Cleveland Business Connects

For immediate release (October 6, 2017) Media Contact: Judy Abelman Email: Phone: 440.725.8861...

Looking for a pedicure on Playhouse Square? Gwenay Coniglio has just the ticket at her Lavender Nail Bar and Studio

By Nina Polien Light   |   Photo by Doug Khrenovsky

Like many female entrepreneurs, Gwenay Coniglio knows the importance of presenting a professional appearance when dealing with colleagues and customers.

Maintaining well-manicured hands once required leaving work early to race to the nail salon near her suburban home before it closed or sacrificing precious weekend time with family. Still, the president of The Coniglio Company construction firm in the Hanna Building did not give the situation much thought until she attended an otherwise routine Playhouse Square board of directors meeting.

“We were discussing the number of hair salons that moved into the Theater District, and afterward a female colleague said, ‘When are we getting a nail salon downtown?’” says Coniglio, whose seats on the Playhouse Square, Greater Cleveland Partnership, and Cuyahoga Community College boards have provided a front-row view to Cleveland’s resurgence as a business, residential, and tourist destination. “Now, obviously, we have a grocery store, but we need all those services normal to us in the suburbs that aren’t present in the downtown area. A nail salon is one of those.”

Recognizing there was only one other nail salon downtown, and with no experience in the beauty industry, Coniglio began writing a business plan in early 2015. Her venture, Lavender Nail Bar and Studio, opened on Playhouse Square this spring. The almost 2,000-square-foot space employs 13 people, including nail technicians, estheticians, and cosmetologists. The salon serves men and women and offers manicures, pedicures, waxing, threading, makeup application, eyelash extensions, facials, and massages. Clients include downtown residents and workers, cast and crew members of shows performing in the Theater District, and out-of-town business travelers.

To Coniglio’s delight, July’s Republican National Convention provided a bump in business.

“When people came to Cleveland, a lot of women, in particular, googled for a nail salon, and Lavender Nail Bar and Studio came up, and it was within walking distance of where they were staying,” she says. “Once a few women came in, word kind of spread, so we had groups of five and six ladies coming all at the same time.”

Two weeks after the RNC, Coniglio was experiencing a steady rise in business — especially on Monday and Tuesday, days that are typically slow in the salon industry.

With the tagline, “Relax, Renew, Rejuvenate,” Coniglio hopes Lavender provides a respite from the bustle and stress of daily life. The salon’s name acknowledges the soothing effects of lavender and pays homage to family members.

“It’s a favorite color of my mother,” she says. “(She) and my son are born in February, and that birthstone has that lavender color and tone. When I think of lavender, I think of my mother because she’s calming and soothing to me. This is the perfect name for someone who’s looking to come in to relax and feel calm.”

Opening week was frenetic for Coniglio and her husband, Tom, who serves as vice president of The Coniglio Co. Lavender’s May 14 launch occurred just five days before the opening of the newly renovated Ohio Theatre, a project The Coniglio Co. worked on with Turner Construction.

“That was a very stressful time for me and for Tom, because he was doing construction for Lavender as well as working with Turner at the Ohio Theatre,” Coniglio says. “But we knew we wanted Lavender to be open before the Ohio Theatre opened, so when subscribers came in they would see Lavender.”

Coniglio divides time between the nail salon and the construction firm she and Tom founded in 1997 after leaving jobs at Case Western Reserve University’s physical plant department. The company specializes in healthcare, retail, institutional, school, and office construction. Through the years, its projects have included the Seidman Cancer Center at University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic Brunswick, and the RJF Founders Club at Playhouse Square.

Although the focuses of Coniglio’s businesses — one on fingernails and toenails and the other on building nails — are disparate, she says there are similarities to running a nail salon and construction company.

“One would think construction, which is typically a male-dominated industry, is a very hard-nosed business, but the beauty business is just as hard-nosed,” she says.

“Talking to cosmetics companies and various people within the beauty profession was an eye-opener for me. It’s a business that has a revolving door with nail techs and estheticians. My challenge was trying to create a sustainable model where techs and licensed professionals can see themselves moving up in the business. Whether in construction or at Lavender Nail Bar and Studio, all of it ties into creating spaces and places where people can be the best they can be.”

Another challenge for Coniglio is finding a balance between work and family, which includes her husband, a son in fifth grade, and a daughter in college. She recently made time for a weeklong family vacation.

“You don’t want to spend so much time working and not have that personal life, but you can’t spend so much time on personal stuff and not be active in your business,” Coniglio, who is already looking to franchise Lavender Nail Bar and Studio, says.

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