Turkish Delight on the High Street

Turkish salon Misk keeps cleanliness and luxury at the top of its priority list as owner Ceren Ergun gears up to open a second location of her popular nail haven in Istanbul.

<p>Located directly behind the manicure stations is the pedicure area, which seats four clients on an elevated platform in pale pink wooden chairs.</p>

Established in May 2010 by Ceren Ergun, Istanbul-based Misk Nail Spa focuses on natural nails and is centrally located on one of Turkey’s most famous shopping avenues, Bagdat Street. Misk is also one of the few nails-only salons in the country, as Turkish women are typically used to having their manicures and pedicures done in hair salons. “The women who have traveled abroad are aware of this concept,” Ergun says. “We are loved and appreciated by these clients because we pay so much attention to hygiene.”

The idea to open the Victorian-themed space initially came about because Ergun was having trouble finding a salon with strict adherence to cleanliness.  “I stepped into the world where I wanted to be,” she says. Before opening the shop, Ergun got a degree in management and worked in business for 10 years as an export sales manager. Though she focuses on the managerial aspect of the salon, she currently holds licenses as an esthetician and nail technician, as well as certification to perform medical pedicures.

<p>The waiting area features the same style of Victorian furniture as the rest of the salon and offers clients a bird’s eye view of Bagdat Street down below.</p>

The plan was to open a natural nail shop in a trendy, well-known location, so Istanbul seemed like the right place to start the business, Ergun says. Bagdat Street is one of the country’s most famous high streets and is the Turkish equivalent to New York City’s glamorous Fifth Avenue or Los Angeles’ posh Rodeo Drive. The street is lined with high fashion boutiques from all over the world, as well as numerous trendy restaurants and cafés.

“Many women see us while passing and walk in during weekdays after meeting with their friends or dropping their children off at school,” Ergun says. The area is often very crowded on the weekends, with a great deal of traffic flowing in from people visiting nearby boutiques, restaurants, or just stopping by to see the sights. Misk’s prices run about 18% higher than other salons in the city, but the prices reflect the quality of the menu offerings, expertise, products, and added measures for hygiene.

Dreamy Design

Misk’s decor can be described as a modern approach to romantic Victorian ambiance with lots of delicate, whimsical touches. Ergun makes full use of all the space in the shop, but used lots of light colors, mirrors, and windows to give the salon a fresh, airy look.

Soft pinks and light blues are featured throughout, which complement the accent shades of velvety mauve, brown, and gray. The specially designed wooden furniture is painted in crisp whites and pinks, and includes carved reliefs with artistic details.

The manicure bar sits near a large window and features three stations with two mini-dividers and a glass overlay. The pedicure area is in another part of the space, with four pale-pink wooden armchairs accented by deep gray velvet upholstery and black foot baths. Stylish touches like white stencil borders, posh pink pillows, oval mirrors, and ornate side tables enhance the salon’s contemporary take on an elegant theme.

<p>The manicure area seats three clients at a time on Misk’s specially designed wooden manicure table near one of the larger windows.</p>

Considering that hygiene is central to the salon’s core values, countertops and workstations are always wiped down with a hospital-grade cleaner between client services. Misk also has an autoclave. After implements are sterilized, the pouch is then opened in front of each client at the beginning of her service.

The pedicure area also incorporates jetless and pipeless foot baths, equipped with soothing vibrations and heat functions. A fresh, disposable liner is used for each client and disposed of after use.

<p>With the sterilization equipment placed in clear view on an open  front cupboard, clients have an added opportunity to see the salon’s  cleanliness standards at work.</p>

Sweet Services

Ergun attributes a combination of features to the salon’s appeal for customers — from the spa’s ambiance and variety of offerings, to the level of expertise and staff standards. “Our clients are the ones who love and care for themselves,” Ergun says. “They demand quality services, hygiene, and an hour of pampering.”

Misk specializes in seasonal spa manicures and pedicures for natural nails using Essie and CND products, as well as hot stone massage treatments for hands and feet. Services use natural ingredients, with treatment names like Grapefruit and Kiwi, Wild Berries, Citrus, and Marine. The most popular services at the moment are the Milk, Lavender, and Bergamot Mani Pedi and the Apple and Cinnamon Mani Pedi.

Prices for manicures and pedicures start at $21 and $25, respectively, and increase depending on products and optional add-on services like nail art, massage, paraffin treatments, and intensive nail therapy. The salon also offers full waxing services, in addition to brow services, eyelash treatments, and permanent makeup, courtesy of the salon’s permanent makeup specialist.

Misk’s waxing services are performed in one treatment room while lash extensions, lash perming, and permanent make-up are offered in another room. The salon features three additonal working areas, which include the pedicure area, manicure area, and brow tinting, design, and threading area.

<p>Misk’s treatment rooms incorporate  soothing colors and feminine details, as well as folding screens for  added privacy.</p>

Clients are usually referred by word of mouth or the wide variety of major magazines that have featured the salon in the past, not to mention recommendations from popular Turkish blogs as well. All clients are female and about 80% are regulars, usually ranging in age from 18 to 50, with most coming from the upper and upper-middle classes.

What Works

The salon currently sells Essie and CND products in its retail display, as well as cuticle pens and other nail care products. Misk’s employees receive a 10% commission on any retail sales they make. “Turkish women love CND Cucumber Heel Therapy,” Ergun says. “It really works.”

“We also have a boutique brand, ‘Pinky Lola,’ which has beautiful, colorful, handmade flower rings,” she adds. The salon also sells handmade clutches from the same brand.

Considering that the nails-only spa concept is very new in Turkey, Misk did have some initial difficulties with staff during its orientation sessions. “Many salons use UV lamps for sterilization, which actually do not sterilize at all, and many manicurists do not know what an autoclave is and what it is for,” Ergun says. Strict hygiene practices and service details were new concepts to her team, but an intensive training program fixed the problem soon after.

“Now each Misk employee has to pass a detailed training program before servicing a client,” Ergun says. “The staff believes in what they do and how they do it.” All of her nail technicians are fully licensed and are constantly training on all of the latest services.

<p>Owner Ceren Ergun (center) and her staff work together to maintain    the best standards in luxury nail services and client care possible.</p>

Ergun has been an avid reader of NAILS since 2006 and makes sure to attend European beauty shows to stay updated on new techniques and trends to share with her staff. “In my opinion, salon work is team work,” Ergun says.

“My aim is to make Misk a trustworthy brand where people know they will be served with the best services,” she adds. “I am planning to open another branch in another well-known location in Istanbul this year.”

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