PALATINE, Ill. —Attending the Chicago Midwest Beauty Show in Rosemont was the perfect opportunity to catch up with my aunt and my cousins in nearby Palatine — and check out the nail scene as well.

The town is about a half-hour drive from Chicago, and it looks the way I imagine a Midwestern suburb should look like: plenty of large, rambling, and old, but well-preserved homes. Palatine also happens to be where The Right Dimension Salon & Spa is located. The spa is in a shopping center not too far from where I was staying, so it was the perfect place to visit.

Sheryl Goldberg, who’s been with the spa for a little over a year, is the spa’s lone nail tech. While she worked on my hands (giving me a manicure and a nice polish job), she filled me in on some important details that really do affect nail salons in the area. The Right Dimension actually boasts three nail stations, but the current shortage of qualified nail techs isn’t helping to fill those vacant spots. “We had two other girls before, but now this area is losing a lot of qualified people,” Sheryl says. “There are just not enough students in the schools.” The other problem, she says, is that discount salons abound. In her opinion, nail techs simply do not get enough respect “The term ‘nail tech’ has a bad connotation around here,” she says.

The recent closure of a local nail school didn’t do much to alleviate the situation, either. After all, how can there be qualified nail techs if the schools that are supposed to educate them are nonexistent? Still, that doesn’t mean nail techs are sitting around doing nothing. Sheryl has posted help wanted flyers in several schools, although she hasn’t gotten any leads as a result.

And the fact that the economy is slowing down is a cause for worry for many salons in the area. Many large corporations are headquartered in surrounding suburbs, and their employee downsizing definitely affects the area’s nail industry. “Honestly, it’s the deadest I’ve seen it in a long time,” Sheryl says. She fears some clients will inevitably have to cut back on their expenses — and most likely that will mean that nail services will be considered a luxury. “In the past couple months, I’ve had a few clients who have soaked off their acrylics because fill services don’t fit into their budgets anymore,” she says. However, there is the comfort of knowing that even when things aren’t looking too good, there are still people who will always look at a nail service as a luxury they can’t do without.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.

Read more about