Kim Paulson is a woman of varied tastes. She’s active in the Portland, Ore., art community, enjoys an occasional martini, and of course, good pedicures, which she calls, “addictive.” Her motivation for opening her own nails-only salon? “I hated hair on the floor.”

Paulson has been offering manicures and pedicures, along with eyebrow and waxing services, for eight years now, and although nails are her focus, it’s the fringe benefits of her salon that Paulson finds most in demand. “Honestly, we really have a specialty,” she says, “and it’s the martini pedicure.”

What is that, exactly, you ask?

“We serve a martini with our really great pedicure.”

Located in a trendy area of Portland dotted with boutique clothing and shoe stores and coffee shops, Paulson typically attracts a higher-end clientele, but that doesn’t mean her customers expect a high-end price. “I think you get a lot for your money,” says Paulson, who over the life of her business has only raised prices once. “We started at $40 for a pedicure, and now we’re at $45; a martini pedicure is $55.”

“We’re Really Normal”

Paulson says aside from her prices, it’s her work ethic and down-to-earth approach that keeps clients coming back. “We’re really normal and we don’t have a lot of drama. I would say we’re more like peers scrubbing your feet rather than somebody you don’t have anything in common with. That’s a big deal for a lot of people.”

When Paulson opened Fleur de Lys she wanted to make nails the stars of the show. She says she experienced “frustration with being in a big hair salon and having the nails overlooked. It tends to be something they put in the spare part of a salon and then you end up with a less desirable space.”

If it was a desirable space she wanted to create, she accomplished her goal. Comfy, vintage mohair chairs offer relaxation and a sense of class, while the copper foot tubs used in favor of the jetted variety cut down on noise. Fleur de Lys has an overall, French-inspired Bohemian feel, but the look is ever-changing. “It’s been a long process because things have changed a lot,” says Paulson, “and they continue to change. Right now modern is in style, so I got rid of a few antique lamps.”

A Haven for Artists

Paulson offers visual variety and an eclectic scene at Fleur de Lys by providing an outlet for local artists to display their work. “We have a new artist every month that we feature, so that changes the look of the space also,” says Paulson. “There’s a lot of local art in Portland, and the artists need venues to show their wares. I get a commission for what I end up selling, so it suits both of us. And I typically don’t keep anything more than 30 or 60 days.”

Choosing the line of Essential products used at the salon was an easy decision. “They’re local,” says Paulson. “I can just run over there and pick it up if I’m out, and I don’t have to order large amounts, or wait for an order, or pay shipping.”

Although men make up a very small percentage of her business, Fleur de Lys is right up their alley. “It’s a nice place for guys,” Paulson says, “because they’re not feeling like they’re being watched, since it’s so small. It’s just them. The surroundings are feminine more than masculine, but the chairs are large enough and everything else is suitable for a man also.”

As for the bad press floating around regarding the industry’s sanitation conditions, Paulson is not fazed. “It kind of works in my favor because I don’t use jetted foot tubs and we’re extremely sanitary,” says Paulson. “Having a copper foot bath that gets scrubbed out and sanitized each time is a biggie.”

When asked if she has plans for expansion, Paulson says, “Nope, we’re staying small. A good manicurist is too hard to come by. When I started to be number one in Portland, I started to think, I need to have another salon. It definitely crossed my mind, but no — it’s too much management.”

Paulson may have a hard time finding a good manicurist, but you can find one (or two) at Fleur de Lys.

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