Nailed it!

Small businesses like Haute Nails & Co. are the heartbeat of our city

Hair and nail care services are standard treatments for many Black women. Routine visits to nail salons have helped propel the industry into a multi-billion dollar market. In the 1980s, African-American women were early adopters of sculptured nails, intricate designs, bright colors, and long lengths. Florence Griffith Joyner, the late four-time Olympic champion garnered as much attention on the race track as she did on her flamboyant nail designs. In some Black and Brown communities, nail salons are as ubiquitous as food chains, but not many are Black-owned. MsBonnie, owner, and operator of the popular Haute Nails & Co. is helping to change the face in the industry by being one of the few African Americans who own their own salon in the primary Asian-owned market. “I truly just wanted to do nails. I love being able to transform women’s hands from nubs to nails. Owning my own salon ended up happening because I’m a night owl and I like working late, and a lot of the salons that I was working at didn’t want me to stay late…that just didn’t work for me, so that is what made me open up my first salon.”

MsBonnie studied accounting at Howard University for two years before being persuaded by a cousin to follow her passion. “I’ve always been into nails even when I was a little tomgirl/tomboy. I was always polishing my nails and making sure that my nails and my toes matched,” MsBonnie said. Since 2015 the Queens, New York native has garnered a loyal following in the capital city. “Our Black women, I love them, because they are really into their nails. They want nails and feet to match. I heard quite a few people tell me that they will get their nails done before they get their hair done because people see your hands all day.”

Located at 117 South Warren Street in downtown Trenton, Haute Nails & Co. is one of the small businesses in the city that helps to fuel the local economy. Her colorful designs take up to two hours to complete. She sees about 10 clients a day and spaces out her appointments to ensure each client gets her undivided attention. “I’m a one-man band here. I’ve always had other staff, but the mindset is not what I need. I need someone who either has their own clientele and wants a place to come and work or be an apprentice.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many service professionals like nail technicians, barbers, and massage therapists, were forced to close their shops because they were deemed as non-essential employees. MsBonnie’s business has been busier than ever. She credits her increase in business to consumers looking for ways to support Black-owned businesses.

The employment of manicurists and pedicurists is projected to grow 33 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than the average growth of all occupations. About 18,800 openings for manicurists and pedicurists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Haute Nails & Co. is open Tuesday through Saturday by appointment only, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. MsBonnie specializes in nail art, pedicures, acrylics, gels, and dip powders, but does not do manicures.

MsBonnie suggests that anyone looking into getting into the nail business should consider obtaining an apprenticeship. “Honestly, don’t be in a rush to own a salon. Let it be a goal, but I suggest learning how to be a team player, learning customer service, and professionalism because a lot of people don’t have that anymore and it’s needed because we deal with a lot of people.”

“My customers are really like family to me. They trust me a lot. We have a lot of good conversations. If they are having problems, situations, we talk it out.” MsBonnie says the public can support her business by reposting her work on social media, buying merchandise, gift certificates, and sitting in her chair for one of her trademark designs.

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