With its friendly, almost non-traditional staff, New Image Tanning is the definition of a community business.
Greg Weimer didn’t initially plan on owning a tanning business… until he saw how much a sunbed boosted revenue at his hair salon. He began adding more tanning units, of course, until he finally transformed the business into New Image Tanning, a full-service facility located in Bismarck, ND. He then built it using the latest in salon software and quality sunlamps that he changes regularly. Greg’s also found that clever marketing strategies and downhome customer service – clients are greeted by Abby, the salon’s Cocker Spaniel and official mascot – continue to make New Image popular. With so many tanners showing so much love, he’s contemplating additions and, eventually, another location.
In 1997, Greg Weimer purchased a hair salon for his fiancée to operate; but life, as it usually does, had other plans. “She tried to run the business as best she could but it just didn’t take off,” said Greg. “It wasn’t long before she and I broke up and I was stuck with the hair salon, and all the debt that came with it.” At the time of purchasing the hair salon, Greg was looking for ways to increase its revenue, which led him to install three tanning units when he incorporated half the space from the former framing shop next door. Soon, tanners from all around were making appointments, and he started to see profits… enough to inspire him to add two more tanning units. Soon, more and more people were coming to his small hair salon to book their next 20-minute vacation. “At that point, I knew I was on to something,” he added.
…Leads to Another
Given Greg’s success with three sunbeds – and lack of interest in doing hair – he decided to change the direction of his business. “In 2000, we acquired the other half the space of the former framing shop and added four more tanning units,” he said. “By 2006, we completely remodeled the hair salon portion of the business and added four more tanning units and the Helios software system. This was also when we changed the name of the business to New Image Tanning from New Image Salon & Tanning and ran it with my mother, Pauline, until she retired in 2010.” Two years ago, Greg hired Jennifer Paris, Barbara Rahn and Tammy Buzalsky, who are assisted by Abby, a blond Cocker Spaniel and the salon’s official greeter. Greg’s friend Jeff Vietz also helps out whenever someone is sick or on vacation, and in other emergency situations.
Today, New Image Tanning has a total of 11 tanning units – nine ETS SunStar ZX32 sunbeds, an ETS SunVision Pro 28 LXT and a SunDash Radius booth – and more than 2,000 bottles of lotion from nearly 100 brands in stock. The salon also offers Twilight Teeth teeth-whitening services. “The turning point for us was when we began using Helios software,” Greg said. “It helps us set goals and compare months and years, and we’re able to see how much we’re growing and what sales and promotions work best, and so much more. Using Wolff System Technology Corp. sunlamps has also helped us tremendously – our tanners have come to love and trust the results they get from them. We’re also very proud to have been recognized by the folks at Everyday Shorts as one of their top lotion retailers at a dinner at RAO Restaurant at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas last June.”
When it comes to promoting New Image, Greg says the purchase of a copy machine was one of the most important investments he ever made. “My good friend and client, Jeremy Martin, is a graphic designer who creates our flyers and brochures,” he explained. “I make hundreds of copies and distribute them to many of the local businesses around town to help get the word out.” One of Greg’s most successful promotions is called ‘Tanning Dollars’ – they resemble dollar bills, but feature the New Image logo instead of a president’s picture, and include coupons on the back. The dollar, itself, is worth one free tan, and clients are also encouraged to utilize the additional savings they offer. “They’ve become almost as popular as our ‘Tan Great for $18.88’ promotion,” Greg added.
TV advertising, Greg says, helps to keep the New Image name fresh in the minds of young tanners. “Many of the sitcoms that come on late at night are popular with the college-aged demographic in Bismarck, so we advertise during this time slot,” he said. “Our local Fox affiliate has been offering a special called ‘Build your business with Fox’, which offers a free daytime ad with the purchase of any nighttime ad schedule. It’s really worked out for us – a lot of people come in throughout the year saying that they’ve seen our ads.”
After 15 years, Greg says he’s still passionate about selling sunshine, and he plans to do more at New Image Tanning. “We still have one room in the back that we’re not using, and I plan to add one more tanning booth there this spring,” he said. “The room still has the sinks that hairdressers use to wash their clients’ hair, so it’s going to take some work – fortunately, one of my staff is married to a contractor, so I plan to utilize his help.” Once the addition at New Image is complete, Greg says he would like to eventually open another salon. “Things are going so well that we’ve pretty much outgrown our current space, especially during the peak months,” he added. “If we’re going to continue to grow, we’ll need to open a second store. When the right opportunity presents itself, I plan to jump into it.”
After working for someone else nearly all his life, Greg says it’s great to finally be in charge. “I tend to be a workaholic who spends a lot of time here; but it’s still nice to be my own boss,” he said. “If I need to take a couple hours away from the store to run errands and take care of other things, I can. With that flexibility and all the appreciation we receive from our clients, I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
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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