On the road: Essential Nail Bar

By: Nicole Davis

When Essential Nail Bar in Birmingham, MI, opened in January 2020, its owner, Michael Tran, of course had no idea what was coming down the pipeline. But fortunately, those short six weeks the salon was open pre-shutdown solidified its name and reputation in the bustling downtown area, allowing Tran to reopen the business in June 2020 without an issue. 

Thanks to the salon’s success, Tran has his sights set on expanding the franchise, taking the knowledge that his mom taught him as a career nail tech and combining it with his business management skills to propel Essential Nail Bar to the next level.

The Setup

The bar at Essential Nail Bar is unique in its market, taking inspiration from West Coast salons. “We wanted to implement the nail bar for health reasons, specifically for the techs,” Tran — who is from California — explains. “Sitting all day is not good, so giving them the option to stand was really important.” 

The rest of the 2,300-square-foot space, which was built from the ground up, was centered around the nail bar. The modern, streamlined design is uncluttered and full of beautiful details, like Venus ET Fleur arrangements and luxury room fragrance. 

And that fragrance is truly all that hits your nose — no harsh chemical smells or dust fills the air, thanks to the salon’s top-notch ventilation system. Tran’s business partner is in the heating and cooling industry, and they made sure that they installed the best system possible.

“We want to make clients feel pampered from start to finish,” Tran says. “From the Lenox pedicure chairs in the back, to our safe sanitation practices, and even down to our beverage service, we take pride in the fact that our clients feel safe coming here.”

And Tran says that actually, COVID made the business progress even further. The salon runs appointment-only now and is booked out for weeks. He has 11 techs working for him, but is looking to add more. “Demand for services is so high,” he says. “We want to add techs, but it’s been challenging to find the right people.”

Tran runs the business almost entirely online — guests book directly through the website or Instagram, and he utilizes Instagram, Yelp and Google for organic marketing. He’s spent no money on marketing since they’ve been open.

Essential's Difference

Essential Nail Bar has serviced more than 7,000 clients since it opened in January of last year, becoming a destination for beautiful nails in the metro Detroit area.

Tran says the most popular service requested nowadays is nail art, and Gel-X extensions from Aprés, both thanks to celebrities like Kylie Jenner. Essential is one of the few salons in Michigan that offers Gel-X extensions, further catering to its clientele.

Tran also had his future clientele in mind when he was brainstorming the name of his salon, too. It took him 2 years to come up with the perfect one. 

“I knew the name had to be meaningful and something that we wouldn’t grow out of,” Tran says. “‘Essential’ means ‘need,’ and our services are definitely essential to our guests. That’s the philosophy.”

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