On June 3, NAILS hosted a cocktail reception for the finalists of the Artists and Visionaries Awards (AVAs) during the Las Vegas Hair and Nail Conference. Some of the industry’s finest gathered to celebrate with our newest Nail Technician of the Year and Salon of the Year winners. Mary Seitzinger of Columbus, Ohio, was named Nail Technician of the Year; and Studio 24 Salon Spa in Portage, Mich., and VIP Salon & Spa in Riverview, Mich., were named Salon of the Year (1-4 Nail Techs) and Salon of the Year (5+ Nail Techs), respectively.

The winners of all three categories were awarded $500, and runners-up received $250 each. All of our finalists received gift bags filled with products from sponsors OPI and Creative Nail Design.

In addition to our three main categories, NAILS added four new superlative categories this year — Best Salon Atmosphere, Educator of the Year, Nail Artist of the Year, and Miss Congeniality. Read all about our finalists and winners in the following pages. Thanks to our judges, who included Doug Smith of Creative Nail Design, Patricia Oropeza of OPI, and last year’s winners Roula Nassar of Roula’s Nail Studio in Houston, and Patricia Yankee of Baldwin, N.Y. We’d like to congratulate all of our finalists and winners, as well as everyone who took the time and effort to send in their entries. Your work is amazing, and we salute you.  

1. Cassie Piasecki (second from right) brought members of her staff to the reception. The Nail Lounge, in Costa Mesa, Calif., has been open for just a year.

2. Nail Technician of the Year finalists Mary Seitzinger, MaeLing Parrish, and Lorena Marquez wore matching tiaras before finding out who the winner was.

3. Sponsors Creative Nail Design and OPI donated gift bags filled to the brim with great products for all of our finalists.

 4. Sandra Casanova, owner of Havana Nights Nails & Spa in Chicago, was awarded the Miss Congeniality Award for excellent customer service, based on letters from her clients.

5. Kathy Brown (center) celebrated her Salon of the Year (1-4 Nail Techs) win with members of her team. They arrived just in the nick of time to accept the award.

6. Reneé Borowy of VIP Salon & Spa in Riverview, Mich., was first runner-up last year but took home the coveted Salon of the Year (5+ Nail Techs) award this year. Her husband Gary was there to support her.

7. Salon of the Year (1-4 Nail Techs) finalists Kim Setzer, Kathy Brown, and Sandra Casanova were all on hand for the reception.

8. Salon of the Year (5+ Nail Techs) finalists Maisie Dunbar (left) and Cassie Piasecki (right) celebrate with Borowy.



Nail Technician of the Year Winner Mary Seitzinger

Name: Mary Seitzinger, managing manicurist/educator Salon: Nail Sensation, Columbus, Ohio

Years doing nails: 11

Current bio: International master artist educator for EZ Flow Nail Systems, Global Team Member for American International Industries (AII), worldwide nail competitor, and competition judge

Self-improvement goals: “I had fallen into the ‘nail tech trap,’ which paralyzes you with contentment. I had become so comfortable using the professional products and performing the professional services I knew would work that I got stuck in a rut and became blind to things outside my area of expertise. As an educator for AII, not only do I need to have product knowledge but also a working knowledge of so many different products, including waxing.”

 What makes her a winner:

•Her overall experience. Seitzinger’s resume includes work as a former salon owner, an educator for various beauty-related manufacturers, and globe-trotting traveler as a nail competitor.

•Diverse nail skills. Seitzinger offers an array of nail services to her clients — whether its pink-and whites, natural nail care and pedicure services, or 3-D acrylic art, she is adept at it all.

•Dedication to the industry. Her career goal is to make an impact in the growing field by educating and mentoring future and current nail technicians while mastering her own skills with future trends and education.

•Her commitment to the community. From participating in a cancer-cure-benefitting fundraiser for a fellow technician to judging the Ohio Skills USA-VICA student competition, Seitzinger says it’s a tough job to balance everything, but the way that being involved makes her feel is well worth it.

1. Attendees at the ISSE show in Long Beach are shown the EZ Flow way by Seitzinger.

2. Seitzinger refers to Nail Sensation as her home away from home.

3. Seitzinger designed this set of Mardi Gras nails for a competition. She says it’s her personal favorite.

4. These pretty-in-purple design sculptured nails are beautifully done by Seitzinger.

5. At Nail Sensation, Seitzinger proudly poses with her trophies before adding them to her extensive collection.

6. Seitzinger won 3rd place in the Salon Success category with these flawless nails.

7. Seitzinger says the beautiful work she saw at her first international competition in Kobe, Japan, really inspired her.

 8. Seitzinger and co-worker MaeLing Parrish took 4th and 5th place, respectively, at the Nailpro Cup 2005 Individuals competition.

Nail Technician of the Year first runner-up: MaeLing Parrish

Name: MaeLing Parrish, nail technician/educator Salon: Nail Sensation, Columbus, Ohio

Years doing nails: 16

 Current bio: International master artist educator for EZ Flow Nail Systems

Self-improvement goals: “I am a perfectionist to a fault. I demand from myself the highest quality of work possible not only in the salon but also in every aspect of the industry. I’m constantly learning about new, innovative products and techniques to stay on the cutting edge. Although these are fabulous traits, I cannot always live up to my own expectations, which leaves me disillusioned. I need to work harder at achieving a more harmonious balance between my own expectations and what is realistic.”

 What makes her a standout nail tech:

 •Being a die-hard competitor. In her first season as a professional nail competitor, Parrish finished 7th on NAILS’ 2004-2005 Top 25 List. Since competing, she has placed in the top four in eight competitions.

•Nail artist extraordinaire. Her creative nail art skills have earned Parrish a frequent guest artist spot in NAILS’ Nail Art Studio. Also, her 3-D colored acrylic designs have been featured in the pages of NAILS.

1. Giving back to the community is important to Parrish. Here, she and other nail techs took part at the Nailing Cancer Spa Day to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. At the Locks of Love fundraiser, Parrish donated 12 inches of her hair for the cause.

2. Parrish performed her magic on these before-and-after nails at a competition.

 Nail Technician of the Year second runner-up: Lorena Marquez

Name: Lorena Marquez, salon owner/educator Salon: At Your Fingertips, Watsonville, Calif.

 Years doing nails: 15

Current bio: Director of education for International Nail Manufacturers (INM)

Self-improvement goals: “This year I am dedicating myself to working on more product development as well as international sales and training. I feel that my experience as an international educator has helped me improve my speaking ability and raise the level of my training techniques. What I need to work on the most is self-image and learning how to market myself.”

What makes her a standout nail tech:

•Her devotion to teaching others. As an educator for INM, Marquez has traveled the world — from New Zealand to Russia — teaching techs. She has also developed The Lorena Marquez Nail Academy, a hands-on workshop on pink-and-whites and colored acrylic design.

•Her constant drive to challenge herself. From 1996 to 2005, Marquez was a regular on the competition circuit, with nearly 200 wins. Now retired from competing, Marquez’s role as educator helps keep her on her toes.

1. A sample of the awe-inspiring pink-and-whites done by Marquez. Another of her specialties is acrylic nail art.

2. Marquez is at her best when she’s teaching. Here, she trains participants on acrylic design at Toronto trade show.  

Salon of the Year (1-4 Techs) winner: Studio 24 Salon Spa

Salon: Studio 24 Salon Spa, Portage, Mich.

Owner: Kathy Brown Years of ownership: 21 (1 1/2 at current location)

Number of nail techs/employees: 3/20

Specialties: Bridal services, make-up, natural nail care, nail enhancements, pedicures, skin care, massage treatments, hair care, and permanent cosmetics

How would you make over the nail industry?: “Let the truth be told — the nail industry should have a bit of S.E.X. (Style, Education, Xperience). We thrive on innovative styles, exhilarating techniques, and artistic ideas with the assistance of educated professionals. Motivate yourself, and try to make S.E.X. a priority in the nail industry.”

What makes the salon a winner:

• Education is key. “If there’s assistance to make our lives easier, why not take it?” asks Brown. She believes the only way to develop your skills is through education. Brown and her team consistently attend continuing education classes as well as hold in-salon training.

• Clever seasonal promotions. From its Valentine’s Day offerings, such as the Deluxe Whirlpool Chocolate Pedicure, to its spring break services, such as the Pure Fiji Coconut or Pineapple Deluxe Spa Pedicure, Studio 24 offers seasonal treats that can’t be beat.

• Inviting atmosphere. The warm colors and comfortable decor at Studio 24 provide clients a relaxing escape.

• Dedication to the community and charitable causes. Whether sponsoring a Day of Beauty for a local women’s shelter or donating gift certificates to various school fundraisers, the team at Studio 24 is actively involved in giving.

1. To attract clients, Studio 24 SalonSpa entices them to uplift their spirits by pampering their body and soul.

2. Studio 24’s attractive reception area contains neatly displayed retail products.

3. Catering to the bridal market is one of the many specialty offerings at Studio 24.

4. In the salon’s waiting area, clients read up on the latest trends and are able to peruse the salon’s products.  


Salon of the Year first runner-up: Allure Salon & Spa

Salon: Allure Salon & Spa, Algona, Iowa Owner: Kimberly Setzer

Years of ownership: 3

Number of nail techs/employees: 2/7

 Specialties: Hair care, including special occasion/bridal hair, skin care, body treatments, massage packages, natural nail care, nail enhancements, and pedicures

How would you make over the nail industry? “More education. Graduating nail technicians are only taught the basics; there is no depth to what they have learned. Our schools need to step up to help with this problem. More mentoring would give students a more realistic view of our industry. If students were mentored in school, it would help them make the transition to a salon more successful.”

What makes the salon stand out:

 •Detailed employee handbook. Setzer is very thorough in outlining the policies, procedures, and practices expected of her salon team. She even includes proper instructions on greeting clients and how to handle customer complaints.

•Keeping clients informed. Whether introducing a new team member, announcing an in-salon fundraiser, or inviting clients to participate in an in-salon contest, the salon sends clients mailers to keep them abreast of salon happenings.

1. The appeal of Allure’s exterior is carried throughout the salon’s interior as shown by its comfy and cozy reception area.

2. Allure Salon gets an “A” for advertising. Many of its print ads feature the aces behind the services.

Salon of the Year second runner-up: Havana Nights Nails & Spa

Salon: Havana Nights Nails & Spa, Chicago

Owner: Sandra Plasencia Casanova

 Years of ownership: 1

Number of nail techs/employees: 4/7

Specialties: Skin care, waxing, massage, natural nail care, and foot care, including diabetic foot care and reflexology treatments How would you make over the nail industry?: “As an immigrant from Cuba, I love the tempo and competitiveness of the American business community. I propose that small and large salons set aside a few hours monthly to offer free manicures and pedicures to the indigent. This would provide them with a sense of confidence and self-esteem.”

 What makes the salon stand out:

•An elegant escape. The rich tones and colors and stylish decor of Havana Nights Nails & Spa provide a relaxing retreat for clients.

•Strong advertising campaign. Even though she’s new to the U.S., Casanova knows the importance of getting the word out about her business. Various print ads, with the majority of them offering specials, are a surefire way to bring salon clients through her doors.

1. Clients are queens for a day when perched in a pedicure throne while their feet are being pampered. 2. At the entrance to the salon, the posh, yet comfortable, decor is a testament to the salon’s luxurious services.


Salon: V.I.P. Salon & Spa, Riverview, Mich.

Owner: Reneé Borowy

Years of ownership: 20

Number of nail techs/employees: 22/53

Specialties: Natural nail care and nail enhancements, pedicures, facials, massage treatments, body wraps, and hair care

How would you make over the nail industry?: “I would start by having nail schools require educators (after teaching and passing application techniques) teach speed building. This process is not meant to compromise the importance of the quality of the product application. But in order to stay competitive in our industry, we need to be able to accommodate requests as they come up, such as a repair or a new set that the client didn’t indicate when booking.”


•Learning is a team effort. The salon’s nail techs separate into groups to study new product samples from trade shows and/or distributors. Each group is assigned a different product, such as acrylic or fiberglass, which it tests on other group members as well as educates them on.

•Embracing the competition. About four times a year, Borowy takes two staff members to a salon that offers the same spa services. After their visit, they go to dinner and discuss what they liked and will possibly incorporate into their services. Borowy also invites the salon to visit V.I.P. •Its palatial, yet comfortable, decor. The days of the Roman Empire are recreated at V.I.P. Marble-like columns, wall murals, ornate statues, and hanging vines transport clients back in time.

•An active apprenticeship program. Borowy is a firm believer in the benefits of these programs. They not only keep the industry alive, she says, but they also show apprentices what “real world” issues can happen and how to handle them. To date, V.I.P. has successfully trained and licensed 34 nail technicians in the state of Michigan.

1. Upon entering the golden doors, clients are whisked away to when Caesar ruled.

2. The salon’s majestic theme is carried throughout its promotional materials.

3. Clients relax and unwind in the salon’s plush leather pedicure thrones equipped with whirlpool tubs and massaging seats. DVD players are optional.

4. The Detroit Covenant House homeless shelter is one of many charities V.I.P. generously donates to.

5. This warm sitting area with fireplace is a perfect waiting spot for clients to dry their toenails.


Salon of the Year first runner-up: M&M Nails & Wellness Center

Salon: M&M Nails & Wellness Center, Silver Spring, Md.

Owner: Maisie Dunbar Years of ownership: 11

Number of nail techs/employees: 4/8

Specialties: Natural nail care, nail enhancements, pedicures, skin care, massage treatments, and facials

How would you make over the nail industry?: “Our industry would improve exponentially with our professional organizations making a national effort to ensure that all nail technicians take annual classes to maintain their licenses. Many licensed nail technicians never attend trade shows or pay for classes to improve their skills.”

What makes the salon stand out:

•Its innovative approach. Dunbar’s vision of a retreat where guests receive quality nail care service and learn about caring for their hands and feet as well as the importance of total well-being through massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, and facials, is still alive today.

•Its commitment to education. “Advanced technical and customer service education helps you maintain credibility and allows you to stay on top of changing industry trends,” says Dunbar. “It also helps you solve problems and make sound recommendations to guests,” she adds. To encourage her team to advance its education, Dunbar established an education fund.

1. Staff members are encouraged to continue their beauty education and stay on top of the latest trends.

2. Dunbar’s goal was to create an urban escape where clients would feel at home.


Salon of the Year second runner-up: The Nail Lounge

Salon: The Nail Lounge, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Owner: Cassie Piasecki Years of ownership: 1

Number of nail techs/employees: 16/28

Specialties: Natural nail care, pedicures, acrylic removal, and neck and shoulder massage

How would you make over the nail industry?: “When writing my business plan, I wanted to do the exact opposite of what my competition was doing. I found techs who love doing nails, and I pay them hourly until they have a built-in clientele; then they switch to commission. Second, I supply my techs with top-quality tools and products, which creates a consistency of service and the assurance that clients are getting the best. The key, though, is our constant communication with clients.”

What makes the salon stand out:

•Its hip, trendy decor. With its blue walls and matching barstools, crisp, white pedicure chairs, and green, orange, and red accents, The Nail Lounge exudes cheerfulness.

•Its tag line — Good Clean Fun. This not only refers to what clients can expect at The Nail Lounge, but it also reflects the salon’s stringent sanitation practices. Every tool is sterilized in an autoclave after each service; everything else is either discarded or given to the client. The salon’s pedicure bowls have liners that are also discarded.

1. The salon’s playful theme is consistently reflected in all of its literature.

2. Vibrant, contemporary colors create a festive, carefree mood for The Nail Lounge clients.

 Voted miss congeniality: Sandra Plasencia Casanova

Clients of Sandra Plasencia Casanova, owner of Havana Nights Nails & Spa in Chicago, sing her praises. “Sandra is the most gracious person I have ever met, and often, when I talk about her with other guests, they too will mention how kind and caring she is with each customer,” says client Sheila Magee. “This is so rare in today’s business world. Sandra makes each of us feel as if we were the only one in the salon.” Adds client Barbara Johnson, “Always full of energy, Sandra has an incredible ability to make people feel special at her salon. The minute you walk through the door, you are surrounded by a warm and friendly atmosphere, and you are called on by your name. Each client receives personalized attention, and, most importantly appointments are always on time.”

 “Before Havana Nights opened, I spent five years salon hopping in search of the perfect neighborhood nail boutique,” says client Latha Sundaram. “Havana Nights answered my calling. Sandra has achieved her goal: consistent cleanliness, a high-quality, warm staff, and a welcoming ambience. This is what makes her place the gold standard of neighborhood salons.” Referring to Plasencia Casanova’s accomplishment of immigrating from Cuba a few years ago to open up her own business, client Ileana Robson says, “Sandra is an inspiration to all young women in America wanting to see a dream come true, as she often says, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it!’”

1. Havana Nights’ owner Sandra Plasencia Casanova makes every client feel special.

2. The warm salon atmosphere is reflected in the rich, inviting colors of the Cuban-inspired decor.

Voted best salon atmosphere: Posh Nail Salon

Bright, cheerful, modern, relaxing, and welcoming is how owner Kim Chung describes her Oklahoma City, Okla., salon. Chung chose the word “posh” because of its meaning: elegant and fashionable. The salon’s lime-green and pink-magenta colors are attractive and appealing without being shocking or overpowering; its light cream walls tone down the bold colors. To give Posh a contemporary look, white pendant lights with silver bars hang above the nail stations and pedicure areas. The nail stations, display case, and reception booth are made from faux wood, and the pedicure spas are vanilla cream in color. Fuzzy white carpeting, live bamboo palms, and indoor palms complete the look. “I want my clients to feel relaxed and happy when they step into my salon,” says Chung. “I play oldies but goodies to set the tone, and the sweet aroma from my candles tingles their senses.”

1. Posh owner Kim Chung selected a color scheme that is bright and cheerful, yet not shocking or overpowering. The walls are cream, with the exception of the pink wall that bears the salon’s logo.

2. Hanging silvers pendants dress up the pedicure area and contribute to the salon’s contemporary look. 

Voted nail artist of the year :MaeLing Parrish

With an extensive resume, including awards for nail competitions, MaeLing Parrish, a nail technician/educator at Nail Sensation in Columbus, Ohio, has also been the featured guest artist in NAILS’ Nail Art Studio. It’s no surprise then that colored acrylic design is what she enjoys doing best. Her nail art repertoire includes: 3-D acrylic flowers on tips, camouflage colored acrylic sculpts, glitter acrylic sculpts with 3-D flowers and 3-D butterflies (she created this one on her own nail!), 3-D acrylic bows, glitter acrylic tips with paper snowflakes inlaid, hand-painted cartoon characters, airbrushed art, and so much more.

1. Parrish offers these glitter acrylics with cut-out French tips in the salon.

2. Parrish applied this glitter acrylic sculptured nail with 3-D flowers and a 3-D butterfly to her own finger.

Voted best mentors/educators: The Team of Mary Seitzinger and MaeLing Parrish

As fellow technicians and educators at Nail Sensation in Columbus, Ohio, Mary Seitzinger (on the right in both pictures) and MaeLing Parrish are birds of a feather. In addition to both being international master artist educators with EZ Flow Nail Systems, they both have competed in nail competitions across the globe.

When asked how becoming an educator/mentor inspired each of them in their careers, Seitzinger shares, “It has given me the tools to improve and expand my own education. And because of this knowledge, I have greater abilities and more to offer my clients. I have become more of a well-rounded technician.” Says Parrish, “It has opened doors to many career opportunities and inspirations I didn’t know existed for a nail technician. For example, educating globally. I use to think that life as a nail technician was sitting behind a desk in a salon for 40 hours a week.” “When a student we have educated as a technician or a competitor succeeds in the salon or wins in the arena, the inner pride we feel is overwhelming,” says the award-winning duo. “Doing what we love — educating — has led us to become mentors, inspiring others not only to fly to the moon but to be able to reach for the stars.”

1. Seitzinger and Parrish evaluate nails at a five-day educator training in Phuket, Thailand.

2. Distributor T & D Beauty Supply sponsored an introductory acrylic class in Detroit. “This Student wanted to learn so much, we couldn’t get her to take a lunch,” says the pair.


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