Salon Name: Nailz Hand & Foot Spa

Location: Cashiers, N C

Owner: Deborah Reeves

Square Footage: 1,000

Years of Ownership: 6

Number of Nail Techs/Employees: 1

Specialties: Mountain Glow Manicure and Pedicure, pink-and-whites Other Services: hair and tanning (250 square feet of the salon is leased to two hairstylists)

Compensation Structure: other nail tech is currently on commission, but will be switching to booth rental.

Notes: Reeves is big on retail, offering clients more than just nail products. Dog biscuits and gardening gloves are some of the unusual retail items she features on her shelves.

MOVING UP: After 25 years of running basic nail salons complete with lots of nail techs and the usual retail products — nail polish, nail glue, etc. — Deborah Reeves was ready for a change. So when she and her husband moved to Cashiers, N.C., the first thing that came into her mind was “retirement salon.” After all, the local population may not be high (at best, there are about 2,000 residents), but the mountain town is a haven for people trying to get away from the hot, humid summers that are all too common in the South.

And although the town for the most part is decidedly rustic and casual (it’s not uncommon for Reeves to hear stories about the latest bear encounter from clients), the tourists who flock to their vacation homes during the summer made a perfect client base. “They like to keep up their appearances,” Reeves says.

It also didn’t hurt that there weren’t many salons in the area. Before Reeves opened her business, she says there wasn’t a nails-only salon around. Although several salons offered nail services, they were all full service.

So Reeves promptly began searching for a location and found the perfect one — next to a hair salon, no less. When she first set up shop, she envisioned a cozy salon where she’d be the sole nail technician. She hired decorators to convert the space into something that looked more like a mountain home den than a salon. “I wanted to create a room where from the moment a client walked in she’d be relaxed,” she says. That’s why she went with the warm colour scheme, complete with chocolate brown walls, cozy chairs, and wood cabinets.

Her one-woman plan soon changed, however. Not only did out-of-towners begin frequenting the salon, locals also started booking appointments. Reeves soon noticed that while tourists were an everyday occurrence during the summer, locals would hardly show their faces. “A lot of locals don’t come to the salon during the summer because they’re busy handling tourists,” she says. “Instead, they come during the winter.”

That was enough to keep her busy throughout the year. So busy, in fact, that she knew she needed to hire an additional person. However, it wasn’t until five years later that she finally took on a partner to help her out.

MORE THAN NAILS: One thing that separates Reeves’ newest venture from the salons she’s owned in the past is the fact that retail plays a bigger role in the picture. Part of the reason is because of her health. “I wasn’t ready to leave the business, but my hands were beginning to hurt,” she says. “This way, I can still stay in the nail industry and keep the income flowing.” The feet that tourists are also more than willing to shell out money (after all, they are on vacation) was an added incentive.

From the beginning, Reeves envisioned her retail area as a space that would offer anything hand and foot related. Today, that consists of everything from top coat and polish to lotion and private label bath oils.

Since she’s gotten to know the area and its residents, she’s begun offering items that some people might not necessarily equate with a nail salon, namely gardening gloves and dog biscuits.

The idea to retail gardening gloves came from the simple fact that many of her clients do gardening work and it didn’t make sense for them to ruin their manicures. And the dog biscuits? “We have lots of animal lovers around here,” she says. “They’re selling like hotcakes.”

Among the other products on her shelves are moisturizing gel socks, bath oils, and a deep moisturizing lotion that’s perfect for the cool mountainous climate.

“By lining products neatly on the shelves all the merchandise looks like it belongs,” she says. She even had a rich, dark wood cabinet made expressly for showcasing her products.

And she’s not content with letting the products sit on the shelves and sell themselves. Reeves hired an artist to create a line drawing of the salon’s exterior (canopied with potted shrubs on either side of the entrance). She runs the ad in the local paper, changing the wording depending on what she’s promoting. “People see the front entrance of the spa in the ad, so they recognize that it’s us,” she says.

All of her extra touches and attention to detail have paid off. Retail sales account for 25% of the salon’s income, a considerable increase from the 13% she averaged the year prior. Her success has prompted her to seriously consider hiring someone to focus on that aspect of the business. “Right now, we’re doing our selling from the chair as we’re working with clients,” she says. “We’re ready for someone to work on the floor.”

That person, she says, would be in charge of not only knowing the various product lines inside out, but would also welcome clients and handle appointments.

She says she’d also like the salesperson to offer demos. “That’s one of the easiest ways to sell a product: just rub it in and it’s sold,” she says. Currently, she keeps testers handy at the nail stations and in the waiting area. “We don’t keep them on the shelves because they start getting mixed up with the other products and it gets messy,” she says.

CHANGE IS GOOD: Although Reeves had only intended to be a hand and foot spa (as she calls her salon), the urge to expand was just too strong. When the business next door closed its doors for good, she acquired the space, adding about 500 extra square feet to her existing 500-square-foot salon. With the extra space, she’s been able to lease part of the property to two hairstylists. And, she’s added a tanning bed as well.

She’s also considering making some changes to her retail section. She’s thinking of moving her products to a more prominent location at the front of the salon and turning that area into a boutique. That, after all, would bring an air of newness and excitement to the salon, and that’s something Reeves wouldn’t mind. “You can reach the point where you can’t take on anymore clients, but retail can expand indefinitely,” she says.



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