the salon were chosen by Ashton’s daughter Paradise and were purchased from different local vendors.

The main decor aspects for the salon were chosen by Ashton’s daughter Paradise and were purchased from different local vendors.

Therapeutic Services From the East

Incorporating ayurvedic techniques into the salon’s service menu gives clients a wide variety of choices for customizing their wellness treatments. With ingredients like chickpea flour, fruits, and sesame seed oils, Ashton makes a point to include as many natural, edible products into the salon’s treatments as possible.

Manicures range from $25 for a quick service to upwards of $100 for the Signature Treatment, while pedicures range from $35 to $150. Add-on services range from $4 to upwards of $100 and include hot stones, callus treatments, acrylics, silk wraps, gel polish manicures, Minx nails, and gel overlays. The salon also offers eight different seasonal treatments throughout the year, with two special flavors for each season. “I value my time with clients,” Ashton says. “I use excellent products but I am the main product. They’re coming for my service.”

Some of the most popular treatments include the customizable Paradise mani-pedis and the Indian Therapy services, as well as follow-up maintenance on hands and feet. Another very popular service is the Padabhyanga, which involves two people massaging a client’s hands and feet at the same time.  “Usually when I have something like that, I’ll call in a massage therapist,” Ashton says. “I do have an exclusive massage therapist that I work with who comes in from time to time to help me.”

Currently, Ashton uses Jessica, OPI, and Nubar polishes on her clients but hopes to create her own brand of natural polish in the future. Massages are performed using a variety of natural oils and scrubs like pineapple, jojoba, and other ayurvedic blends.

“I’m in the center of downtown Long Beach so I get a lot of clientele from the hotels and word of mouth. I don’t really advertise a lot,” Ashton says. The salon does participate in different social media channels, but many of the referrals come from Ashton’s networking efforts with party planners, caterers, and the local community.

Currently, 80% of Ashton’s clientele are women, spanning in age from early 20s on up. The group is mostly comprised of retired businesswomen or wives of prominent local citizens. The other 20% of the salon’s clientele is made up of mostly businessmen and husbands of female clients, usually coming in for detailed pedicure services and manicures.

“Women buy gift certificates for their husbands who have never had a pedicure before and they come in and they love it,” Ashton says. “It’s beginning to get a little more popular because one man tells the next person and they find out about it and they like it.”

Many of the salon’s male clientele return to the salon because of the privacy factor and because the decor is somewhat gender-neutral. Men can feel comfortable getting services without feeling like they are in an overly girly salon, Ashton says.

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A frosted window conceals the waiting area from the main street, where many local citizens ride by on a newly painted bike lane just outside the salon.

A frosted window conceals the waiting area from the main street, where many local citizens ride by on a newly painted bike lane just outside the salon.

Building the Perfect Team

Though manicurists are on call at any moment, they receive compensation usually through commission. Whether experienced or not, all new manicurists undergo a two-week trial run before moving onto a six-week training course with Ashton if they seem like a good fit.

“Even if they’ve had 10 or 20 years of experience, it doesn’t matter,” Ashton says. “They have to know what my clients are looking for.”

In the near future, Ashton plans to visit India to obtain her certification as an ayurvedic practitioner. “I’m in the process of furthering my education and finding out what we can do to really make people feel healthy,” she says.     

 

Quick Look

Salon Name: Elizabeth Ashton Ayurvedic Nail Spa
Location: Long Beach, Calif.
Owner: Elizabeth Ashton
Square Footage: 600
Years of ownership: 2
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 1/1, plus 3 on-call manicurists, 1 independent masseuse
Specialties: Ayurvedic manicures and pedicures
Compensation: Commission
Website: www.elizabethashtonspa.com

 

Click here for a step-by-step of the salon’s signature Indian Therapy Pedicure.