Oh, How Nic[h]e

In a time when many salon owners are looking to expand their offering, the Isle PediSpa in Houston, Texas, is making waves by offering natural manicures and pedicures almost exclusively. Offering specialty services, an original concept, and an appealing environment, Isle PediSpa is cashing in as Houston’s first foot spa.

Eye Spy: 

Working as a nail tech and esthetician in some of Houston’s largest day spas gave Cindy Huynth the insider’s advantage of gauging the strengths and popularity of the various nail offering in her area - and proved a priceless advantage when opening her own salon, Isle PediSpa, in Mamy 2003. “I worked in a Houston day spa that had a wet room with 18 spa chairs - all which were booked solid from open to close six days a week, with only two pedicures to choose from,” says Huynh.

“I realized the pedicure business in the Rice Village [neighborhood of Houston] was a booming business,” she says, and the idea for Isle PediSpa was born. “We are located in the heart of Rice Village, around the corner from Rice University. This affluent community seems to bounce back no matter our country’s economic state,” says Huynh.

“I wanted to have an upscale specialty foot spa offering a range of pedicure using the freshest fruit and vegetables, essential oils, and leading products.” Huynh adds, “I knew that not only would I be creating a special niche as Houston’s first specialty foot spa, but I wanted to create an environment free of pretension and tension for techs to work in.”

Having traveled to destination spas around the globe, Huynh knew first-hand the potential for creating unique pedicure services. “Each wonderful place had its own twist on what they offered as a spa-type pedicure,” she notes. As a nail tech she knew that “clients valued superior customer service, cutting edge sanitation, and unique products.” Her goal was to combine progressive services with stellar customer services in a location with high demand and affluent clients.

Research & Development: Inspired and confident her idea would fill a need in her community, Huynh prepared to make her dream a reality. Early in the planning process Huynh went in search of help. At this point I hired Athena Elliott as a consultant for her operational know-how,” says Huynh.


Salon Name: Isla PediSpa

Location: Houston

Owner: Cindy Huynh

Square Footage: 1,300

Years of Ownership: Opened May 2003

Number of nail techs/employees: 7/9

Specialties: Manicures, specialty pedicures including the Honey Almond Late Pedicure, Champagne and Rose Petal Pedicure, Orchid Pedicure

Compensation Structure: Commission

Other Services: Henna tattoos, paraffin treatments, reflexology, sunless tanning, waxing, microdermabrasion.


Elliot, named NAILS’ Nail tech of the Year in 1998 and one of NAILS’ Most influential Nail Technicians in 2000, was no stranger to running a successful start-up nail salon. Together, the pair set about getting the business off the ground.

Focusing on their service offerings, Huynh and Elliott tackled the salon menu. “Originally I wanted 30 pedicure services, but after several months of planning the service menu we realized that would be entirely overwhelming,” says Huynh. “We ended up with 19 pedicures on the menu, and one seasonal pedicure added every month.” the pedicure services are innovative and temping, with names like Peppermint Sea Breeze, Honey Almond Latte, Peach-a-Rita, Chocolate Covered Strawberry, Orchid, and Sugar-Free Pedicure.

The manicure services are limited to five natural manicures ranging from $22 to $30, and lasting a half-hour to 45 minutes. Additional menu items include acrylic, gel, and silk enhancements, henna tattoos, paraffin treatments, reflexology, sunless tanning, waxing, and microdermabrasion. Nail services account for 98% of Isle PediSpa’s business.

The seasonal menu gives Huynh the opportunity to involve her nail techs in steering the direction of the service. “We hold a monthly contest and each tech anonymously submits a service idea, then my husband and a friend choose the winning pedicure.”

If you build it: Having established her menu, Huynh scoured Rice Village for an appropriate location. “The first two techs to come abroad, as well as myself, had a pipeline of clients located in his area,” says Huynh. “When they built a new small shopping center that included a Starbucks i knew it was right.”

To create the signature look of the salon Huynh hired architect Russell Groves of New york to design the pedicure suites. “All seven of our suites were custom-made with basins instead of jets,” boast Huynh. “Some of our amenities include flat-screen televisions with cable and headset, built-in manicure stations that contains space for a lamp and polish display. Each suite also has a beautiful curtain that can be drawn to create a semi-private atmosphere.”

Because so many services involve the use of fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers, Isle PediSpa has a recipe bar “Our recipe bar is where we gather all the fresh ingredients for the services and mix our essential oils. We have more than 20 different creams and body lotions at the recipe bar,” says Huynh. “We have two custom-built drying bars with an area for inset for the hands and for the feet, all sensored and free of touch.”

Scoping the Scene: “our pricing is in line with the other salons and spas in the area,” says Huynh. They also offer the Isle PediSpa No-Chip Guarantee, which ensures clients a free touch-up if their manicure or pedicure chips within a specified time of their service. But the most innovative approach to selling is in their booking procedure.

“When clients call in, they are booked for our classic 45-minute isle Pedicure (unless the request otherwise) and we allow for one hour. This gives the client the opportunity to look at the menu and upgrade while we are filling her basin with water,” says Huynh. “Approximately 75% of pedicure clients upgrade, and it is not uncommon for our techs to have $400 days as a result of having the ability to upgrade.”

For the moment, Huynh and her staff are working out the kinks of running a thriving new salon. “one of our biggest challenges was implementing the day-to-day programs and making sure that in our branding process everybody is doing the service the same way,” says Huynh. Keeping fresh fruit and vegetables on hand, as well as fresh orchids and rose petals is also a challenge, according to Huynh.

Through the difficulties Huynh can see the road ahead for the salon, and it includes growth. “Paving the way for a second foot spa means getting all the kinds ironed out - like adjustments in the size of the seating in our pedicure suites to accommodate taller clients, as well as copyrighting and trademarking of our concept and service.”

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