Many tanners in Burlington, NC enjoy looking like they spent weeks “in the islands”, thanks to Hawaiian Tan.
At the tender age of 23, Crystal King took ownership of Hawaiian Tan – an ailing salon in Burlington, NC – determined to make a difference. After remodeling the facility and installing new tanning equipment, she let everyone know that the business was “under new management” and tanners flocked in to fall in love with the experience. Word of the new and improved Hawaiian Tan got around, allowing Crystal and her husband, Ronnie, to purchase a second salon seven years later. Now, the couple plans to remodel their first store and add equipment to their second before possibly opening a third.
The opportunity to become tanning salon owner presented itself to Crystal King while she was a business student at Alamance Community College. “A family friend told me that Hawaiian Tan was for sale and I was definitely interested in possibly purchasing the business,” said Crystal. “I had worked in a tanning salon right out of high school and fell in love with everything about indoor tanning, and this was an opportunity to do that again. I was very excited!” Crystal and her mom, Sherry Overman, decided to visit the business and what they found was a tanning salon sorely in need of a makeover. Although she knew it would mean a lot of hard work, she purchased Hawaiian Tan with the intention of fixing the place up and presenting it to the people of Burlington.
Every salon owner who buys an existing salon is faced with the same choice – either keep its original name, or come up with something new. There are no wrong answers, and each salon owner has to decide what will work best for them. “Even though the salon wasn’t in the best shape when I bought it, I decided to keep the original name because people were familiar with it,” Crystal said. “From the first day of owning it, I hung a sign up that said ‘under new ownership’, and we did a story about it in a local magazine, and both of these factors really helped our business a lot. People came in to see what we were all about, and pretty soon, the word-of-mouth started to spread.”
The original Hawaiian Tan is currently in the midst of a renovation, the completion of which will give it a look that features textured, sand-colored walls and stained concrete floors. The salon has eight tanning units – five Ergoline Ambition 34/3, a SunCapsule X7 booth, a Super SunDash 40SS and a Klafsun Cosmos 180 – as well as an airbrush tanning system by Norvell Skin Solutions. The salon sells tanning lotions by Designer Skin, Devoted Creations, Ed Hardy Tanning, Supre Tan and Tan Inc., and operates using Helios software.
Building The Brand
After advertising in a value-pack mailer and her local newspaper, Crystal now opts for more direct ways of reaching her clients. “Sending our coupons through the mail works better because people tend to see it,” she said. “Our most popular coupon was our ‘tan all year long for $180’, which we sent out in January and we’ve had about 80 people take advantage of it so far. This is great, because each one of these clients has already spent more than double what the average tanner spends with us in a year.” Crystal is also a believer in the power of word-of-mouth advertising, so much so that she uses a referral program at Hawaiian Tan. “People tend to trust the word of their family and friends a lot more than what they’ll read on a coupon,” she added.
In August 2011, Crystal opened her second Hawaiian Tan, this one on the east side of Burlington. “My sales rep at (distributor) Four Seasons told me that the owner of another salon in my town was looking to sell her business,” she said. “I talked to my husband, and he thought we were ready to expand.” After visiting the business, Crystal was impressed to see the salon was in great condition and had seven well maintained Super SunDash 40SS sunbeds. “While the original store attracts a younger, college-aged clientele, our second location caters to an older demographic that likes to tan during their lunch hour or after work,” Crystal added.
A Sunny Future
After nine years and the growth of two successful salons on different ends of town, Crystal and Ronnie King are now considering the future of their salon chain. First on the agenda is finishing the things they’ve already started. “Right now, we’re remodeling our first store and, once that’s done, we plan to add a high-pressure unit and a stand-up at our second,” she said. “After that, we’re going to get serious about opening a third location. Ever since we opened our second store, Ronnie has been really excited about growing our salon chain, while I’m just happy to have a career in which I can help people look and feel better and one that he and I can do together.”
Salon ownership is a career that makes Crystal King excited about getting up each morning and going to work. “I bought my first salon when I was 23 years old and I’ve really learned a lot about this business over the past nine years,” she said. “I absolutely love interacting with all of our clients – seeing how happy they are to come into our stores each day is extremely rewarding. I’m looking forward to many more happy years here.”
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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