When tanners in St. Louis, MO need some color, many go to extremes – Xtreme Tan, that is!
The success of Xtreme Tan is proof that indoor tanning is still a great choice for those in need of an exciting career change. A “sun worshipper” from way back, David Wagman knew how relaxing and enjoyable indoor tanning could be. So, after a long career in the mortgage industry, he decided to open a salon – Xtreme Tan – in 2005. Top-notch equipment, affordable prices and, above all, helpful customer service not only established his business venture, but also allowed it to evolve into a thriving two-store chain serving the St. Louis area. And, since David’s having so much fun selling sunshine, he’s decided to keep going… and growing.
The Big Switch
Even before the mortgage industry’s “big crash”, David Wagman was yearning for a new career. “I’d been handling mortgages since 1989; but I became an indoor tanner even before that,” said David. “After so many years in the mortgage industry, I wanted to branch out and do something that would provide me with more fun and enjoyment. I decided to open a tanning salon because I thought I could do it while continuing to do mortgages.” Subscribing to the adage, “Go big or go home,” David’s first Xtreme Tan salon was a whopping 4,000 square foot facility with 26 rooms. “I chose a location next to a large grocery store and surrounded by many apartments with tenants who were young people just out of college,” he added.
Not long after opening Xtreme Tan, David realized that his heart completely belonged in the “sun biz”. “I went into it thinking I could work my mortgage job during the day and the salon at night; but it didn’t take me long to realize that the salon was where I really wanted to be,” he said. “By that time, I had done all I wanted or needed to do in the mortgage industry; plus, businesses where the owner is always present tend to do better, anyway.” David also had a second revelation – he didn’t need a 4,000 square-foot tanning salon. “I moved the business into a nearby 2,300 square-foot space and it was the best thing I could’ve done,” he said. “The second store had 16 rooms, which was just enough to service the number of clients we had with limited waiting.”
With its Pergo flooring, beige walls and white, paneled doors, Xtreme Tan has the relaxing look of a modern tanning salon. The business offers 16 tanning units – six SunDash 232, four Ergoline Classic 600, three SunDash 240, two Ergoline Classic 650, and a SunDash 252 booth – as well as an airbrush tanning system from Norvell Skin Solutions. Operating with Helios software, the salon sells lotions by Australian Gold, California Tan, Designer Skin, Playboy and Swedish Beauty.
Better Business Building
“If it works, use it” – that’s the straightforward, yet effective approach David takes when promoting Xtreme Tan. “With a six-month peak season and another six off-peak months, we’re trying to be accessible to as many clients and potential clients in as many ways as possible,” he said. “One of the most successful ways we’ve built our business is by passing out our ‘free-tan-in-any-level’ cards. It’s an offer for new customers only, and we give the cards to every business within a one-mile radius of our salon, especially the many hair and nail salons in the area. Our coupons for $19.99 airbrush tanning and BOGO tanning packages are printed on the backs of local grocery store receipts, and they’ve also been effective.”
In December 2010, David’s business-building efforts came to fruition with the opening of his second Xtreme Tan. “We’re located in a new shopping center right next to a very popular gym, and I’m very pleased with it,” he said. “In most cases, gym customers are image-conscious people who want to look and feel good, so it’s been very easy to cross-promote with the gym and build a solid client base.” The second store is 3,200 square-feet and has 15 tanning units – six SunDash 232, four Ergoline Classic 600, one SunDash 240, an Ergoline 350, a Soltron Kiss, an Ergoline Open Sun 1050, and a SunDash 252 booth – as well as a Norvell airbrush system. There are also three empty rooms in which David hopes to someday install additional equipment.
Continued Service & Growth
Given the success of the first two Xtreme Tan salons, David has hopes of opening a third. Further, he believes it will be successful despite the current saturation of the St. Louis market. “We believe that our level of customer service gives us an edge,” he said. “One of the many things we do is make sure the same staff works the same hours at the same store, so regular clients get used to being greeted by the same people nearly every time they come in to tan. We’ve found that our clients appreciate this kind of service, and that’s why people continue to tan with us.”
Seven years ago, David Wagman traded sub-primes for sunshine, and he continues to enjoy the fun, enjoyment and, above all, spontaneity that the business provides. “What’s great is that you never know what’s going to happen next,” he said. “This industry is always evolving, with new and exciting products and tanning units coming out each year. Just trying to keep up with all that innovation can be a challenge, but it’s definitely not a boring job, that’s for sure!”
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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