Salon Profile: Nowhere to Go But Up

Orchard Nails opened in Corona, Calif., when the economy was at its worst, but co-owner Thomas Irwin says this meant the salon had “nowhere to go but up.”

<p>Irwin, seen here with salon manager Maria Juarez (right of Irwin) and Orchard nail technicians, says mutual respect has led to employee retention.</p>


Seeing a lack of affordable, but higher-end salons in their city of Corona in Southern California, business owners Thomas Irwin and Alex Hanshaw opened Orchard Nails in October 2007. With no previous knowledge of the beauty industry, the two have learned about services, brands, and customer service, and worked through cultural differences to survive. Voted Best Nail Salon in the Inland Empire by MyFoxLA’s HotList, Orchard Nails is thriving while neighboring salons slash prices and offer discounts, says Irwin.

<p>Designed by co-owner Alex Hanshaw around pressed-glass bamboo partitions, the salon mostly consists of earth colors, with splashes of orange.</p>



Thomas Irwin and Alex Hanshaw own a dry cleaning business, and when an opportunity to open another business across the street arose, they chose to focus on nails.

According to Irwin, inspiration came from a neighboring discount salon that was always busy. With Orchard Nails, however, they wanted to raise the bar in cleanliness, atmosphere, and customer service. “We ended up creating a neat spa environment that a lot of people were hungry for,” Irwin says.

Hanshaw’s design for the salon is framed around pressed-glass bamboo sheets and earthy colors with splashes of orange. To create privacy for clients, the salon is separated into three sections divided by bamboo partitions: the reception area, a service room that houses four spa chairs and three manicure stations, and a second room that has five spa chairs, two manicure stations, and a drying station.

A state-of-the-art ventilation system neutralizes the smell of acrylics and the salon offers a “Squeaky Clean Promise” that all instruments used are autoclaved.

Orchard Nails offers rechargeable gift cards that have been a huge hit. According to Irwin, “If there’s a Mother’s Day, or Valentine’s Day, or Christmas gift to be purchased, this is the place to come.”

“Addicted to Orchard Nails” rewards cards are also available for loyal clients, offering a 4% credit for every service that can go toward future services or gift cards.

<p>A partition separates the reception area from the service area to ensure client privacy.</p>



While the salon is now flourishing, Irwin says they had a lot to learn about the nail industry, from figuring out the big brands to creating the salon’s service menu, which started out small and has since expanded.

Services range from the basic spa-style manicure and pedicure, which uses a generic label product, to more comprehensive packages such as the Orchard signature manicure and pedicure. “Our menu has expanded over the last two years because I’ve learned about CND and OPI, and we’re trying to change over everything to better quality pedicure and manicure systems,” Irwin says.

Irwin thinks demand for acrylics probably won’t go away, even though the introduction of OPI’s Axxium soak-off gels into the salon has clients calling in from up to 35 miles away. In addition, Orchard began using CND’s Shellac in early May.

One of the challenges they still face is keeping on schedule. Irwin emphasizes that salon policy is never to rush nail techs working with clients. Clients deciding to upgrade their service last-minute to one that takes longer also results in time crunches.

Another challenge was finding the right nail technicians for the salon. “Because the industry is dominated by a different culture, the relationship between me and my employees was definitely a challenge. It’s not anymore, but it was at the beginning,” he says.

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