Finding abstract paintings, top-tier nail services, and high-end boutique accessories all housed in one beautiful 120-year old building isn’t as hard to do as one might imagine.
Located in trendy downtown Rockford, Ill., Scratch Pedicure Parlour and its sister boutique Plush are on the bottom floor of 510 Studios, a two-story, century-old art gallery that also houses a graphic artistry studio, event space, and an interior design firm. “We are known as the hippest art gallery in town,” says Heather Hall-Williams, the owner of Scratch and an NSI educator since 2003.
Before Scratch and Plush opened in their current location, the nail salon housed at the space was known as Digits. After owner April Franks sold Digits, the building owners presented Hall-Williams, a booth renter at the time, with an offer to come on board and revamp the nail space. She agreed on the condition that she would become a third partner and would have a voice in the product selection for Plush as well. “They liked having a clothing store and I got to open up a new concept salon,” Hall-Williams says. “I changed the name of the salon and changed up the idea as well.”
Another very important condition was that the new salon would have three pedicure chairs instead of two. Rockford salons that offer a greater number of pedicure chairs, at the local mall for example, tend to focus less on sanitation and standards, Hall-Williams says. “I decided we needed to have three chairs so we could do parties,” she says.
Setting the Stage
Scratch is already housed in an eclectic space, but the attention to detail in terms of decor and style is what really gives the salon its unique flair. Hall-Williams describes Scratch’s digs as “Hollywood glamour fused with rock ’n’ roll Elvis-inspired style,” but with a vintage feel.
The storefront windows feature hand-painted rococo logos for Scratch and Plush, each made with intricate flourishes and fonts for an antique effect. Beautiful abstract paintings are hung throughout the building, often prompting art aficionados to request tours during the week.
Scratch features four treatment areas, two of which are separate rooms for facials and massages, and it shares common space with Plush next door. “Everything has its own area but it’s in a really big, open space,” Hall-Williams says. The nail stations feature fun cheetah print chairs while the pedicure parlor is lined up against the right wall underneath beautifully crafted, diamond-shaped chandeliers. Each pedicure chair is flanked by orb-shaped lamps and large pieces of art, while also facing a flat-screen TV for movie pedicure parties. “My team and I don’t mind because we enjoy working with the clients, and we can enjoy the movie too,” Hall-Williams says.
With regard to menu offerings, Scratch is just as dedicated to providing first-rate, on-trend services as it is to ensuring that clients are having a great time in the salon. Nail care services include natural nail care, gel polish manicures, Minx, acrylics, and colored gels, all hand-crafted without the use of electric files.
Scratch also employs a skilled esthetician and reflexologist, which add waxing services, massages, and exclusive Sothys facials to the comprehensive service menu.
Some of the most popular services include the spa pedicures, signature Sole Food pedicures, rock star colored acrylic/gel enhancements, and the Plain Jane natural-looking enhancements.
“Sole Food signature pedicures are unique because you choose your pedicure from a menu, then we serve the pedicure on a plate like it’s food, with a nice presentation,” Hall-Williams says. “It’s food for your feet.”
Some of Scratch’s clients’ favorite pedis include the chocolate-themed Lady Godiva pedicure, beach-themed Dream Wahine pedicure, and the all-natural Hippie Chick pedicure. “The Adam and Eve date night pedicure is also really fun because clients will come in with their own bottle of wine and start their date night off with us,” Hall-Williams says. Thanks to the salon’s location near an abundance of nice restaurants, clients can order-in dinner or head out to dine right after. “It’s always a fun time,” Hall-Williams says.
Scratch’s regular clientele is comprised mostly of middle-aged women or older, usually referred by word of mouth or through the salon’s social networking pages. Though clients requesting party services typically span all ages, Hall-Williams says.
Nail services account for 90% of revenues, with prices ranging from $15 and up for manicures, $25 and up for pedicures, and $45 and up for enhancement services, depending on the artist’s experience and level of training. Cuticle oil and skin care products are top sellers on the retail end, but the boutique sales definitely help, Hall-Williams says. Employees are encouraged to sell, and receive commission incentives as well as 30% off in the boutique.
Male clients make up 20% of Scratch’s clientele, and typically request the Big Daddy manicure, the Handsome Stranger pedicure, massages, facials, and waxing services. “It’s kind of funny because now our esthetician is getting the guys to get their ears and noses waxed,” Hall-Williams laughs.
Top of the Class
Even though the salon market is flooded in Rockford, Hall-Williams keeps Scratch popular by participating in local art walks and using her skills as an NSI educator to keep the staff knowledgeable. “It’s been hard being an educator and doing good nails. When people would come in, they only wanted to come to me,” Hall-Williams says. “That’s why I decided I was going to train my techs to do nails just like me with the training that I’ve been fortunate enough to have.”
Soon after opening Scratch in 2009, Hall-Williams says she started having trouble finding cosmetologists with a real passion for nails instead of a passion for hairstyling. “They liked it for a little bit and then they moved on. Now after all this time, I finally built a solid team of techs who not only like to do pedicures but strive to do really good nails,” Hall-Williams says.
In an effort to maintain a great staff of like-minded ladies, at one point Hall-Williams offered to hire a loyal client of 10 years who hated her current job in the corporate world. “I said, ‘If you go to nail school, I will train you and you can work here,’” Hall-Williams says. “So she did that and I got her.” Hall-Williams is continually learning new things through NSI and loves sharing that knowledge with her staff on the first Monday of each month, as well as during down time.
“We are constantly creating something,” Hall-Williams says. “I’ll pick a certain subject and I’ll teach them. It’s a nice little networking night for us; we all love it.”
In the future, Hall-Williams hopes to open another Scratch Pedicure Parlor in Phoenix and is currently working on starting her own product line with the help of her staff. “When we get the product line going, we can all go to the shows together and they can all be there with me at the booth,” Hall-Williams says. “That’s my goal for all of us, to do it as a team.”
Salon Name: Scratch Pedicure Parlor
Location: Rockford, Ill.
Owners: Heather Hall-Williams (with two silent partners)
Square Footage: 1,800
Opened: June 1, 2009
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 6/8
Specialties: Sole Food signature pedicures, pedicure parties
Compensation: Commission and booth rental opportunities