Yes, dreams do come true, and according to Mary Metscaviz, owner of Awesome Nails in Grayslake, Ill., timing is everything. Although Metscaviz has been in the nail industry for 23 years, it was only a year ago when the opportunity to open a salon in the perfect location became a reality.

“Since downtown Grayslake is such a cut area and there’s been lots of new renovations, I wanted to open a salon in the heart of the city,” Metscaviz explains. To her surprise, and luck, what was once a thriving coffee shop one Friday became a vacant business the following Monday. Metscaviz seized the chance.

But before opening Awesome Nails, which is located on the only main street that runs through town, Metscaviz did her homework. She studied the demographics of the area and traffic flow patterns to make sure she found the most marketable location. “If I could pick any location this would be it because it’s right next to a little park and close to a pharmacy so there are many passersby,” she says.

Actually, salon ownership is not new territory for Metscaviz. Prior to opening Awesome Nails, Metscaviz, a single parent, had a home-based salon for about six years. “The salon I was working at wanted me to become full-time, but I couldn’t because of my kids. Working out of my home was the easiest solution because it allowed me to spend more time with them.” Since she didn’t have enough money to advertise her home-based business (she had moved too far away to retain some of her previous clients), Metscaviz had to work at a salon two days a week to supplement her income. Eventually, she remarried and moved again. Her clientele followed her so she was able to work full-time out of her home. But the pressure was on from her family who wanted her to be truly home when she was there. “They wanted mom all to themselves,” she says with a smile. So her search for an outside location began.

When Metscaviz first opened Awesome Nails, it was just her and long-time friend and former coworker Darlene Feric. As business began to grow, she brought aboard two more nail technicians.

Metascaviz remembers her own early days as a new technician. Ironically, she went to cosmetology school to become a hairstylist, not a nail technician. She explains: “After I graduated from high school I was working as an assistant for a drug manufacturer. I was dating a hairstylist at the time who really loved his work, so he inspired me to get my cosmetology license. I really thought I was going to do hair, not nails, but I was a fast learner with nails. Fresh out of beauty school I worked at a nail salon and at a hair salon. I was only going to do nails for six months while I built up my hair clientele, but I built up a nail clientele faster. Once you’re making the money, it’s hard to resist. Besides, I’m creative and I love doing sculptured nails.”

She stayed at the nail salon for two years, then left to manage their new salon for almost 10 years until she had her first child and had to quit. He was born prematurely and had to spend four months in the hospital. Then she had her second child, and shortly thereafter, she divorced and was forced to go back to work. “I went to work at a nail salon, then the partners sold it to us five techs. We were all single parents. When the building was sold and the rent was doubled, we dissolved the business. I worked at another salon for about three years, where I met Darlene,” Metscaviz explains.

Friendly Competition

In addition to working side by side, Metazcaviz and ferric also compete together in nail competitions (Feric finished in 11th place in NAILS’ 1998 Top 25 Competitors Ranking). “There are no hard feelings if only one of us wins,” says Metazcaviz. “Our goal is to both come home winners, but no matter who places, it’s win-win situation because it makes the salon look good.

“I can learn more in one competition than I can in years of continuing education classes,” says Metscaviz. “I hadn’t refined my skills as far as how to make a perfect smile line, a perfect arch, or a perfect C-curve. I now know what it takes to make a beautiful nail.”

Surprisingly, it took Metscaviz 22 years after obtaining her cosmetology license before she tried competing. “I think a lot of it had to do with being a single parent,” she says. “It’s stressful to compete because you’re spending time away from your family. I didn’t have the desire to do it because I couldn’t make it a reality, but now that my kids are older and I’m remarried I enjoy competing.”

Metscaviz also has learned more about the business by being a nail competition model. “It was a great experience to be on the other side of the table. I’m much more appreciative of my models now. I learned a lot of little tricks, such as making a perfect C-curve using dowel rods,” she explains.

Never-ending Education

In her essay for NAILS’ 1998 Salon of the Year Awards contest, Metscaviz wrote that education has always been a priority on her list of accomplishments. “I believe in order to be a professional you need to know the chemical makeup of products, what they do, and how the product was designed to work. Because of all the recent TV coverage on nail salons, the public is becoming more aware of what we do. The public doesn’t pay attention to the good, only the negative, so you have to know how to answer people who think acrylic nails are bad,” she says.

Sharing nail-related information with her clients is also prevalent in Awesome Nails’ salon brochure, which states, “We use only high quality, safe materials,” then goes on to address the issue of MMA. “When anyone calls for price quotes, I tell them why our prices are higher [than other salons’] and about our achievements,” says Metscaviz.

To keep up-to date on the latest products and techniques, Metscaviz and her technicians regularly attend trade shows and classes. Metscaviz also goes one step further in keeping abreast of the industry. She is involved in various beauty associations.

“It’s important to be visible in the industry and to continue learning,” says Metscaviz on her affiliations.

Marketing Know-how

As every salon owner knows, it takes more than professional, quality work and good customer service skills to bring in new clients. You’ve got to get the word out about your salon. To market her salon, Metscaviz advertises weekly in three local newspapers. Also, during the summer she distributes fliers door-to-door.

To attract walk-ins Metscaviz is constantly changing her window display. Last Christmas, for example, she had a small decorated tree in the window with Woody, a popular character from the movie “Toy Story,” underneath it. Her game plan? That hopefully kids will stop to see Woody and say, “Look Mommy,” which gets mom to notice the salon. In addition, the salon’s phone number is prominently handing in neon lights in the front window, which people can’t help but notice when passing by.

Promotional salon materials include magnetic business cards, bottle openers, and pens. Metscaviz has even branched out in the clothing line in an effort to further enhance the salon’s visibility. Awesome Nails has its own apparel displaying the salon’s logo.

Metscaiviz also takes advantage of editorial coverage to plug her salon. For every nail competition she and Feric place in, she sends a press release to the local newspapers. And little did she know that a friendly gesture would lead to a profile of her and Feric in the local paper. Metscaviz explains: “A woman was standing next to me at the park and we stated talking. She told me she was a reporter for the local newspaper and I told her how important it is for her to have nice nails because of her visibility. I offered her a free manicure, which got me a write-up in her paper.”

Community involvement is yet another way Metscaviz keeps her salon’s name circulating. She belongs to the Grayslake Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Metchants and Heritage Association. Last August, Awesome Nails put together a float for the annual Grayslake Days Parade. For the ’50s-themed parade, their float was called “Doing the Hand Jive,” and it included for young girls in poodle skits-their nails decorated, of course-doing the popular dance. Metscaviz and her staff walked alongside the float handing out fliers, business cards, and magnets.

Surprisingly, even after 23 years in the industry, Metscaviz’s enthusiasm for nails hasn’t waned and she is making plans for the future. Her short-term goal is to be a nail competition judge, which she is certified to do, so she can be on the “other side,” just like when she was a competition model. She’d also like to be a competition director.

Metscaviz’s plans don’t stop there. “Someday I’d like to be an educator, because if there aren’t enough good nail technicians out there, someone has to teach them,” she says with a smile. “Besides, it would be interesting to travel and meet other people.”

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