By Sue Pascoe
Over the last decade in Pacific Palisades, through good times and bad, one niche business enterprise has thrived: nail salons.
Ruby Nails & Spa, which opened Aug. 2, is the latest entrant, and its owner reflects the entrepreneurial spirit displayed by many immigrants.
In June, when a “For Lease” sign went up at Bellagio Nails (15228 Sunset), Ruby Hong decided she had to be bold, after working 10 years at the salon. “It would be an opportunity to have a business and run it: do it myself,” she told Palisades News, and she signed a lease with landlord Elliot Zorensky.
Little did Hong know she would get caught in the middle of a series of legal maneuvers that had nothing to do with her. The lease washers, but before she could reopen the shop, she had to replace plumbing pipes that had destroyed and a damaged meter. Walls needed to be repaired and re-painted and the floor replaced.
Hong took the challenge optimistically: she saw it as a way to make the salon her own. The floor was replaced with ceramic tile, the clamshell-shaped ceiling was re-painted and new lighting gave the room a sunny feel. The chairs, which Hong special ordered, are a simple shape, in turquoise and white.
“Palisades is close to the ocean,” Hong noted. “I wanted to give the spa the same feel. I want this to be a place that is calming and relaxing.”
One way to achieve this is her insistence that her employees don’t chat among themselves while working with clients, which maintains a peaceful, quiet and soothing atmosphere. Hong is also adamant that customers receive immediate attention. “The women in the Palisades are busy,” she said. “They have jobs, they have to pick up their kids from school. We make sure they don’t have to wait and we try to make them happy with our service.”
A native of Saigon, Hong graduated from the University of Vietnam with a degree in business administration. Her husband, Eric Hoai, was her schoolmate and best friend. He moved to the United States in 1995 to attend Pomona College and eventually earned a master’s degree in computer science.
The couple were married in a big ceremony in Vietnam in 2004, and Hong came to the United States with Hoai. Her parents, four sisters and a brother still live in Vietnam, and she has only seen them two or three times in the past 10 years. “I’m so lucky with the Internet,” she said. “I can speak with my family three times a week or more.”