BUNGALOW IN THE BURBS: Housed in a 1,400-sq.-ft. 1940 bungalow, the Powder Room is located in the “Old Town” neighborhood of St. Peters, Mo., a suburb about 30 miles west of St. Louis. The bungalow sits on Main Street, which is also home to a karate studio, a diner, antique stores, and a funky deli that often hosts live music. It’s a high-traffic area perfect for attracting the middle- to upper-middle-class residents of the surrounding areas.

The bungalow formerly housed a custom mailbox business. When the mailbox builder moved, nail tech Barb Crane knew it would be the perfect spot for the salon she planned on opening.

“I knew there was a need for a non-discount salon that wasn’t a spa. I knew that there was a need for a place that was clean and did good work, where girlfriends could go,” Crane says, referring to what NAILS calls a boutique nail salon.

A licensed cosmetologist for the last 22 years, Crane says she did hair “for about a week” before she deciding to focus on nails.

Crane owned a salon, Blooming Nails, in a neighboring town for 12 years before moving to the St. Peters area. Once in St. Peters, she began working at one of the area’s leading day spas, but knew that eventually she wanted to open her own salon again — a funky boutique-style salon that would be vastly different from the taupe and beige day spas she had been working in.

So when she and her husband Randy noticed that the bungalow on Main Street was available, she knew she had to jump. “I wanted a quaint place that didn’t look like every other salon. My husband and I made an offer on the house the night that we saw it,” Crane recalls.

NAILS COME FIRST: Crane and her husband took possession of the building in September 2005 and spent a month renovating it. They made a large retail area, a makeup room, a nail room, two esthetics rooms, and a pedicure room, complete with two pipeless pedicure thrones.

Crane made no bones about the fact that the salon’s primary focus would be on nail services. “I have such a special place in my heart for nail techs. I wanted to create a special place where they could perform the craft they love,” she says.

Crane had not originally planned to offer hair services, but after a few close hairdresser friends approached her about working at the Powder Room, Crane converted the second floor of the building into the hair room. The salon opened a month later and has been a success from that moment on.

One of the reasons for its success is the decor and atmosphere. Cheery pink annuals and comfortable patio furniture sit outside of the salon. Clients enter into the main room of the house, which is used as the reception area and for showcasing retail gift items. The room is decorated in a feminine pink and black motif, and the retail gifts are presented in clever and unique displays. There are refinished chests, a claw foot bathtub, and elegant shelves full of gift items like picture frames, lip balms, glass perfume bottles, unique T-shirts, toy magic wands, baseball caps, and home decor items.

Crane estimates 50% of the salon’s profits come from retail items, with the bulk of retail sales coming from cosmetics and salon products and the rest from the gift items the salon is known for.

To the left of the main room is another retail room — this one is designated for skin care, cosmetics, and nail products. Many of the shabby chic-style tables are covered with skin and nail products and makeup is displayed on several cake stands and plates.

DOING NAILS IN THE KITCHEN: The nail room is housed in the building’s original kitchen and the counter area, as well as some of the cabinets, are used to display gift and nail items for sale. A long, curved, fuschia-colored counter goes through the center of the room and that is where all of the nail services are performed. Café-style chairs surround the table and the walls are painted white with pink and green polka dots. Inspirational words like “enjoy” and “relax” also adorn the walls.

The first of the two esthetics rooms is decorated in more pink hues, and the room’s ceiling is lined with a billowy pink satin, which gives the room the feeling of a pink cloud. The second is decorated in muted greens, with large floral prints adorning the walls.

The pedicure room, which is decorated in light blue hues with black and white accents, has two pedicure thrones, cozy chenille throws and pillows, and an armoire filled with pedicure-related retail items. “I wanted the salon to have a grown-up, but fun and girly look,” says Crane. “I wanted it to be the kind of place where if you were in a bad mood when you walked in, you wouldn’t be when you left.”

The second floor of the salon houses four hair stations, which are refinished antique-style tables alongside modern hydraulic chairs. The same funky eclectic style from the first floor is carried up to the second floor, but the second floor is done in darker tones. Crane plans on remodeling the hair area of the salon, and she also plans on expanding the salon by 1,200 sq. ft. this fall.

ROOM FOR GROWTH: She will have to carve out some time in her busy schedule to oversee the expansion and remodeling of the salon. “I pretty much handle everything,” she says.

She does ordering, yard work, manages her staff, and for about 20 to 25 hours each week, she works at her first love — doing nails. “I think that it’s important to stay connected, and I don’t know if I’ll ever give that up. I love doing nails,” she says.

As a licensed esthetician, Crane also provides esthetics services. Several of her 11 employees have multiple licenses, and some of her employees work on commission, while others rent their workstations. All of her staff members have 10 years or more of experience in their respective fields, which is another factor in the salon’s success, as is Crane’s management style.

“I try to provide an atmosphere that allows my employees (and renters) to be individuals, but at the same time I make sure that they have what they need to take care of their clients,” she says.

The service menu includes standard salon services (manicures, pedicures, hair color, cuts, perms, waxing, and facials), along with signature services exclusive to the Powder Room.

Priced at $30, the Powder Room Special Manicure gives clients the experience of a basic manicure along with an alpha-hydroxy acid peel to exfoliate dead skin cells and even out pigmentation. Then a special age-defying concentrate is applied, followed by a hand and arm massage. A hydrating mask and paraffin dip top off the service before the nails are polished.

The Powder Room Special Pedicure, which runs $45, consists of a basic pedicure along with a lavender-scented soak that also contains milk proteins. An intensive exfoliation treatment and foot and leg massage follow, then clients receive a penetrating mask and paraffin dip before the final pedicure touches are made.

Services at the salon are moderately priced and competitive with similar salons in the surrounding areas. A standard manicures costs clients $20; the standard pedicure is $30.

OUTREACH PROGRAMS: While its website is still in the planning stages, the salon does send out a bi-monthly client newsletter. The newsletter tells clients about upcoming events at the salon and discounted products or services, and it also contain short informative articles on topics like MMA and the proper use of sunscreen.

Crane also participates in local events such as parades and charity bridal shows. During the month of October, Crane donated 10% of the salon’s profits to the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research.

As for the future of the Powder Room, Crane hopes that the addition of her website, the remodeling of the second floor, and the expansion will help to fill the needs of her ever-growing business.

“My biggest challenge so far has been keep up with the area’s growth. It exploded much more quickly than I expected,” Crane says.

Her biggest challenge is one that many salon owners would love to have — and for her, it’s all part of the experience.

Salon Name: The Powder Room
Location: St. Peters, Mo.
Owners: Barb Crane
Square Footage: 1,400 (soon to be expanded)
Number of Employees: 11, most performing multiple services
Specialties: The Powder Room Special Manicure and Powder Room Special Pedicure; hard-to-find retail products.
Other Services: manicures, pedicures, skin care, hair, and waxing services

Brandy Pecor is a licensed nail technician and writer based in St. Peters, Mo.

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