By Bingqing Mao
The Meridian Times
90’s Nails is a nail salon at the entrance of Meridian Mall. Once people step into 90’s Nails, you would smell a thick mixture of nail polishes and nail polish removers. Henry Tran, the owner of this salon, always sits behind the front desk, welcoming customers.
The Trans are from Vietnam, they came to United States in 1990 and traveled many cities at first.
Helen Tien Tran, the daughter of the shop owner, said, “My parents did not finish high school. They came over here, didn’t know any English, and they also didn’t have any money, so they worked really hard.”
Then one of their friends introduced them to do nails, for it was immature and did not need much education. As a result, they decided to go to school for doing nails and learned English at the same time.
“No one was really knowing about the nails at then, you know back to 1990s, so a lot of people wanted to do it. We just like why not if we could do this and made good money,” Henry Tran said. “We were in Detroit, it was easy. We just needed to study a book, and learned how to do it, and then we can go to school.”
After Tran got the license, he saved money to open a shop. The first shop was opened in 1998. The Trans talked with customers to know about their preference and needs, practicing English all the time.
As time went by, the business got better and they also witnessed the development of making nails.
“They used to do a lot of airbrushes and we did not do many things by hand, it was really fast. We had many busy people come in, we just did a lot of takeoff stuff, but now, there are so much development for nails,” Helen Tien Tran said. “It was just changing during the generation.”
“In the past, we designed by ourselves and customers came, selected the pattern and airbrush it. But now people tend to bring their own stuff here; they search online and ask whether they could have this shape or this color. It is very different now.”
Sometimes, they also lost customers, because what they could do was very limited. Furthermore, the customer base also changed.
“At first, we just had people in this area, not a lot international students or Asian people, but I think now at MSU, there are a lot of Asian students coming now and we get many Asian people. But back in 1990s, we had more middle-class customers.”
Now the competition is tough. 90’s Nail has to lower the prices to attract more customers. So the price was unchanged since the salon moved to Lansing, and Helen said the price was much higher in 1990s. In addition, 90’s Nail also did the punch card, but now people do not keep it anymore, so the salon dropped it.
For a family business, however, there are not a lot of spots. Therefore, the Trans do not try to let everyone hear about their salon. They speak more to students rather than regular customers and it works.
Lu Jin was a media and information student at Michigan State University, and she went to 90’s Nails almost twice each month. She said the 90’s Nails had a “warm atmosphere,” the shop owner always talked to her during the manicure. And among the family, they still spoke Vietnamese, which made her feel novelty.
“It is another culture, which totally differs from America and China. However, it makes me feel more acceptable because we all from different countries, but we all lead a happy life there.” Jin said.