After ten years, Swan Salon is closing its doors for the last time. The nail salon at 455 Main Street, next door to Starbucks, announced last weekend that it was going out of business.
On Wednesday afternoon, a steady stream of customers came in for pedicures and manicures and final farewells. A chair next to the door sported a sticker labeled $15. Bottles of glittery nail polish were going for 50 cents.
“I feel bad,” said customer Susan Beola, who has been coming to the salon since it first opened. “They provided a great service to the community. We don’t have many amenities here.” Although disappointed, she wasn’t entirely surprised. She said she’d noticed that things weren’t getting repaired around the salon for a while.
Sojung Lee, a lawyer representing the Swan Salon’s owner, said she doesn’t know who will take over the space, but insisted that the problem was not the rent.
“The owner believes that it is a good space, especially with the school [Cornell Tech] opening up, and that the rent was fair,” she said. Lee declined to provide the owner’s name, saying only that she was a very private person who was not able to put enough energy into the business to make it successful.
According to Lee, the salon had seen a noticeable decrease in foot traffic following a series of articles that appeared in The New York Times in 2015 accusing the nail industry of exploiting workers and using dangerous chemicals.
“Fewer people started coming in after that,” said Lee. Still, she said the owner believes a nail salon can be successful in the location.
“The owner is sad that she couldn’t make the changes it needed and contribute more to the community,” said Lee. When asked what types of changes she thought would have helped, she said longer hours. “In some places, the owner stays open until midnight. When people get home from work, they want to a treatment to relax. But they also want to come home to where they live. [The salon owner] hopes the new person will be able to be more creative and can accommodate more people.”
Several residents expressed frustration at having yet another empty storefront on the Island.
“It’s horrendous,” said Beola. “Since I’ve been here, the bakery has closed; the pizza place closed; the hardware store closed; the ice cream store closed; Trellis is still closed. There’s something wrong. They can’t all be bad tenants.”
The mood in the salon was somber as workers finished their last day. One customer slid a $20 tip to her manicurist, the store's manager. He tried to hand it back. When she insisted, he silently nodded and blinked back tears.