The latest venture of Tran Wills, Base Coat Modern Nail Salon X Gallery will celebrate its grand opening this Saturday, September 14, when the combination nail salon/art gallery joins the lineup on Tennyson Street in the Berkeley neighborhood. Wills, whose name has become synonymous with style and small-business savvy in Colorado, owns the place with her mother, Sally Le.
"She's been in the nail business for a while," Wills explains. "I have aunts and uncles and cousins who own nail salons -- it's pretty typical in Vietnamese culture. I've just always been in this world, and my mom was sick of working for other people. I wanted to help her open a nail salon, but I wanted to do it 100 percent differently than the normal nail salon."
The ways Base Coat sets itself apart from a traditional beauty salon are many -- but first and foremost, Wills points to the shop's emphasis on health and safety. "We're all-natural -- we carry a handful of nail polish brands that are '5 free' (free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate [DBP], toluene, formaldehyde resin and camphor), which are the toxic chemicals usually found in nail polish," she explains.
This emphasis extends to the rest of the products used in the manicures and pedicures. Base Coat has collaborated with local, all-natural product line R.L. Linden & Co. on eco-conscious scrubs, lotions and cuticle oil, all custom-made for services at the salon and also available for sale there.
Wills says the clean, chemical-free atmosphere became especially important to her after she realized her own daughters were getting into make-up and nail polish, and she wanted them to have a safe option. She acknowledges that she had been using toxic products on herself for years, and realized it was time to make a change.
"When you walk in, you won't be hit with chemical smells like when you walk into a nail salon," says Wills. "The fact that kids can use it -- that was big for me. Knowing how bad nail products are and how dangerous and toxic they are, it's like, I don't want my girls using this."
As for the art gallery portion of the business, Wills says the space was already set up perfectly. "When you walk in, it's pretty much one huge room. The space before was a gallery -- so it had the lighting and everything perfect for a gallery setting," she notes.
Since Wills is known for incorporating artistic style in all of her endeavors, the gallery is an important part of the business. "I wanted it to be a girly experience without it being overly girly," she says. "We'll be showing a lot of artists that are cutting-edge, up-and-coming modern artists."
Base Coat's opening show will feature the work of photographer Sara Ford; Kristen Hatgi Sink has been tapped for a future show. The gallery will mainly focus on women artists from Colorado, and Wills says the Tennyson Street area was just the right fit for a combination business of this kind.
Typical to Wills's fashion-forward style, the gallery won't be the only curated part of the nail salon. "We're getting people out of their comfort zones in terms of color -- I'll be curating colors around seasons and what's happening during New York Fashion Week," she says. "So when you come in, there will always be new colors."
And in one final artistic touch, Base Coat will also be home to an ever-changing pop-up shop where customers will be able to shop for art, jewelry and clothing by local designers and artists, as well as the R.L. Linden & Co. products. The current stock of Colorado-made goods includes clothing from 50 Dresses by Tess Vigil, accessories by JLH Jewelry Designs and FLORA Terrariums by Ruscha Cohen.
Base Coat Modern Nail Salon X Gallery is located at 4383 Tennyson Street, Unit 1-D. The space's grand opening is this Saturday, September 14 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. In addition to the exhibit featuring photographs by Sara Ford, the grand opening will feature the launch of Tess Vigil's fall collection for 50 Dresses. Complimentary champagne, teas from R.L. Linden & Co. and cupcakes from Church of Cupcakes will be served, and the first 25 people to book salon appointments will receive a free gift bag with goodies from Ritual Chocolate, NCLA, RGB and ACE EAT SERVE. A handbag giveaway will also be part of the evening.
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