Another nail salon?
So goes the oft-repeated refrain about the many manicure salons in Wilton. It’s easy to lose count, there are seven or eight listed in a fast online search. For a town with just under 18,000 residents, perhaps eight nail businesses is hitting a saturation point. Some people say it with a hint of derision, like, “Don’t all those people have anything better to do with their time than get their nails done?”
But speaking with Esther Park, the owner of Wilton’s newest manicure and pedicure enterprise, Mint Nail and Spa, can be a reminder that if you look past any kind of superficial take on things, there’s a hard-working small-business owner looking to make business goals—and life dreams—come true. Not to mention, with Mint opening at 16 Center St. on August 6, there’s one more occupied storefront in Wilton Center, a good thing in a town with high commercial real estate prices, vacant properties and occasional store closures.
“This is my first business in my whole life,” said Park, who immigrated to the U.S. just 15 years ago. “I’m still nervous, even my first day. I cried in front of my parents, like a kid! I have a 17-month-old son, I leave him all day with my mother, and always feel so bad. But I’m thinking for the future, I want to be a strong mom, and show him how his parents worked so hard, and I want him to have a good life. That’s why I choose to work this way now.”
It is hard work—Park described a reality that many nail salon workers live day to day, something not many clients may realize. Many of them live in Queens, NY to be close to the tight-knit Korean community that lives there. They commute more than three hours every day to get to their jobs in Fairfield County or elsewhere.
Long days, six-days-a-week, it’s all worth it to Park for the kind of people she meets here and gets to know. It’s a town she and her husband—who owns his own small insurance business—might someday consider moving to.
“I feel like people in Wilton are so warm, and very kind. I live in New York, people are always, Rush! Rush! But here people are always so nice and calm. I love how small and beautiful it is, it reminds me of my hometown, in South Korea.”
Park had worked in other Wilton salons before as an employee, and had cultivated a bit of a local fan base. She heard about an available space in the Old Post Office shopping plaza through her network of fellow estheticians and former clients, including an owner of Steven Mancini, the hair salon in the location next door.
“I came to look with my husband and I just loved this place right away. It’s just perfect.”
So what will set Mint apart from the other salons in town?
“We are going to do the best we can. I am so busy, now I’m in charge. I have to answer the phones, change the money, and my eyes are everywhere—I look at the pedicure chairs, the manicure chairs. I want to make everything perfect. I want to make the people feel like they’re getting much more than just the basic.”
Park said she is paying close attention to cleanliness and hygiene, using many single-use products in her services, like disposable files and buffs. But she’s very excited about a kind of dryer used to process gel manicures. “Many people are worried about the UV light, because of cancer. That’s why I ordered the LED light dryer. People don’t need to worry now. We don’t use UV light.
In addition to manicures and pedicures, the salon will offer waxing, facials and massage. Park is thrilled to have a former colleague, Michelle Park (not related)—who also has several faithful clients from Wilton and surrounding towns—working with her. “We’re not related, but she’s like my sister,” the salon’s owner jokes.
As for the name, Park chose Mint because it felt fresh-sounding. “I want people to come here and feel refreshed.”