A few months ago, Ramona Boudreaux noticed a man dozing in a chair in her salon’s reception area. Assuming he had fallen asleep while waiting for his wife, she let him rest. When he awoke, she gave him a cup of coffee and commented that his wife was taking long time. “He said, ‘No, I’m not waiting for anyone. I’m just relaxing,’” relates Boudreaux.
This incident pays compliment to Boudreaux’s dedication to creating an atmosphere of relaxation and tranquillity. She feels strongly that a salon should be a haven for clients to escape from the pressure of a hustle bustle, commercialized society.
Boudreaux’s philosophy is at odds with many salons that are dedicated to providing fast, efficient service and are retail-oriented. After getting her license, Boudreaux went to work in another Yuba City, Calif., salon, but she felt too much pressure to push clients to buy add-on services and retail products. So she opened Nail Dynasty.
Boudreaux’s salon philosophy was greatly influenced by the five and a half years she and her husband lived in Japan. Entering Nail Dynasty is much like being welcomed into a Japanese home: You are ushered into a chair, offered snacks and a drink, and are encouraged to relax. Clients come to get their nails done, says Boudreaux, but they often stay for several hours to relax and chat with other clients.
The “extras,” such as hand and arm massages, are included in every service, no matter how short or inexpensive, says Boudreaux. “I asked people what they wanted when I worked in the other salon. They wanted something plush and pampering where they could go and relax,” she says. “So that’s what we’re giving them.”
The ambiance of the Orient isn’t just in the air, it’s all around clients at Nail Dynasty. In her travels, Boudreaux collected Oriental art pieces and bric-a-brac. When she decided to open the salon, she knew the pieces that gave her so much pleasure also would be enjoyed by clients.
Boudreaux shied away from traditional salon furnishings. She purchased mahogany Queen Annestyle desks and chairs for workstations and mixed these pieces with rattan chairs and a deep-cushioned black leather couch in the waiting area. The mahogany credenza and bookcase blend in with black lacquer storage cabinets, Oriental rugs, a fish tank, and plentiful green plants.
“The color of the tables went with everything and they have a large enough top for technicians to work. The height is perfect. We just covered the tops with glass to protect the finish,” says Boudreaux.
“It was a lot more expensive [than buying traditional salon furniture], but the furnishing are going to hold up, stay nice, and not go out of style. They’re classics and they’re durable,” justifies Boudreaux, who estimates that it cost $10,000 to $12,000 to outfit the salon.
Boudreaux surrounds the furnishings with rose, black, and gray marbleized wallpaper, pink carpeting in the main section of the salon, and dark gray granite tile under the stations. Unpapered walls are pink, and the door trim and baseboards are painted black.
The 1,000-square-foot salon is split lengthwise: on one side is the reception area, Boudreaux’s office area, and a kitchen. The work area is separated by a wall with open doorways and interior window openings. Stations are alcove for privacy, but half-walls and open doorways keep the feeling cozy, not isolated.
How long did all this take to plan? Just eight weeks, says Boudreaux, from the time she decided to strike out on her own to the time she actually opened her doors. “Opening the salon was just a flash,” she says. “I just had a feeling that clients weren’t getting what they really wanted and all of a sudden I had to do this.” Boudreaux says she walked by the location and really liked it. Upon inquiring, she discovered the current tenants were moving out. “The salon fell in my lap in a 24-hour period.”
Boudreaux had done nails overseas, but she had only been licensed and working in California for two months. Even so, she took the plunge. She and her husband took a second mortgage on their home and started turning their leased space into a salon. “We stripped everything down, ripped out walls and carpeting. My husband did 100% of the remodelling work.”
While her husband renovated the space, Boudreaux scoured the area for furnishings and decor. When he finished building, she moved in with her paintbrush and started rolling walls and painting trim. “I thought we spent a lot of money and that it was costing too much, but I found out we saved $15,000 to $20,000 just by doing the work ourselves.” Even so, the Boudreaux’s have invested $32,000 in Nail Dynasty’s success.
ON HER OWN
When Nail Dynasty opened, Boudreaux worked alone, but she soon decided to rent space to other technicians. “I originally decided to work with independent contractors because I thought it would take longer for the salon to take off and I couldn’t afford to pay salaries,” she says. “And, the techs I interviewed said they preferred it that way. I prefer it because I have more time to do nails by not having to do payroll taxes or order product for everyone.” Boudreaux says the salon started showing a profit just six months after it opened.
While some salon owners eschew booth rental situations, Boudreaux says she hasn’t had any customer complaints about quality, and the technicians are very happy because they work the hours they want, handle their own books, and use their own products.
“So far, everyone who has come has stayed. One technician’s husband works the night shift so she comes in at 6 a.m. and leaves at 2 p.m. Others like to have the day off and work in the evenings,” she says. The varied schedule means the salon is usually open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., which is very convenient for clients who work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and need to come either before or after work.
“Only once or twice have we had problems with unhappy clients and the techs worked with them to solve it. The only time anyone has ever come to me as the owner was once when a technician was on vacation and that client needed a nail fixed,” she says.
Boudreaux’s husband built tall cabinets to put behind each station so that technicians would have space to store product, equipment, and personal items. Boudreaux painted each cabinet black and hand painted Oriental motifs on them to match the salon’s decor.
Though everyone works independently, there is a spirit of teamwork at Nail Dynasty. “We have meetings once a month on Tuesdays. We find the more frequent the meetings, the fewer problems we have because we can nip them in the bud,” explains Boudreaux. “For example, the coffee pot kept being emptied and no one was making fresh pots. We discussed that and now everyone takes more responsibility for making sure it’s kept full.”
HINDSIGHT IS 20/20
Nail Dynasty celebrated its first anniversary on March 16. Located in a rural bedroom community, this Oriental oasis has proved clients everywhere appreciate a classy, plush decor, preferential treatment, and a little peace and quiet.
But, if Boudreaux had it to do all over, she’d slow things down and take a little more time to plan. “I would have liked another month to plan things out. Most of our changes have been on the fly,” she says. “I would have made more diagrams because as we are going along we’ve realized we needed an opening here or a wider doorway there.”
Even so, it’s been a great year for Nail Dynasty. In fact, you could say it’s been the Year of the Nail at Nail Dynasty.
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