A Service for Every Impulse

With a full menu, clients of Chicago’s Impulse Salon have a broad range of services to choose from but nails steal the spotlight and make up the salon’s foundation.

With a full menu, clients of Chicago’s Impulse Salon have a broad range of services to choose from but nails steal the spotlight and make up the salon’s foundation.

Even though she's supplemented her nail business with other services and products over the years, Impulse Salon owner Sandy Scruggs willingly admits that nails have always been the cornerstone of her salon's success and her first love. She started as a nail technician and salon manager and learned the trade so that she one day could own her own business. Today, she not only owns her own business, but also conducts con­tinuing education classes for other salon professionals.

Scruggs opened her first nail salon in Chicago 11 years ago. Called Hot Tips, its nail technicians offered quality nail services, and clients could also take ad­vantage of a creative shopping atmosphere. While treating themselves to a nail service, they could conveniently buy unique birthday gifts for family or friends, or even treat themselves.

"I follow the changing business trends," Scruggs says. "First, I combined nails with a boutique atmosphere when that was the popular thing to do. Then I began moving into general cosmetology so that the salon could offer a full range of day spa services because that is the trend now."

Building the Perfect Menu

Scruggs' current Impulse Salon is the culmination of a vision that is just shy of 10 years old. It took four locations and two different salon names to achieve the mix of professional staff, full service menu, and "homey" atmosphere that makes the salon so popular with local clients.

In 1989, Scruggs opened the first Impulse Salon location in Chicago, the first of three locations. Shortly after, she closed Hot Tips because she felt the boutique craze was coming to an end.

The most recent move took place in 1996 because she wanted to include hair services, but found that the 1,000-square foot location she was in didn't allow enough room to set up hair sta­tions. This time, when she shopped for a location, it was with the vision of fur­ther expanding and diversifying her service menu to include even more than hair services in the future.

She found a two-story building with more than 3,200 square feet, which is now the home of Impulse Salon. After two years, Scruggs has filled the first floor (about 2,200 square feet), leaving her plenty of space to grow. Her service menu now includes waxing, skin care, hair care, and spa nail services. The nail menu is diversified, offering every service imaginable, from fiberglass, to gels, to traditional acrylics and nail art. The range of services and expertise allow the nail technicians to charge top dollar for their work.

"Our prices are tailored to our clien­tele: working professionals and subur­ban homemakers in their thirties and older," she says. "Younger clients often come to us for hair cuts and color, but they usually decide that they can't afford the nail service prices, so they go to the local discount salons. I don't dis­count my prices. I am not looking for the type of client who wants $5 off a service." Instead, Scruggs sometimes offers a free trial service with her ads.

Style in Comfort

In keeping with her pricing and the clientele that comes to her salon, Im­pulse's atmosphere is one of upscale com­fort. Scruggs wants clients to feel at home, but pampered with every nail, hair, and skin service at their disposal. "1 like dab­bling in interior design and used to actually do some professionally," she says. Black metal chair frames, table bases, candle holders, and curtain rods finish off the salon with a modern look. A pat­terned fabric on the chairs and trash cans throughout the salon picks up all of the colors and ties everything together.

The salon is organized so that it flows smoothly from front to back. The main salon floor begins with the reception and nail areas, followed by a facial room and shampoo area, which are next to the coffee pot and sink. The hair sta­tions come next, followed by a waxing area and pedicure room. "We've only offered hair services for three and a half years, waxing for three, and skin care services for two," Scruggs notes.

But she doesn't plan to stop there. The upper floor is currently a two-bed­room apartment one room dedicat­ed to her office. By the 1999 spring sea­son, Scruggs hopes to use the space to offer tanning services.

Still, nails are the main service in the salon and as such have the biggest staff dedicated to clients. The nail techni­cians at Impulse are devoted to Scruggs and have been with her for a very long time. "I hired everyone by word-of-mouth and asked my distributor reps to help me find the best people," she says of her staff. "I don't hire people by ad­vertising in newspapers. I need to have personal references before I feel com­fortable bringing them into the salon." The nine nail technicians are trained by Scruggs' niece, Cari Netzel, and the en­tire staff is managed by Carol McCarty, who Scruggs also credits with keeping the salon so successful.

"You must have good people to run a successful business," she says. "All of our    staff members are very helpful and good at what they do. But I also readily admit that I don't know everything, and I look to them to help guide the salon in certain areas." For example, since Scruggs does not cut hair, she relies on her staff to in­terview new stylists and make hiring recommendations.                                   .

Overall, each staff member contributes more than just her basic job description. "We let each staff member cultivate an expertise and take advantage of their strengths for the betterment of the salon," says Scruggs. "Staff members feel like they are contributing even more in such an encouraging environment, while our clients benefit from their knowledge."

Salon Becomes Classroom

In addition to running a business ded­icated to pleasing clients and giving staff the maximum amount of space to grow, Scruggs' commitment to the beauty in­dustry is so great that she has dedicated her salon to continuing education. (Illi­nois state law requires that the salon or school be sponsored by the state govern­ment before they can offer education.)

Every Sunday and Monday, beauty professionals who received one of the salon's 11,000 direct mail brochures come to Impulse to learn. "I was sponsored by the state of Illinois to offer continuing education in my salon," she explains. "The classes are small — no more than 12 peo­ple at a time. And while we work hands-on with products, we are not selling any specific brand. This is strictly for educa­tion, not to sell"

Scruggs hires instructors who may or may not work for a manufacturer, but have a strong background in teaching. Classes have included acrylic, airbrushing, reflexology, and more. "We teach basics: how to read an MSDS, or how to market your services, or how to per­form a technique correctly," she says.

Scruggs is deeply committed to an industry that she feels has been good to her and wants to enhance the commit­ment of other professionals by sharing her knowledge and good fortune with them. "I don't have children and am not married, so this is where I put my pas­sion," she says. "I have been very lucky to have had such a good experience and I want to share that with others."   


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