There are many businesses in town that are owned by Wilton residents who’ve lived here for years. But there are also some owners who never imagined Wilton as the place they’d wind up.

That’s exactly the situation in which Steven Wang and Ann Phoon, the owners (of less than a year) of Wilton’s Coco Nails, have found themselves. Given that Steven grew up in China and Ann is from Malaysia, the fact that they now own and run a popular business in Wilton, CT is a pretty far stretch from where they started.

But one thing they came to realize very quickly about Wilton is how important it is to get known in a town that has a cliche about “so many nail salons.” We asked them to answer our GMW Business Q&A to find out a little more about them and what sets them apart.

How long have you had your business?

Steven Wang:  We just took over this salon this year but I’ve been in the nail business for 18 years.

How did you get into this business?

Wang:  I came to the States in 1995, when I was 18 years old. My family is all here. We wanted freedom, more opportunity. When you work hard, you have more chance to do what you want. I worked in New York and later owned salons in New York City and Queens.

Ann Phoon:  I started working for him 10 days before Sept. 11, 2001. He made sure I came back after everything calmed down.

Wang:  We’ve been married now for 10 years.

Wow! That’s a way to meet! How are things different now–besides that you’re married to each other?

Wang:  Now it’s hard, it was much easier then. Now the customer knows more. Now people want more. You have to keep up and update yourself. Try to find trends from magazines, TV, online, supply houses, you go to the beauty show, how the companies are doing it.

What is the most important thing about your business?

Wang:  To make people’s hand look prettier. To give attention to each person who walks in the door.

You always remember everyone’s names, and the funny stories or things they told you the last time.

Wang:  This business is a relationship business. When you come in, and you’re happy, you tell your sister or friend. We have to make sure you like it, because you’re the one spending the money. When you’re happy is important. Whatever you want, I do as fast as I can.

Lots of my old customers from Long Island City come here to Wilton now for their nails. They say, “I wish you still on long island. They still call us, “How’s the kids, hows everybody?” One customer came here in August from Massapequa. She said, “Nobody knew how to do it, I don’t care about the gas, about the time.” They want to feel the difference. Like if your family lives in New York, it doesn’t matter how far, you go see them. She treats us like family.

What do you love most about your job?

Wang:  When my customers came back to me and say their friends told them they have great looking nails.

What is the hardest thing about your job?

Wang:  You try to make everyone happy, but reality is you can’t.

There are so many nail salons in Wilton, some say too many. Why do you think that is? 

Wang:  Because people are nice here and are truly classic. Really, it’s everywhere, not just Wilton. It’s New Canaan, any town–if they can fit another nail salon, they will. People want a place to relax.

So if there are so many other salons, what sets your business apart from all the others?

Phone:  We are from NYC so we have more experiences in terms of nails’ designs. We do some funky designs, fancy design. We are clean and good. Customers have a new feeling, clean feeling, we make sure everything is clean.

Wang:  We try to feel more friendship. We don’t push, no pressure. Some people spend $10, some people $100, whatever you want to spend. We don’t push for more to spend more. We don’t do that.

I tell the workers don’t rush, make sure quality is good, make sure the space is clean, make sure they’re happy. All the workers have the experience, they know what’s perfect. We make sure we use the best material, everything is brand name.

What do you love about doing business in Wilton?

Wang: That customers left with happy faces and we became friends.

What other Wilton business do you like and would recommend to GMW readers?

Wang:  Signature Style, the boss is really nice, and Conservatory of Dance, Chris is really nice.