When two experienced tanning professionals give salon ownership a second try, the result is something to go bananas for – Banana Tans, that is.
After being out of the tanning industry for a few years, Paul Allen and John Boychuk decided to revisit it. They opened Banana Tans on September 1, 2007, in the Mount Pleasant area of Vancouver, BC and the salon soon became a destination for many young, hip area residents. Although it had been a while since John and Paul owned a salon, they never forgot what it takes to make it – friendly service in a fun, hip and happening environment. This approach made Banana Tans a success and allowed the business partners to merge with a downtown Vancouver salon four years later, expanding on the Banana Tans brand and business philosophy. And there could be room for more, someday…
Second Time Around
John and Paul are hardly new to the business of selling sunshine. They owned and operated a successful tanning salon chain more than 15 years ago and, after selling those businesses, John worked for one of Canada’s largest tanning product distributors. “While I enjoyed my time in the distribution sector, there’s nothing better than owning your own business,” said John, Banana Tans co-owner. “When we decided to reenter the tanning salon marketplace, we had two options – be followers or be leaders – and we decided to be leaders. We opened a salon in Vancouver, in an area that was underserved but had an eclectic population mix living in apartments and single-family homes.” They set up shop in a 1,450 square-foot facility conveniently located on a major transit intersection and commuter thoroughfare.
What’s in a Name?
Even tanning industry veterans don’t hear a salon name like “Banana Tans” every day, and neither had Paul Allen, who came up with the moniker. “I went to a home decorating store to pick up a few things and I saw these 10-foot tall, synthetic banana trees on clearance,” he said. “They were way too cool to pass up, so I bought them for the salon and the idea to call it ‘Banana Tans’ just came to me. I knew it would set us apart from our competition and also give us the benefit of word association – now, when someone thinks about bananas, such as a banana split or a strawberry-banana smoothie, they’ll automatically think of our salon.”
Today, the original Banana Tans has an elegant, spa like environment that features a chandelier in every tanning room, framed artwork and vases with flowers strategically placed throughout. The salon offers 12 tanning units – four SunCapsule Perfect 10 booths, three PureTan Ellipse 3, three High-Tan units and two Tanses T-32 sunbeds. The shelves are lined with lotions by Australian Gold, California Tan, Designer Skin, Devoted Creations, Ed Hardy Tanning, Fiesta Sun, Pro Tan, Tan Inc., MR International, Supre, SynergyTan and Swedish Beauty. The Banana Tans staff receives commission on all product sales and is appreciated with annual celebrations described as, “a family reunion and an appreciation party in one”. The salon operates with the SalonTouch software system by Interactive Designs.
When it comes to Banana Tans’ promotional efforts, communication is the key. “We’ve found that the more you put yourself out there, the bigger the return,” Paul said. “This is why we utilize our Facebook and Twitter accounts for more than just pushing our latest specials – we make personal connections with our clients by posting everything from detailed descriptions of our newest lotions to offering tanning tips, and this goes a long way toward earning our clients’ loyalty. You can’t get that from a Yellow Pages ad!” Paul and John also involve Banana Tans in as many local fundraising events as possible, thus strengthening the salon’s community connection.
…And the Business
Through effective marketing, customer service and experience, John and Paul’s success allowed for a second Banana Tans facility. “A former employee, Shawn Bourgeault, approached us about opening a salon, so we decided to join him in the venture,” John explained. “On November 1, 2011, we merged with an older salon in the downtown area and kept it open while we completely remodeled and re-equipped it. The reputation we’d established in the community made it relatively easy to build on an existing client base.” The second salon has 10 tanning units – four SunCapsule Perfect 10 booths, two PureTan Ellipse 3, two High Tan units and two Tanses T-32 sunbeds.
Life is Good!
As far as 2012 is concerned, John, Paul and Shawn say they’re happy with what they have – two thriving Banana Tans serving two distinct Vancouver neighborhoods. “We’re smart business owners and opening another store in this economy might leave us overextended, which, in turn, could affect our clients’ experience,” John said. “So, for now, we plan to hang on to what we have. Ideally, we’d like to open another location in the southern end of Vancouver; but, that wouldn’t be for at least a couple of years. In the meantime, we’ll enjoy each day spent working in the industry we’ve been a part of for so long, and from which we can’t stay away.”
Many who know him say that John Boychuk has the “gift of gab”, and this makes him the perfect person to be behind the counter. “I absolutely love talking with our clients and building a rapport with them,” John said. “We actually take the time to get to know our tanners, and many have become our friends. It’s the kind of thing that makes me happy to get up and go to work every day.”
A 14-year industry veteran, John "Ribby" Ribner has written hundreds of
articles for IST Magazine and, as Director of Editorial Content, has also
helped guide the publication's evolution. Ribby is a graduate of Central
Michigan University's journalism program and has brought many years of newspaper reporting experience to his position of Head Writer. He is also the author of three novels, "Legacy of the Bear," "Prophecy of the Bear" and "World So Dark."
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