Michelle Cao had always dreamed of starting her own nail salon. She helped her sisters open salons in Burlington and Winooski and also worked at the Essex Resort and Spa, but in 2014 she felt the time was right to step out on her own. Together with her husband, Stuart Deliduka, she opened Element Nails on Mechanicsville Road last November.
The couple lives in Essex Junction but felt that another salon there would be superfluous. “Nail salons are generally where people work and shop,” said Deliduka, “but not where they live. We wanted to try a different approach and in Hinesburg we found a space we liked and a landlord we liked so we started renovating.” Although they have some part-time employees, the couple does most of the work themselves with Cao taking care of customers and Deliduka, who has a background in business and sales, taking care of the books.
The wheelchair accessible salon has six pedicure chairs which provide seven different varieties of massages. In addition to manicures and pedicures, the couple hopes to expand Element Nails to include skin care and other forms of massage. Their hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30am to 6:30pm and Sundays from 11:00am to 4:00pm. Cao has an existing client base from her previous work, but people from Richmond to Starksboro are discovering the salon too. Although walk-ins are accepted, appointments are recommended. Hinesburg residents have been coming in to thank the couple for helping them forego a drive in favor of a local service.
Deliduka described Cao as having a “healer, care-giver” personality which makes her ideally suited for her job. He said her hot stone pedicures, a 50-minute procedure involving massage, exfoliation and hot towels, is one of the business’ most popular features. The couple took pains to make the décor of Element Nails more soothing and relaxing than the traditional black and white of most nail salons. Free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate help create a welcoming space. In addition to their regular business, Element Nails is open for teen and tween birthday parties, bridal parties, and ladies’ nights out but there is a new clientele discovering the space. Deliduka noted that more and more men are coming to Element Nails for pedicures. “We’re guy-friendly,” he said.
The couple sees their business as one that complements the others in their vicinity which include physical therapists and massage therapists. “We needed an area with growth potential,” said Deliduka. “Hinesburg is nice and quiet but it’s a growing community and we wanted to be part of it.” Element Nails has already donated gift certificates to schools and other local groups to be raffled off for fundraising. “Most other salons open up in a mall and wait for customers,” Deliduka said. “We wanted to break that paradigm. If you’re going to open a business in a small community you have to be giving. That’s the proper, responsible way to start a business. We’re going to be here for the long-term.”