In today's world we often see the words “luxe” or “high-end” attached to many of our sophisticated salon names. But what about those little vintage salons that were all the rage, back in the day? They still provided a viable income for hard-working women, thriving on perms, roller sets and red manicures.

Tracy Vinson (@mobilemanicurist) spoke with Julia Paul, a salon owner based in Windsor, Virginia, who has “inherited” a back-in-the-day salon, and is trying her very best to bring her new location into the twenty-first century, while continuing her dream of having a stellar nail academy.

NAILS: Tell us about your history in the nail industry. 

Julia Paul: I’ve been a licensed professional since 1995. I currently own Virginia Hair and Nail Academy, INC just outside of Windsor, VA. 

Just prior to COVID, I was approached by an existing salon owner in the area with an offer I couldn’t refuse. I purchased that salon, knowing there would be some challenges along the way. 

NAILS: You moved your business and school into this inherited salon. What were some of the challenges you faced when combining your existing nail space with a former salon?

JP: One of the reasons I purchased the salon is we desperately needed the space for our growing clientele. This space would allow me to run my salon and school under the same roof, but with separate designated areas. We were a nail-only salon at the time, and I was also looking to expand my nail school.

The space was terribly outdated not only cosmetically, but the electrical as well. I had to bring a new salon staff up to speed with current sanitation/safety protocols. Imagine all of this happening right as new COVID protocols were coming into place as well! There was much work and training to be done, but I was up for the challenge.


NAILS: What are some of the advantages of being able to run your school and salon out of the same space? What did you do to bring the space up-to speed?

JP: The advantages are that students are able to shadow, ask real time questions, and work with a wide range of hands and feet versus always having to use the fake practice limbs.

One of the ways we've updated the salon space is to promote healthy environments by utilizing air cleaners for the hair care, and a suction system and under-mount filtered table suction machines to be as odorless/ductless as possible. These lessons are paramount in expressing how important a healthy a salon environment is today.

NAILS: Are you able to provide immediate employment for students that graduate from your program or help place them with other salons? 

JP: After successful testing and licensure, I can offer independent contractor opportunities for students making a 95 or above in the course and showing a higher achievement level in all aspects of nail technology that are taught. We do try to place newly licensed professionals with local hair salons, often to reintroduce nail care to their service menu.

NAILS: For anyone thinking of opening a nail school, or restoring an outdated space, what advice would you have for them?

JP: It is a fantastic opportunity to share your knowledge with newcomers and pass on your skills. Traditional teaching hours do not always work for adult learners, and you may need two separate practical sessions, such as offering both days and evenings or weekend classes.

Also, be ready for surprises. We ran into lots of expenses we had not planned for with upgrading our space. Lastly, be diligent in working with your state regulatory board—they are there to help you.

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Originally posted on NAILS Magazine