Nail-care-only salons popping up across region

Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 28, 2016

CINCINNATI -- Pedicure season is just around the corner. The good news is with the increase in the number of salons focusing on nails, you shouldn’t have any problem getting your feet sandal-ready.

John Nguyen, owner of Ambiance Nail Salon & Spa, is at the forefront of specializing in nail-care-only salons. But Nguyen isn’t alone. Other nail-only salons have popped up throughout the Tri-State.

Nguyen’s clientele is varied, from bridal parties and busy moms to business professionals on a lunch break — but once they walk through his door, he said, everyone gets the star treatment.

The manicure stations at Ambiance Nail Salon & Spa in Oakley, where the décor includes a water feature, chandeliers and flat-screen TVs. Photo by Staci Giordullo

“The first thing I want them to say when they come to my salon is, ‘Wow, this is not a typical nail salon,’” Nguyen said.

Plush décor, chandeliers, waterfall features and the ability to bring your own cocktails make Nguyen’s salons stand out.

After opening his flagship salon in Hyde Park in 1998, he expanded to Deerfield Towne Center with Venetian Nail Spa, and then Ambiance locations at Harper’s Point on Montgomery Road and one at Rookwood Exchange. His latest salon, built in front of the Kroger Marketplace in Oakley, opened in February.

One of the key components customers expect at nail salons is attentiveness.

Nguyen employs nearly 150 nail techs, which helps eliminate any wait time for the 70 percent of his clients who walk in without an appointment. He said his salons can keep prices low — $16 for a basic manicure, $33 for a basic pedicure — because they get more foot traffic than full-service salons.

“The reason we stand out from the competition, including the upscale salons, is I always pick the best location and it’s convenient for our customers,” Nguyen said.

Theresa Wandstrat said she values the experience more than the convenience. She has spent the past year driving from her home in Eastgate to get regular manicures at Ambiance.

The private pedicure room has four stations and can be reserved with an appointment. Photo by Staci Giordullo

“The staff’s professional, and they do a great job. It’s a chance to get a little pampering,” she said.

Leslie McCord of Reading and Courtney Penney of Hyde Park stopped at Ambiance for the first time to get pedicures and said they were impressed with the salon’s cleanliness and furnishings.

“I love it. It’s very glamorous and relaxing and there’s no wait,” Penney said. “It’s the best thing ever.”

For some, the fact that they can stop in at any time is a major selling point.

Brandon Lam, owner of Blue Ash Nails, says his clients are typically busy women and men who don’t have time to drive to full-service salons for a manicure.

His location, on Kenwood Road in the heart of Blue Ash’s business district, offers a quick alternative.

“Our customers try every salon, and they’re smart enough to pick out what’s best for them. If the quality isn’t good, they won’t come back,” Lam said, noting his salon’s sole dedication to nail care is what differentiates it from higher-end options.

“We concentrate on what we do best, where in the full-service salon they’re doing a lot of different things,” he said. “We do a good job and we care about our customer.”