Norman, Okla. — Ashley Hardiman — Near the University of Oklahoma, tucked away among the bars and restaurants in an area known as Campus Corner, is Vivian Gilbert Mani Pedi Plus. Owner Cydney Lee didn’t hesitate when deciding where to open her natural nail spa and boutique; she grew up in Norman and attended college at OU. Needless to say, the area is very close to her heart.

After graduating college with a degree in communications, Lee moved to Dallas for a year before moving back to Norman to embark on her dream of opening a nail spa. The doors opened in June 2008.

“I wanted to include retail merchandise along with a mani/pedi spa,” Lee told me. Purses, jewelry, and OU accessories are placed throughout the space, giving clients plenty of things to look at while waiting for polish to dry.

The decision to go the way of only natural nails wasn’t a hard one to make. “We didn’t want the odor associated with a lot of nail salons,” said Hayley Hanshaw, manicurist at Vivian Gilbert. In fact, one of the services offered on the menu is Acrylics Anonymous, which offers a “12-Step” program to promote healthy, natural nails. It begins with the safe removal of artificial nails, followed by four Luxe manicures over the course of a month and a bottle of nail strengthener to take home and use between visits.

Vivian Gilbert offers two types of manicure and pedicure services, so those who are on-the-go and those who are looking to lounge and relax can each get exactly what they want. The Classic combo is the salon’s most economical service package, which is definitely appealing to students. It focuses mainly on the nails, as it doesn’t include any scrubs or masks.

The Luxe combo is geared more toward the gal who wants to come for some serious pampering. This is the treatment I went for. It’s like the Classic, but kicked up a notch — or three. Delicious scrubs and masks were applied liberally over my hands and feet, arms and legs, leaving me scrubbed smooth and moisturized. Hanshaw shaped my nails perfectly and pushed back every hint of cuticle. Her massage was perfect in length and intensity. I am usually left thinking “That’s it?” when it comes to the massage portion of a nail service, but not with Hanshaw. She topped off the perfect mani/pedi with the perfect polish color: Chinchilly by Essie.

Little-known fact: Essie products are not widely used in Oklahoma, which is exactly why Lee decided to carry them. “I had always used Essie before I opened the spa,” Lee said. “I have always been impressed by her products, and everyone loves the little bottles.” Lee said packaging goes far for her clients, and Essie is right-on with attractive products. OPI is the other line used at Vivian Gilbert. Hayley is a huge fan of the OPI masks used in the Spa Pedicure line, as well as Chip Skip. “That stuff never fails,” she said.

In addition to setting her price points accordingly for a college campus area (the Luxe combo is only $50!), Lee also offers an incentive club to keep clients happy and to keep their nails well-maintained. The Standard Club is $20 per year. With membership, clients receive 10% off any service and 10% off retail purchases throughout the year. A free Classic manicure during the member’s birthday month is also included.

Sanitation and cleanliness are a top priority at Vivian Gilbert. All metal implements are thoroughly cleaned and autoclaved, and all pedi spas are pipeless. Technicians also lead each client to side-by-side sinks to wash hands before beginning services.

Overall, my experience at Vivian Gilbert was wonderful. I felt like I was getting a high-quality service in a safe and clean atmosphere. Hanshaw definitely knows her business and was both professional and friendly at the same time, putting me right at ease. And to top it all off, the price was right, too.

Ashley Hardiman owns Salon Zen and Studio Zen in Norman, Okla.


The salon is located in Campus Corner near the University of Oklahoma, and it’s prices are set accordingly for a college campus area — the Luxe combo is only $50!

Manicures and pedicures are available as basic, classic, and luxe. The retail area includes a boutique perfectly suited for wedding and cocktail parties.

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