Hands On

Personal service, professionalism, and community spirit: the recipe for Adore Day Spa’s success.

Every so often, a good, old-fashioned after-work venting results in something truly beautiful.

This was the experience of Nam and Kim Huynh, owners of the popular Pearl nail salon, Adore Day Spa (1023 NW 11th Ave, 503-222-1255). It was a Friday afternoon in summer 2013 and Kim, who worked as a nail technician at a different establishment, was talking with her husband about her busy day. “I’m tired of being pushed to do things fast fast fast,” she told Nam. Trained as a makeup artist in her native Vietnam, she’d owned a clothing boutique there before moving to Portland in 2009 and marrying Nam. She knew the proper way of doing things. “I don’t want to rush, I want to take care of people the right way.”

Kim had complained to Nam before about feeling rushed at work, but that day a proverbial lightbulb illuminated. Although Nam did—and continues—to work as an ultrasound sonographer at OHSU, he’s long had an entrepreneurial bent. “I’ve always wanted to own a business,” he says. Like Kim, Nam was born in Vietnam, but he arrived in the United States when he was 12. His first job was at McDonald’s in Beaverton, and “believe it or not,” he says, “I learned from that job that I really like working with people. They’re just fascinating! So I’m very personable, and my wife is a very good nail technician.” And on that fateful summer day, the idea to open Adore Day Spa was born.

“We decided we wanted quality, not quantity. We’d rather have 2 happy clients instead of 10 unhappy ones.”

They spent two years planning the opening. First, they first crunched some numbers: could their business succeed by servicing a small number of clients each day, at the pace that Kim knew was optimal? “We decided we wanted quality, not quantity,” says Nam. “We’d rather have 2 happy clients instead of 10 unhappy ones.” They decided to focus on first-rate customer service and use the highest-quality products. Adore uses the most natural materials possible—no acrylic nails, for instance—and they make it a priority to treat their employees well.

The Huynhs, who live in Hillsboro, then weighed where to open their salon. “We decided we had to be in the Pearl,” says Nam. “My research showed that the demographic there fit exactly what we had to offer—high quality, high standards of professionalim, and personable, very friendly service.” When they found an available storefront on NW 11th Avenue, they went for it. “We borrowed money from our parents, put everything we had together, and said, ‘let’s just do this,’” Nam recalls. The salon opened in August 2015.

Two years on, it’s safe to say their efforts have paid off. The salon receives rave reviews, and Kim and Nam are especially proud of the extremly low turnover among their 12 full- and part-time employees, many of whom have been with them since the day they opened. “Our clients, they like to see a familiar face,” Nam says. “Especially when you’re having your hands and fingers and feet and toes worked on—it’s very personal. It makes their experience better.” Stop in for a visit, and you’ll see clients happily relaxing while receiving their treatments, many of them enjoying the complimentary glass of wine or champagne that the salon offers each client.

“We didn’t want to just be a business; we wanted to be part of the community—part of the Pearl”

Kim and Nam are also justly proud of giving a portion of proceeds to local charities, particularly those that aid veterans, women, and children. And they offer free backpacks to any kid in need. “We didn’t want to just be a business; we wanted to be part of the community—part of the Pearl,” says Nam. “We’re happy to open our arms and help.”

Looking forward, the couple has given some thought to opening a second location, but for the moment, time is a consideration. Kim works at Adore Monday through Saturday, and Nam takes over on Sundays and often stops in to help after he finishes his day job at OHSU. And they’re raising two young sons. Kim and Nam realize that this is a trade-off that comes with building a new business, but they’re also still working on finding the right work and personal balance. Says Nam, “we just want to keep doing better and better at what we do at the salon.” – Alison Stein | Photos by Paul Wagtouicz; Michelle Mitchell