Chicness Nails reopens with the ultimate customer first strategy: their safety.

By Jennifer Xia, Photography by Angie Tran

Gaining Trust

Gaining the trust of her clients again was the greatest challenge Angie Tran, owner of Chicness Nails, had to face. Before the doors of Chicness open, employees spray and wipe the door handles, trash cans, cash register and even pens.

According to Austin Public Health, COVID-19 is now the fourth-leading cause of death in Travis County. (There were 346 deaths as of August 20.) When Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in Texas on March 13, Tran closed Chicness’ doors the following day. This not only cut off her livelihood. It also threatened the personal relationships she had built with her customers. 


“The fear of leaving your house and being in public is scary,” Tran said. “I knew that we had to come back stronger than ever if we wanted to face the challenges thrown at us. If we wanted to keep our doors open, we had to do it the right way.”

Chicness partnered with White Coat Disinfecting Texas. The company offers disinfection services using EPA-approved advanced antimicrobial solutions and List-N disinfectant solutions approved for use against COVID-19. Even after Gov. Abbott announced that salons were allowed to reopen on May 8, Tran was hesitant. She waited to reopen until May 21 when she felt secure that her staff and clients could safely come back.

Clients Are at the Heart of Chicness

“Upon reopening, I made a promise,” Tran said. “Our clients will be the heart of everything we do.”

During the first week of every month, the Chicness staff use white-coat disinfecting and wash the towels in hot water with bleach and laundry detergent every day. Nail technicians take their own temperatures every morning and throughout the day. Clients must also take a temperature check and wash their hands before picking their polish of choice. For the sake of full transparency, Chicness has adopted an Open Sanitation System. This allows clients to directly view how the staff at Chicness disinfect their tools.

“There were so many new guidelines and protocols that we had to adapt to,” Tran said. “From increased positive cases to hospitalizations across our country, COVID-19 has changed every facet of our world and the way we do business.” 

Strengthening Customer Relationships

In a time of great isolation and uncertainty, a simple smile from a stranger makes the world feel that much less lonely. Even if it’s behind plexiglass guard shields. “We have clients with pre-existing health conditions and seniors that have not left their homes since March. Chicness was the first place they chose to visit,” Tran said. “When you’re able to offer a safe environment and a little bit of normalcy, that feeling is so rewarding.”

One of Tran’s favorite clients is Maggie Mata. The nurse of 35 years comes to Chicness once a month with her daughter Julie. Mata has Parkinson’s disease, and the salon has become a special place where she and her daughter pamper themselves. ”For one hour, they’re able to feel normal and leave feeling beautiful,” Tran said. “It feels great to know that Chicness can give back to people like Maggie.”

Change Starts With Me

The pandemic hasn’t been the only shift in the world’s balance. The resurgent cries for racial justice rise against the backdrop of health inequities. Racism and violence toward Black people and other communities of color has awakened the world to what should be part of the “new normal.”

Anti-Blackness and interracial prejudice within the AAPI community have emerged as critical topics of discussion during tense dinner table conversations and on social media. When Asian Americans working as immigrant laborers in the U.S. were villainized in what was known as the “Yellow Peril,” the Black Panther party rose in solidarity to fight against a shared discrimination. But the monolithic model minority myth and identity of Asian Americans as complicit to White supremacy has created a divide between communities of color over the years.

“I believe that change within the community starts with me…that everyone is treated with kindness, compassion and respect,” Tran said. “It is my hope that members of the Black community feel safe and wanted in my business and leave feeling pampered and beautiful.”

Managing a small business amidst a pandemic has been difficult. However, Tran finds it more important than ever to stay vigilant and to protect each other. “This pandemic has taught me so much about strength, courage and consistency,” Tran said. “You have to keep your fire burning.”

Read more coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.



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