A Nail in the Coffin

Small businesses are suffering more than ever due to closures.


Sydney Tran

The red polish spilt on the floor represents the way businesses have been hemorrhaging money like blood.

Every once in a while, I get the common question of “What do your parents do for a living?” Keeping in mind I do fairly well in school, many people assume my parents are doctors or scientists. But they’re not, and for a long time, I was ashamed of my parent’s occupation. Still, I couldn’t lie, so I would say they owned a nail salon quickly as if I am brushing off the stereotype that comes along with it. Normally, people thought it was cool, like they could get a VIP appointment because they knew me, and asked if they could get their nails done, but I would quickly counter with, “Oh, they are booked back to back, appointment only.” I didn’t want anyone to know that I was one of the many stereotypical daughters of an immigrant nail technician. 

It wasn’t always like this, I have been going to the nail salon for years since I was born. It was practically my second home. I learned how to hold a conversation with customers as my parents put on their acrylics. I spent my summers reading books on a pedicure chair. And most of the Christmas presents under my tree were from close customers. But times changed, I grew up and started staying at home. And when I learned more about how low-status my parents’ jobs were, I started to distance myself as far away from “Frankly Nails.”

When COVID-19 hit, everything changed for the salon. My parents started being home more and there would be days where there weren’t any customers. Over the summer I got more and more bored, so I would stop by the shop to see how everything was going. Sadly, nothing was going. Normally, they would be busy and if I stopped by the shop there would be at least three people my two parents were working on. But now, if I stop by for a visit there would only be one or two customers in the shop. Then they would close up early, which never happened, especially during the summer, and text their customers trying to book more appointments. Every day my parents are losing more and more customers, because of fear and due to COVID-19 itself. This is true for many businesses. But, unlike many people with a degree, if my parents lose their salon, they lose everything. Although America has many opportunities, the education they received would not take them as far compared to those with a degree. Like many small business owners, we depend on customers to help pay bills and keep up with rent. Now, more than ever does the small business community need you to help them stay afloat.

Customers can do this by shopping locally when they can instead of Amazon because let’s be real, Jeff Bezos doesn’t need more money? Write reviews on websites so that when other people try to find similar services they will see your glowing reviews. 

Another great method is telling your friends, family, anyone about your favorite small business, share it with the world. It proved to be effective for my parents since a large portion of our customers are friends or family of previous clients. We have had three generations of a family, come to get their nails done for 20 years. This method is great since it builds lasting relationships, mostly because my parents treat anyone who sits across from them as family. They take care of them because customers take care of us. 

My parents do it through making weekly runs to the beauty supply store to comforting people going through a tough time. My mom does it through her memory, and making sure in her head appointments are convenient for customers. She has memorized schedules and all of her customers numbers because to her they are personal friends. Then there is my dad, he does it by his humor. He always tries to make people laugh like when he says “That’s my favorite color” to every color a customer chooses or writing “I am a fan of you!” on the fan customers use to dry their base coat. All they do, it’s for their customers and something that has helped them do that and more were tips. I understand times are tough for everyone but if financially possible, tip extra. We really appreciate it, although sometimes owners are too nice and will refuse, but insist. It begins with a kind $10 tip. Then my mom will quickly decline, especially if it is a close friend. She insists that the manicure and pedicure are free, even though she knows we need the money. I would ask my mother why she just wouldn’t take the money and she would say the same thing everytime. 

“They need the money for their family.”

And I think this idea is true for everyone, they work to support themselves and the family they love and we as consumers choose where we spend our money. Whether it goes to a billion dollar corporation that thinks little of individual customers and more of profit or a small Ma and Pa shop, small business owners genuinely care about their customers and treat everyone like family. I tip extra, like the customers would for my parents. Thanks to them I am where I am at. And you could be that person too, you can support a family who moved across the country to raise a family, so their children can have a different fate than them. When you support small business, you support families. When you tip your nail technician, you put money towards the education of the girl sitting two desks in front of you. The child of a family who came from nothing, working hard to not be the person brushing on acrylic, but the person on the other side of the table. A helping hand can be old or young, male or female, or have nails bare or painted.