Julie Nguyen, owner and founder of Blu Water Day Spa, has plenty of experience in the beauty industry. Coming to the United States when she was 16 and building on the beauty training she received in Vietnam, she worked in hair, then nails and cosmetics, and was quickly able to purchase her own salon.
Blu Water’s existence is a culmination of Nguyen’s experiences and ideas. Located near a shopping center in Kensington, Md., it provides a relaxing ambience for the metropolitan area’s residents.
Using Asian and Indian influences, the spa’s design focuses on the natural. Walls are green and dark brown, with natural wood cabinets and display shelves that add an earthy feel. A waterfall panel stands behind the moon-shaped reception desk, and the rounded arcs of furniture designs complement the angles of corners and cabinets. “It flows,” says Kelly Quinn, head of client relations. “It goes with the name Blu Water.”
However, it’s clearly not just decor that makes a spa — it’s a mixture of all the essential components.
A Strong Base
Blu Water was built from the foundation of Peter’s Nails, an establishment servicing clients since 1990, and, as its name suggests, focused solely on nails. Nguyen bought the salon in 2003, keeping the name and service options.
Having extensive experience in other areas of the beauty industry, Nguyen began to think about expansion. “My license and my knowledge are related to day spas,” she says. “I felt the nail salon wasn’t enough for me.” This desire to branch out led Nguyen and friend and esthetician Teresa Hinton to transform Peter’s Nails into a day spa, re-opening in May 2008. Since then both staff and clientele have doubled.
Situated 20 minutes from Washington, D.C., the salon’s location is advantageous. “The area demographic is definitely higher income,” Quinn says. But the clients who come from Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia are a bit more varied, she adds. “We have everybody from the homemakers who come in after carpool to the doctors and executives who come in after work.”
What’s more, being behind a shopping center certainly doesn’t hurt business — women stopping by the pet store will occasionally stop by for a manicure as well. Gym goers sometimes reward themselves with a facial or massage.
The Essential Services
Spa services are plentiful, including facial treatments, makeup sessions, massages, hair removal, and permanent makeup. Full nail service options range from natural nails to enhancements and nail art. The spa website also advertises services and packages specifically for men.
However, it is Blu Water’s Apothecary Spa Ritual that gets the local press buzzing. The idea came from Hinton’s own experience with her father’s apothecary growing up. “We knew we wanted to offer something different because people can go anywhere to get their nails done,” says Hinton.
The spa’s Signature Blends are made from all-natural ingredients — salts and sugars, oils, herbs, and cream — and custom-made on the spot at the apothecary bar, depending on the client’s needs. Signature Blends choices are relaxing, energizing, detoxifying, and muscular recharge.
Tired moms may choose an energizing blend, which may include Himalayan salt, grapeseed oil, ylang ylang oil, peppermint powder, and a pinch of ginger. The pedicure ritual starts in a spa robe, with herbal tea, a warm neck wrap and an aromatic soak, followed by a lime cleansing, exfoliation, a 10-minute mask treatment with hot towels, a hand massage, and finally, polish. This specialized ritual has some clients coming in specifically to request it.
Monthly specials lure first-time clients into the spa and convince regular clients to come back for a service they hadn’t thought of before. The staff keeps in mind the season and client requests when deciding on a special.
Blu Spa offers competitive pricing for the area — $20 for a classic manicure and $40 for a pedicure. Its Apothecary Ritual costs $50 for a 45-minute manicure and $80 for a 75-minute pedicure.
Add the Extras
Knowing the importance of local support, Blu Water gives back to its community. A volunteer for the American Cancer Association, Nguyen lifts spirits by teaching cancer patients beauty tips. Nguyen and Hinton set up volunteer days at local middle and high schools, showing up in classrooms to teach teenagers how to take care of their skin and how to “not mess up their eyebrows,” says Nguyen, winner of the 2008 Best Brows International Contest sponsored by the American Academy of Micropigmentation.
The Spa celebrated its belated grand opening in November with a charity event benefiting the Judith Lese Breast Cancer Foundation and Soldiers’ Angels, a non-profit support group for service members and their families.
Nguyen runs the salon with Hinton, who is vice president of operations. In addition to taking appointments, she trains skin care techs while husband Phillip Le, who also works at the spa, trains the nail techs.
With a strategic location, memorable services, and a strong support system, Nguyen was able to use her expertise in the beauty industry in the creation of a successful day spa. With the hard work of starting up done, Nguyen describes running the spa as “a lot of fun.”
Salon Name: Blu Water Day Spa
Location: Kensington, Md.
Owner: Julie Nguyen
Square Footage: 4,500
Opened: May 2008
Number of Nail Techs/Total Staff: 14/27
Specialties: Apothecary Spa Ritual
Compensation: commission or salary
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.