I sent out a 2010 Project e-newsletter in September that got me thinking. The subject was making your salon the “IT” place to party. I’m not talking about being the salon in town that gets all the bridal parties and the teen birthday parties (but that’s great too!). What I’m talking about is making your salon something more than just a salon — making it a gathering spot.

The best way to do this is to create a theme night (or day) and turn it into a recurring weekly event. Polished Nail Bar in Charlotte, N.C., offers Sangria and Manicures every Wednesday night. Women (and men) in the chic neighborhoods where the two Polished salons are located show up in droves to get manicures, drink sangria, and socialize with other like-minded people.

Julep Nail Parlour, with four locations in Seattle and its surrounding areas, hosts Chick Flick Thursdays. The salon’s website urges, “Grab a girlfriend and join us for chick flick classics on Thursday nights. Schedule your service for anytime after 5 p.m. and stay for the show.” The salon boasts flatscreen TVs and comfortable chairs that are designed to be moved around so groups of friends can sit together.

And it doesn’t have to be a nighttime event. Many salons host Mommy Mondays, where they turn a typically slow service time into an event where moms can bring their kids and know they won’t be bothering other clients. Some salons, like Julep, have someone there to keep an eye on the kids when the moms are getting services. Or the little ones can get their nails trimmed and polished right alongside mom.

Mani Pedi Cutie in Hermosa Beach, Calif., hosts Happy Hour Wednesdays where anyone who books a service between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. gets a free scrub and tasty treats. Owner Ally Conley supplies the wine and beer and brings in food from local restaurants (or makes her own fantastic dips…I’ve had them!).

On Sundays, Polished owner Sonny Kim has his male clients (mostly) in mind when they hold Beer and Pedicure Sundays. Beer is served and they fire up the flatscreens with sports. He told me 25% of his clients are men, so this is a great way to offer this segment of his clientele their own gathering spot.

Other ideas for theme nights are Girls Night Out (GNO), Book Club, Teen Tuesdays, DJ Night, Art Gallery Night, Champagne and Pedis Sunday Brunch — the list goes on and you can really do anything you and your team can come up with. Maybe it’s something with local flavor. Maybe it’s not a weekly event, but a monthly one and the theme changes each month. First Fridays could be your theme. On the first Friday of every month you stay open later than normal and serve refreshments while a DJ spins cool tunes. Your clients (and walk-ins) are welcome to come in for services, shop your retail area, and just hang out and enjoy the atmosphere.

When your clients feel comfortable enough to linger after services, enjoy a drink and snacks, and chat with other guests, it helps to create an environment where everyone feels like they can kick back and relax. And when your clients are coming in for more than just services, it helps to make your salon a unique and sought-out gathering place. And hopefully, the more time they spend, the more money they spend.

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