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Published: Monday, 7/9/2007

Couple nails the beauty of salons, spas

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER
Judy Roepke relaxes as Mandy Highley gives her pedicure. Judy Roepke relaxes as Mandy Highley gives her pedicure.
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"If anyone had told me 7 1/2 years ago I'd be [running a business] in the Toledo area, I'd have said, 'You're crazy,'• " said Vinh To, who with his wife, Donna Le, operates Jonathon Khoi Nail Spa in Maumee.

Mr. To learned about the Toledo area through a former California high school classmate who had relocated here. The young couple, both immigrants from Vietnam and then in their early 20s, took a chance.

After working for other salons, they opened a small salon in Maumee on a tight budget and with no workers.

Six years later, their renovated and expanded business employs 17.

When Vinh To and his wife, Donna Le, opened their salon, at first called Asia Nails, in 2001, their Maumee business was small. Since then, the size of their spa has doubled. When Vinh To and his wife, Donna Le, opened their salon, at first called Asia Nails, in 2001, their Maumee business was small. Since then, the size of their spa has doubled.
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Mr. To said he hopes for revenue of $600,000 this year. The couple are considering opening a second salon, perhaps in Sylvania.

Said Mr. To: "I came from a family of entrepreneurs."

Said Ms. Le: "The people are nice and friendly. It's more relaxed [than California]."

Mr. To said he, his parents, and four of his siblings became "boat people" a couple of years after the 1975 fall of Saigon, when American forces vacated Vietnam. He stayed in a refuge camp in Malaysia, and later lived in Virginia, and then California.

He graduated from the University of California-Irvine after studying management and psychology, and Ms. Le attended a community college in California.

Mr. To and Ms. Le chose to open their business, initially called Asia Nails, after he scanned the phone book and found no nail salons in Maumee. "I felt this area needed something like this," he said.

Business grew steadily, according to Mr. To, and so in late 2005, they began to expand the salon, doubling its size to 2,800 square feet and adding new services. He said the business has more of a spa atmosphere.

The couple decided they needed a new name, because of consumer concerns about the nail industry and sanitation, and some Asian-run salons had gotten particularly bad press.

Technician Elise Lark, gives Tami Caito a manicure. Technician Elise Lark, gives Tami Caito a manicure.
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It was changed to Jonathon Khoi Nail Spa, taking the name of their son, who is now 3. That proved to be a good move, said Mr. To, and so was the addition of services.

Its offerings range from simple things like a polish change for $10 to a 30-minute massage for $30 to the high-end treatment for $210 for a manicure, pedicure, facial, and hot-stone massage.

Last month, the couple took 14 employees to Las Vegas for a nail and beauty convention, and each worker left motivated, Mr. To said.

One longtime customer, Toledoan Cheryl Sanders, said she met Donna Le at another salon when Ms. Le was still learning the business.

"When Donna did my nails I never went to anyone else," said Ms. Sanders, an executive recruiter.

"She's meticulous, very proficient I followed her to her own salon."

Judith Telb of Maumee, a school administrator, said, "I can't say enough good things about them. Lots and lots of my friends, co-workers, and relatives go there."

The salon has 1,000 to 1,200 steady customers, Mr. To said.

"We rely on repeat business," he said.

Contact Homer Brickey at:

homerbrickey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.

Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, P.O. Box 921, Toledo, Ohio 43697-0921.



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