Congratulations to the winners of NAILS 1994 Salon of the Year winners. Enjoy their inspirational stories.

NAIL SALON OF THE YEAR WINNER (8+ nail technicians)

Communication and Cooperation Create Great Management

The Nail Galleria (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

Owner: Michele Yaksich and Theresa DeCort

Opened: September 1992

Staff Size: 16

At Nail Galleria, image is everything. The entry package from this salon spoke volumes for the business; it was carefully constructed, concise, deliberate, focused, stylish, professional, and thorough. This salon struck the judges as being a very user-friendly salon where nail technicians, with the support of management, make a visit to the salon as pleasant as possible.

The owner has been honored by the regional publication The Pittsburgh Newsweekly as “The Hottest Nail Salon in Pittsburgh.” It’s an honor the owners work hard at living up to. Newsletters and educational brochures are done professionally and are produced regularly. Complete with illustrations, the handouts educate clients about all the services offered and any questions they may have. The client handouts are used to help promote and to support technicians. These information brochures serve to show clients the importance of proper nail care while soft-selling both retail products and return business for nail service.

Successful business operation like Nail Galleria doesn’t happen by magic although the teamwork between these two owners may seem magical. Their backgrounds and skill complement each other so well that no area of salon manages is left unmanaged or unattended. Yaksich has a strong background in the salon industry that began with her education at the well-renowned Pittsburgh Beauty Academy, and DeCort is accomplished as an investments analyst. Perhaps their success in working together goes back to the fact that they both spent working in management position.

Nail Galleria fosters the talent necessary for professional success by encouraging artistic and technical growth with a sliding pay scale that rewards technical expertise.

What set this salon apart from the others in its category was that although it is a big salon (nine technicians), work is never “assembly line.” The atmosphere at Nail Galleria fosters a personal approach and management efficiency, surely the basis to client retention.

NAIL SALON OF THE YEAR (8+ nail technicians) RUNNER UP

All Expenses Paid: The Support and Pursuit of Continuing Education Pays Off

Mimi Inc. (Olney, Md.)

My Kieu Huynh, Owner. Opened 1991

Lots of beautiful nails is the name of the game at Mimi Inc. While securing new clients is an important objective, pleasing current clients is the focus for owners My Kieu Huynh.

This salon goes to an extreme to make learning fun and easy for staff by paving all expenses for nail technicians to attend tradeshows. That is a dedication to employee growth that scored very highly with NAILS judges.

To secure new clients, Huynh has an ad campaign that relies on handbills and direct mail. An interesting coupon among the many was one for acrylic fills. The coupon discounted the service for first-time customers only. The competition may not appreciate the effort; the coupon is designed to attract new clients for maintenance of full sets acquired elsewhere.

This salon thrives under the careful management of Huynh, who emigrated from Vietnam when she was a teenager. Huynh earned her manicurist license then immediately enrolled in four-year College to earn a bachelor ’s degree in accounting. To date, she holds four different state cosmetology licenses. She is an example of the tenacity and dedication it takes to make a nail salon a rave success.

NAIL SALON OF THE YEAR (8+ nail technicians) RUNNER UP

Peter’s in Hot Pursuit of More Than Just Great Nails

Salon: Peter's Nails (Kensington, MD)

Peter Ha, owner

Opened 1990

Total nail care is how salon owner Peter Ha describes his salon. From before the service begins with twice-sterilized implements, to after the service with a two-week no-lift guarantee, clients come first at Peter’s Nails.

Ha stops at almost nothing when it comes to client giveaway gifts to make sure they don’t forget the salon. Aside from the standard coffee mugs and neon pens that bear a company’s name, Peter’s Nails offers dry-erase daily memo pads, magnetized pocket address filers, pocket calendars, penlight key rings, poptop key rings, refrigerator magnets, T-shirt, and water bottles.

Peter’s Nail will go to almost any length to make a nail appointment convenient for clients. Besides a lounge area with television, the salon offers free polish for children and home nails services for ill clients.

NAIL SALON OF THE YEAR (4-7 nail technicians) WINNER

From Securities to Nails, Business Skills Always Apply

BRENDA’S (Masfield, Ohio)

Owner: Brenda Whisler

Opened: Present Salon 1993

Staff Size: 6

Situated on the fifth floor of the Barrington One Building, this gem of a salon was designed for success. Brenda Whisler created her salon with 27 years of business experience, mostly in management and securities. After graduating from Nationwide Beauty Academy in 1990 with a manicurist license, she dove straight into a salon ownership.

Whisler’s business background served her well. The management structure of Brenda’s is outlined in a beefy policies and procedures manual. This booklet addresses owner and employee responsibilities, pay structure (including incentives and benefits), vacation and holiday policies, and service instructions.

Perks and benefits are great for employees, but Brenda’s extends its innovative programs to customer service. The salon has varied service menu that provides for any client need – from basic services to elaborate packages. This can mean anything from a basic manicure to a bridal day limousine package, with many choices in between.

The salon’s interaction with its clients is also an area that got a lot of attention from the judges. Many nail salon guarantee their nail work by fixing broken nails between fills for no charge, but Brenda’s takes that concept further. It issues a guarantee for seven days in writing and the guaranteed is displayed on the service menu brochure.

Brenda’s also offers many clients-referral specials. A particularly popular incentive is a free fill after nine fills, or two sets for the price of one when a client bring in a friend.

These programs are not terribly new in the salon business, but the salon uses so many of them. Service “above and beyond” distinguishes this salon.

NAIL SALON OF THE YEAR (4-7 nail technicians) RUNNER UP

No Complacency Allowed: Building Technical Skills Makes Happy Clients

The Nail Clinic (Avon, Ohio)

Owners: Michelle Barna, Lori Barna, and Laurie Piskur

Opened 1987

While this salon received high marks for lush, tasteful decor, owners Michelle Barna, Lori Barna, and Laurie Piskur’s ability to learn from past mistakes earned them notice.

Biweekly newsletters are circulated among them of standing and new policies, and this supplements a comprehensive policies-and-procedures manual. These are pretty standard items in nail salons, but what the judges hadn’t seen before were the Nail Clinics “quizzes.” These are staff-written tests administered during staff meetings and they cover such area as retail selling strategies and new acrylic application techniques.

The marble columns supporting the arched entry is the first sign of this other world known as The Nail Clinic. This salon was certainly one of the most beautiful we saw among this year’s entrants. The Greek motif is well-executed, and the thoroughness in which it is carried out is note-worthy. The salon is crawling with ivy and ficus trees are scattered about.

NAIL SALON OF THE YEAR (4-7 nail technicians) RUNNER UP

Maximizing PR Makes Excellent Business Sense

The Nail Shoppe (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Owners: Debbie and Gary Krakalovich

Opened 1986

A stand-out in its division, The Nail Shoppe grabbed the attention of the judges because of its keen self-marketing. Owners Debbie and Gary Krakalovich have gotten the salon enough press coverage to fill a book – literally – with magazine features, newspapers articles, radio interviews and television talk shows. T is rather stunning public relations work. Nearly every piece written has the word “The Nail Shoppe” and “award-winning” or “grand prize winner” in the same sentence.

As with of the other winners and runners-up in this contest, it isn’t just one excellent quality about a salon that makes it exceptional; it is many. This salon displayed excellence in technical work and salon décor (Persian-style rugs on hardwood floors and color-coordinated manicurists’ tables with cabinetry).

NAIL SALON OF THE YEAR (1-3 nail technicians) WINNER

Artfully Yours: This Is How To Fuse Nails and Art


Location: Allentown, Pa.

Owners: Patty Erdman and Christi Vreeland

Opened: May 1992

Staff Size: 2

Christi Vreeland and patty Erdman, owners of Half Moon Nail, went about creating a salon atmosphere that is an expression of their unique artistic nature. Both owners have background in art that is given full license in the work they do and the salon they have built.

Half Moon Nail was done in an art style that uses gold, teal, purple, and green on natural-stained hardwood rather than black, white and glass on lacquered wood typical of art deco. Instead of the hard edges and minimal trappings of standard art deco, the salon is rich with plant life (real and artificial potted plants stands guard inside the front door while hand painted vines of ivy are “strewn” upon the floor). Retail displays have the same investment of drama and creativity as the rest of the salon décor.

Both Erdman and Vreeland have invested heavily in developing their artistic skills as the relate to the human from as their canvas: they’ve learned everything they could about what you can do with products suited to apply to nails and skin and the tools to do it.

Industry recognition is not new to Half Moon Nails. The salon has won awards for excellence, and the owners have been honored individually. Vreeland took center stage at the NAILS Magazine show/Las Vegas banquet twice: once for Salon of the Year and once for first place in Fantasy Nail Art. The salon is listed in the National Directory of Who’s Who.

Another sideline interest of note is the work Vreeland and Erdman have done in a field otherwise known as “body embellishments,” or tattooing. They design either temporary tattoos from non-toxic, water-based paints, which she can then take to a tattoo parlor for permanent application. This service expansion scored Half Moon nails points for depth of knowledge in the trade, as well as uniqueness in expansion with add-on services.

NAIL SALON OF THE YEAR (1-3 nail technicians) RUNNER UP

An Extra Touch Makes the Hottest Touch

The Hottest Touch Nail Salon

Satellite Beach, Fla.; Georgette Garber Torell, Owner.

Opened 1991

Thriving in the midst of cut-rate salons and cumbersome city ordinances is the Hottest Touch Nail Salon. Owner Georgette Garber-Torell has survived challenging business circumstances by aggressive marketing and outrageous customer service.

This salon’s clientele continues to grow through a multitude of marketing avenues. By carefully targeting various outlets such as local contest and beachfront hotels, Garber-Torell is attracting just the clients she wants. To retain those she already has, her prospecting system also generates customer appreciation cards and gift certificates. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

It’s a very special “home-like” feel that makes the Hottest Touch different. This salon incorporates unique extras for clients, such as offering designer fragrances in the ladies room and a patron’s book-swap shelf that sits alongside retail items. It all adds up to a stylized and well-blended mixture of practical items and soft, feminine extras.

NAIL SALON OF THE YEAR (1-3 nail technicians) RUNNER UP

Never Forget Why You Are in Business

Tips 'N Toes Salon

Murray, Utah

Marilyn Ivory and Lynmari Taylor, owners

Opened 1992

Tips ‘N Toes owners Marilyn Ivory and Lynamari Taylor have blended professionalism and personality in a way that is unique. The salon’s technicians have specialized in service areas so that client need be turned away. The salon has a nail art expert.

To foster client retention, Tips ‘N Toes keeps in touch with its clients with letters. For holidays, anniversaries (including the salon’s), and to resolve the occasional grievance, the salon sends out flyers.

Originality in salon development scored high with NAILS judges. Ivory and Taylor have injected personality and humor without losing any professionalism into such things as their service menu (a fill with more than five broken nails is called a Major Overhaul) and in the pedicure room they use a home-use recliner chair instead of a pedicure throne.

This display of humor and personality, however, does not undercut the professionalism and service-orientation that keeps clients coming back to Tips ‘N Toes for more.


A Progressive, Aggressive Approach to Business Has Its Big Payoff


Location: Wampum, Pa.

Owner: Debra Shoaff

Opened: September 1992

Debra Shoaff created her salon out of her two-car garage. With the encouragement of her husband and the donated labor of friends. The Nail and Hair Gallery turned out exactly as she planned.

This salon received high marks from the Salon of the Year Judges not only for décor, but for employee incentives (Shoaff has two full time employees), financial management, and client relations.

Employees at The Nail and Hair Gallery have an innovative program for incentives that defines the spirit of “give and take.” Shoaff created a formula that helps her track paid services, retail commissions, weekly and quarterly sales increases, and technician seniority. From those factors technicians earn such benefits as vacation pay, increased service commission, wages, and tuition for continuing education.

Shoaff uses a computer to track and analyze this information constantly. She also shares her analyses with her team at regular staff meetings. Using computer-generated graphs and charts, Shoaff shows her team exactly where they stand.

Shoaff’s progressive business approach extends to her industry involvement. The Nail and Hair Gallery staff regularly attends tradeshows and the entire team competes. Many nail technicians can make that claim, but what makes this salon shine is that Shoaff also brings seminar and classes in-house for both her nail technicians and clients. Shoaff has used her commitment to continuing education to her marketing advantage. Educational seminars for clients are a very special event. Set in a party atmosphere with wine and cheese. Clients are happy to stay into wee hours to learn more about products and services. Once, Shoaff brought in nail competition winner Nicholas Miller for a day of instruction. Shoaff made sure that all her clients were well aware that the salon had undertaken such a venture in order to improve the staff’s skills.

What Shoaff showed the Salon of the Year judges is that it doesn’t take a huge financial investment, a big staff, or a public relations agency to present high-quality services to the largest clientele one can reach.


Technical Excellence and Product Knowledge Play


Mendota Heights, Minn.

Lori Ribar, Owner.

Opened 1987

Perfect 10 Nails is the product of years of experience in a "traditional" salon. Home-based salon owner Lori Ribar sold a five-station salon so that she could open Perfect 10 Nails in her home. She wanted to spend time with her three young children.

She has managed to create a home-based salon that is professional and that allows her to concentrate on her two loves: her family and doing nails. Ribar established strict rules and regulations so her two loves did not collide. She has a separate phone line for the salon, and her children are taken care of by a professional at her home. Ribar updates clients on salon policies via letters.

In this contest category, the owner’s strengths in product knowledge and application played a much part in salon development because a home-based owner is usually a sole operator. In this respect, Ribar was instantly a front-runner. As far as nail care products are concerned; you name it; she’s done it. Her technical resume is jam-packed. Ribar is a manufacturer’s educator, competition winner and coach, tradeshow representative, product distributor, committee member of the Minnesota Cosmetology Association, and nail designer for print media, including cover tech for NAILS October 1994.


Drawing the Line Between Nail Technology and Medicine

Pretty Hands & Feet

Belfry, Ky.

Angela Salyers, owner

Opened 1994

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky is Pretty Hands and Feet, a full-service nail salon. Owner Angela Salyers has taken a rustic setting and added modern technology and services.

Pretty Hands and Feet scored high points from judges for aggressive advertising efforts, as well as nail biter specialty.

Salyers is a firm believer in advertising. She has dabbled in different methods to find every effective way of getting her message across. By advertising in all sections of local papers and hand-delivering flyers, Salyers has drummed up regional and traveling business.

Salyers specializes in nail biters and has developed an intensive therapy that has produced dramatic results for many clients. For clients with special pedicure problems out her scope, she has cultivated a relationship with a local podiatrist.

To keep active in the industry, Salyers visits other salons in her region and she collects service menus and keeps track of changes in prices and additional services.

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