Salon Is a One-Man Show

What is a former security guard doing owninga quaint, classically decorated salon in historic Old Town Manassas, Va.? Educating his clients on proper nail care, performing top-quality services, and pampering them too.

Salon Name: Creative Touch Nail Studio

Location: Old Town, Manassas, Va

Owner’s Name: Rick English

Square Footage: 600

Years of Ownership: 1

Number of Nail Techs: 1

Number of Employees: 1

Specialties: forever French and spa pedicures

A MAJOR CHANGE: More than seven years ago, Rick English was an armed security guard. And sometimes in his spare time, he would go to the nail salon with his stepmother to keep her company and chat. During that time, he realized that he was fascinated with the art of doing nails and his stepmother encouraged him to try it out. From the beginning, it appeared that he had a natural skill for doing beautiful nails. “The women who played a very important role in my life had a major influence in my pursuit of the nail industry,” says English, who decided to enroll in cosmetology school to become a licensed nail tech.

“After observing someone doing my stepmother’s nails, I was impressed with the level of skill and creativity that the nail tech had,” he continues. “And I like the way women feel about themselves after they are pampered.”

Shifting from security guard to nail technician wasn’t an easy transition to make. Of course, it takes a while to build up your clientele and make a name for yourself. “When I went to get my nail tech license, most people thought I was crazy and there was no way I could make a living at it,” says English. “They believed that if a recession came I would be the first to feel it. Obviously they did not understand the importance women place on their nails and looking good.”

English welcomed the creative freedom that his new career brought. “When I leave at the end of the day, I know that I made a lot of women happy, which is very fulfilling,” he says. “I suppose it is a win-win situation — I win by hearing their positive feedback and by the referrals they send me, and they win by feeling good about themselves.”

After getting his license, English went on to become a Creative Master Nail Tech. He worked as an employee in several salons before deciding that it was time to open his own. “I needed to have control over the entire experience at the salon,” he says. “I was tired of coming in and seeing that the stations had been left dirty. Other employees would not clean up after themselves and management did not seem to be interested in making them.”

OLD TOWN CHARM, YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR: Located in historic Old Town Manassas, Va., English opened Creative Touch Nail Salon in April 2001. “This great brick building was built in the 1920s,” says English, noting that his historic little town has undergone a recent revitalization and is now home to many specialty shops and boutiques. “I am the sole nails-only salon located within Old Town Manassas. And it’s visible to pedestrian as well as vehicle traffic because I am located on the main corner of the town.”

Once inside his quaint space, clients are surrounded by elegant purples and greens with rich wood and gold-accented furniture. The reception area with its deep purple sofa and big wooden reception desk is separated from the nail area by a small selection of high-quality, professional retail products. “In my studio I strictly offer professional products. I do not believe in having my clients buy anything they do not need,” says English. “With that said, my retail sales are currently 20% of my total revenue.”

Past the retail area, there is one custom-made, glass-top nail table resting on ornate columns, and a special drying table as well. A separate room (the walls are painted purple!) holds a pedicure throne. The bathroom at Creative Touch is even decorated in English’s classic theme, complete with ornate picture frames, topiaries, and ivy.

IT IS A PASSION: “When you walk into my salon you have a sense of warmth and harmony,” says English, who wants his clients to always feel like they are the center of attention.

“By just having one manicure station and one pedicure station, I am able to give my clients the comfort and attention they deserve.” Creative Touch has a regular five-day schedule, but English is there for his clients when they need him. “I have been known to come in at 4 a.m. and I have stayed until 1 a.m. to meet my clients’ needs,” says English, who also claims that one of his main challenges in running the salon is realizing that he can’t do it all, all the time. “Nails, to me, are a passion, not a job.”

Although he offers the full-spectrum of nail services, from spa manicures and pedicures to reflexology and nail art, English specializes in Forever French pink-and-whites and turning nails into true art. His prices are comparable to those in other high-end salons, but this isn’t what he bases them on. “My pricing structure is based on my talent and the environment I give my clients,” he says. “I do not know what other salons in my area charge. I believe I have a gift and a talent that you just can’t put a price on.” English charges $70 for a Forever French set and $40 for a French fill.

Staying in touch with trends and what’s hot in the industry are important to English, who attends trade shows, continuing education, and makes regular calls to his state board to inquire about any recent changes that may have taken place. “My clients are loyal, caring, and unique, and I love to spoil them,” he says. “It is important to stay on top of what is new in the industry because my clients expect it of me and more importantly, because it helps me to sell up. The concept of what people can expect when they come to my salon is very upscale, knowledgeable, and caring one-on-one service.”

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