Once a side business of a typical hair salon, the care and treatment of finger and toenails has exploded over the last decade in metro Toledo into its own profitable and highly competitive business niche.
The area has 200 to 250 salons for nails only, said Cindy Wietecki, owner of Magical Nails Manicuring Supplies Inc. in Sylvania Township. Ten years ago, there were probably just a handful, she said.
The boom was prompted by the low cost of getting a state nail-technician license, moderate startup-costs, new services like nail art, time and job pressures on the potential customer base, and a large influx of Asian immigrants or first-generation Asian-Americans into the nail industry.
Acrylic nails were developed about 20 years ago and business took off, said Leonard Rosenberg, who for 30 years has owned the Toledo Academy of Beauty Culture.
"That gained more popularity and it evolved into nail art and then nail jewelry," he said. "It means you're going to work and getting a job in a very short period of time. What other careers can you say that about?"
The number of licensed nail technicians in Ohio jumped 29 percent to 13,866 in 2004, even as the num-ber of nail salons decreased 1.5 percent to 1,737, according to the trade publication Nails magazine.
Nationally, nail salons are a $6.8 billion industry, the magazine said.
Locally, a full set of acrylic nails with a French manicure will cost $20 to $30; a manicure, about $15.
Nationally, salons charge an average of about $16 for a manicure and $39 for a full set of acrylic nails.
About three of four clients come in every other week, and most salons see 35 clients a week, industry figures show.
Mindy Nguyen, owner of California Nails at Westfield Franklin Park, said the business has been fueled by customers who consider nail services as a way to pamper themselves.
Men also are clients, she added.
"We get a lot of walk-in business," she said.
Cindy Tran, manager of Lee Nails on Woodville Road in Toledo, said nails-only is a tough business sector locally.
Demand is strong, with many young women wanting nail services for special events or just as a treat, she said.
Nails magazine says Vietnamese and other Asians coming to the country have had a profound effect on the industry.
In its 2004 research, the magazine said state licensing surveys and other data show that nationally nearly four out of every 10 nail technicians in the country are Vietnamese, 2 percent are Korean, and 1 percent are other Asian nationalities.
Mr. Rosenberg said the classes his beauty school offers typically have about 20 percent Asians students.
Ms. Nguyen, who is Vietnamese, said most Asians don't have previous skills in nail care, but the industry offers a good business opportunity for many Asian families who have immigrated to the United States.
"The other thing is many who come here cannot speak the language," she said.
"But beauty is a universal thing. They could learn the skill even if language is a problem."
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