Two different worlds can mean plenty of things with many similarities. For me living in Philadelphia it means living day and night, literally. That’s how I view Philadelphia now at the age of my mid-twenties. It really is like that in my neighborhood. Crossing one street can put you in two different state of minds and can change how you act according to where you are in the city. Therefore I chose to do an observation on two Nail Salons in two completely different locations under the same owner.
Opening the same business in a “night and day” neighborhood can determine how different neighborhoods can affect a business and how it’s operated on a daily basis and how individuals adapt to their surroundings. I learned a lot from my observations and will share my experiences with you through-out this essay. This topic came to mind because of an experience I had talking to my best friend from high school. It was freshmen year and my best friend Daquan Thompson asked me a question “Does your family own a nail salon? I thought to myself immediately, I just was stereotyped because I am Asian and an assumption was made that my family ran a nail salon. I laughed because it was during the time the nail salon businesses were blooming any where and every where here in my community. So I understand where the assumption came from. I just jokingly replied back that his family owned a hair braiding business. I never knew that it was a stereotype then until now. My girlfriend’s older sister owns 2 nail salons so this helped with my topic. The first location is located in Bala Cynyd located at the heart of City Line Ave and the Spa was called Rejuve.
The scenery is very clean and well maintained shopping plaza located directly across the street of the salon. The plaza included an L. A. Fitness, Acme, foot locker, Olive Garden, and a couple more familiar recognizable stores. There is a sense of positivity in the fresh air that surrounds the area. The feeling I got upon pulling into the parking lot of where the salon was located was a very safe feeling. It’s in a very small plaza located on the second floor next to a Hollywood Tans and a Subway. My initial feeling was would there be a lot of customers willing to walk up the stairs to get to a second floor Nail Spa?
It seemed a bit inconvenient, but I just thought when I need a hair cut I drive uptown into the city and pay for parking to get to the barber of my choice, so I’m sure women doesn’t mind the steps for their nails and feet. After stepping into the Spa I saw something immediately that was offered that most salons did not offer, and that was refreshments and snacks. It was a clean, unique, and quiet environment that gives you a relaxed spa atmosphere. Upon entering the business, you’re welcomed by the tunes of soft R&B music and closer to the back of the salon are calm soothing waterfall sounds.
Whether your were in the front or back of the business, this place was a way to escape your troubles and get pampered to relax your mind from everyday hardships. The first stereotype that came to mind immediately is that there is a bunch of Asian woman nail technicians and they were not fluent with the English language. I suggested Rosetta Stone as a joke but they did not laugh because they could not understand the joke and had no clue to what Rosetta Stone was. I didn’t think it would be busy but it sure was.
The women were really hard workers and they treated every customer like it was there last providing the best service each and every time ensuring a enjoyable experience. The technicians had a lot of regulars and their appointment book was always booked! So being on the second floor with steps to get into the salon did not stop any customers from finding their way to the Spa to get the same excellent service each and every time. The customers had a mixture of all different races. I observed the customer and they were also hard working individuals themselves and going to the salon was a way to relax after work.
They were all polite and friendly during the time my time there. The spa sells Groupons online which are deals that can be purchased for really good discounts off services. There were two black females that purchased Groupons that walked in during my time there. Walk-Ins are welcomed but the Groupons are by appointment only and clearly states it on the print out when you purchase the Groupon, The females obviously did not read carefully what they purchased or else they would have known to call and make an appointment.
I asked the receptionist if it was there first time there and she said yes and it was clear that the Groupons is what brought the two African American females to the Spa. They definitely did not seem like regulars or from the area. A stereotype immediately came to mind which was loud, ignorant, and ghetto females from an urban area. That’s where they said they were from when asked they with “the hood. ” They were not happy that they could not use their Groupon purchases so immediately went into loud mode and starting being rude, however they did end up making appointments and end up just getting a pedicure each.
The pedicures lasted for about 20 minutes and it was a very long loud 20 minutes from the both of them. They acted as if they were above the workers and just talked down on them demanding more then what the service is expected. The mood of the spa wasn’t calming anymore and you could feel the atmosphere shift. They were rude and interrupted others by being loud which seems like what everybody around them expected how they would act. They sure lived up to the stereotype. The second salon was located in South West Philadelphia on Woodland Ave. If you ever heard of Woodland Ave, it can be nick named the Market street of South West.
It’s a very lively during the day with a lot of street vendors on the side walks, homeless individuals asking for money, drunks standing on the corner, and hustlers and gangsters doing what they are know to do. A big change in atmosphere from City Line Ave. My guards were up without me even knowing that I became cautious of myself and who was around me as I stepped out my vehicle. There were policemen walking, riding mountain bikes, and even cops on dirt bikes patrolling the area and you can see many individuals always keeping a look out for a police officer.
The salon was called La Diva and was located on the corner and you did not get a spa feeling from the outside appearance. There were many other nail salons in the premises, and I was able to count at least 5 within a two block radius. As I entered the Salon I did a visual of the salon and there were no refreshments, no music playing, and not much of a warm welcome. The salon was not spacey like Rejuve, but just real simple tables and chairs. The salon was packed and the only customers that were there at the time were African American customers.
I did not see any white customers enter the store during my time inside the salon. I was not shocked to not see any white customers because the neighborhood is mostly African Americans. I was shocked to see printed signs up everywhere and the most shocking sign was “You Must Pay for your Service First. ” There were printed signs at Rejuve and all the signs at Rejuve were in a nice frame stating a positive message and displaying their gratitude for the customers business. La Diva has a straight forward message and that was you pay for your service first before anything was to be done.
I wonder if they ever had problems with non paying customers but I did not ask the owner. The salon was loud and the television playing hip-hop music video with people talking loudly amongst themselves with customers kids running around while their mom receives their manicures and pedicures. Being quite was not a requirement here at La Diva. The service prices compared to Rejuve were a lot cheaper. I assumed they were cheaper because of the competition in the area. The nail technicians of the shop were also Asian ladies and had a laid back attitude.
They adapt to the environment because the customers did not expect to receive a five star service so they did not give it, but that is just my assumption. It was a rough neighborhood and the customers were very urban and not biting their tongue when they did not like how the service went. Profanity was used a lot through out my time there. I did not enjoy my time at La Diva as much as I did at Rejuve because of the negative atmosphere, mainly from the customers. La Diva customers never tip their nail technicians compared to Rejuve where the nail techs look forward to receiving.
In conclusion, I believe that a neighborhood can change how a business is operated. The people in the community help structure what is expected from the business. There will always be a back and fourth battle between businesses and how they serve their community and during my observation I learned a lot for two different worlds. I learned that stereotypes might not always been outspoken but can be visual for example the workers being not fluent in English or the rudeness of a rough community.