James and Sandra Miller’s Brown Bottoms Tanning Salon has been helping the people of White Marsh, VA “brown their bottoms” since 2009!
In an industry built on mom-and-pop tanning salons, James and Sandra Miller continue to make it stronger with Brown Bottoms Tanning Salon. After purchasing the facility from Sandra’s daughter and son-in-law, the couple expanded the business, both in size, number of tanning units and, most importantly, happy clients. Sandra’s attention to customer service and marketing tailor-made for her small town have also helped Brown Bottoms grow and thrive in the short time the couple has owned it. Three years later, the salon is still going strong, giving Sandra a career she absolutely loves… and James lots of ideas on how to one day grow the business.
Longtime tanners James and Sandra Miller always wanted to own a tanning salon. “My stepdaughter and her husband purchased Brown Bottoms, a 10-unit local salon, from its original owners and operated it for about 30 days,” said James. “At that point, they realized that, with her other career and his military involvement, it was just too much for them to handle. Since this was something we always wanted to do, we knew it was the perfect opportunity for us to start pursuing our dream.” Prior to purchasing Brown Bottoms, Sandra worked in the apartment management industry while James owned a landscaping business, which he continues to operate.
The Millers took ownership of Brown Bottoms in July 2009, halfway through the salon’s peak season. “It was a big adjustment for us,” he said. “My wife was already used to talking with big groups of people and getting to know them; but, for me, it took some getting used to. We both had to make another adjustment when the off-peak months rolled around, and this was a little easier for me because I’m used to operating a seasonal business.” One way or another, the couple endured and quickly accepted salon ownership into their lives. Today, Sandra works behind the counter full time, while James fills the roles of maintenance person and all-around handyman.
After their first two years in business, the lines of clients out the salon’s front door inspired James and Sandra to expand the facility. Today, the 2,000 square-foot store features 16 tanning units – four UVA Sun Systems Sun Master sunbeds, three Ergoline 232, two SunDash 240, two Ergoline 770, a Megasun Mega V booth, a SunDash 252 booth, an ETS Tan 756 V booth, an Ergoline 600 Classic and a Dr. Kern Blue Dream. The salon sells lotions by Designer Skin, Devoted Creations, Playboy, Pro Tan and Supre Tan, and operates using SunEase software. The service menu is rounded out by Mystic Tan sunless sessions and It Works bodywraps.
While Sandra says she’s happy that Brown Bottoms continues to generate good word-of-mouth, she continues to build her business with promotions that cater to her community. “We run ads in the local newspaper two weeks before prom and homecoming, offering half-off our Mystic Tan spray sessions,” said Sandra. “We also offer homecoming and prom packages – two weeks of unlimited tanning in our Level-One units and a sunless session for $25. This brings a lot of people in and many become clients because they love the results.” Sandra added that her half-price sunless sessions on Wednesdays and Saturdays are also popular with tanners in her community.
Dream, and Dream Again…
An interesting dynamic exists at Brown Bottoms Tanning Salon, and it’s one that will guide the present and future of the small, mom-and-pop venture in White Marsh, VA. “My wife is the realistic one who works behind the counter each day, while I tend to be more of the dreamer behind the scenes,” James said. “While she’s happy to continue doing what she’s doing, I could see us opening another store in the next two years, and a third in three or more years. Since White Marsh is a rather small town, we’re looking at other towns about 20 miles away future locations.”
Working behind the counter at Brown Bottoms Tanning Salon has helped Sandra Miller identify what she loves most about her job. “We’re fortunate to have so many great clients, and I love them all!” she exclaimed. “It’s great to provide them with a service they enjoy, and it’s even better to get to know them all. And when they complement us and our salon, that makes us so proud!”
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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