Editor’s Note: This is the second story in a series about Gainesville’s beauty industry. You can read the first story of this series here.
There’s a familiar comfort that comes from sitting across the same trusty nail technician for a bi-weekly touch up. Their trusted hands and creative eyes have been there for every birthday, anniversary or other special occasion.
These nail technicians, or nail techs, have unique skills and creativity as well as a dedication to their clients that have fostered lifelong relationships.
LA Nails Salon
Twenty-three years ago, Han Pham, a 66-year-old nail salon owner, moved to Gainesville with her son who was starting college.
After two years in the city, she decided to open LA Nail Salon, she said.
Though it is a modest salon compared to others, with only three stations for manicures and three for pedicures, it prides itself on its service. LA Nails, located at 3444 W University Ave., has kept people coming back for decades.
Pham has had loyal customers returning to LA Nails since it opened 21 years ago.
Right now, LA Nails only has two employees, so the business has not been able to accommodate as many customers. Still, Pham tries to become close friends with the people who visit, she said.
She will sometimes give them Vietnamese food she made or fruits or vegetables she grew in her garden at home.
Vynus Nails & Spa
Sharing food is a common theme at other nail salons.
Nabiha Iqbal, a 20-year-old receptionist at Vynus Nails & Spa, has only worked there for a month. However, she can already see how close the workers are to their clients and to each other.
Customers are very loyal to their nail tech, she said. When people call to schedule an appointment, they will sometimes ask for a specific person, she said.
“If I can't get them their OG nail tech they get very, very upset,” Iqbal said. “They hate change.”
Vynus, located at 2803 SW 42nd St., has been open for around seven years, and its nail techs have been dedicated to their craft ever since. They often compare their employees to bees since they value community and work together to make sure everyone is satisfied, according to their website.
Even though Iqbal isn’t a nail tech, she feels at home among the other workers. She did not usually go to nail salons, but now she’ll sometimes get her nails done at Vynus.
“Everyone here is super nice, all super close to each other,” she said. “They always feed me.”
Cosmo Hair & Nail Bar
Many nail salons are family-oriented — this includes Cosmo Hair & Nail Bar, located at 3205 Clark Butler Blvd.
Dakota Hoang, a 22-year-old nail tech, has worked at Cosmo Hair & Nail Bar for five years and thinks all the employees are close to one another.
“It's not one man for themselves,” Hoang said. “If someone needs help, then they get the help they need.”
Sometimes that means finishing a customer’s nails if a nail tech cannot. For Hoang, helping sometimes means she will help the other workers with translation. Some of her coworkers don’t understand or speak English very well, so she often becomes the middleman between a customer and a nail tech.
Despite the language barrier, nail techs remain committed to giving customers what they want.
“I think a lot of people have a misconception that doing nails is easy, and it's not easy,” Hoang said. “A lot of people think that some nail technicians are rude, but it's more because of that language barrier.”
Still, Hoang and her coworkers try to be friendly and welcoming while remaining professional. She doesn’t mind sharing things about her life with clients and listening to them if they want to share information about their own lives.
Over time, Cosmo nail techs have built loyal relationships with their clients. Some have had the same clients for almost 10 years. Hoang will sometimes give out her personal number to those who like her work if they want to book an appointment with her personally.
Hoang started working as a part-time nail tech because her family owned a nail salon. Throughout her years working at Cosmo she has worn many hats, from nail tech to receptionist to social media management to interpreter.
However, Hoang’s current life goal is to become a dentist. Being a nail tech has unexpectedly helped her work toward that dream by helping her develop her motor skills and customer service skills.
But the most important way it has helped her develop professionally has been seeing her coworkers build strong connections with their clients.
“I think all my coworkers work really hard and are admirable for what they do,” Hoang said.
Contact Aubrey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @aubreyyrosee.
Aubrey Bocalan is a third-year journalism major. She is also pursuing a double major in Art. When she isn't writing, she's probably watching TV with her dog, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Bocalan.