What would make the owner of a successful tanning salon consider selling his business to a 20-year-old upstart? Robert Paolini may have been young, but he’d earned his bronze-colored stripes; since he was 16 years old, he’d worked long hours at the salon, and his friendly manner put customers at ease. When the sale fell through, Robert put together his own business plan, gathered investors—some of whom were former tanning clients—and opened his own salon, The Hot Spot Tanning Co.
The salon has since weathered a boom in the tanning business, and Robert attributes the company’s survival to an amicable staff, who have created an atmosphere he compares to the show Cheers. “People who tan visit the salon three to four times a week, more often than they go to the grocery store,” says Robert. “They want to go where they feel comfortable.” So in each private room, tanners can stow their gear safely on sturdy shelves, hang clothing on hooks, and refresh after sessions with deodorant, makeup remover, and hand wipes.
Warm-skinned patrons slip from high-pressure tanning booths, which coax out melanin with lights designed to avert burns and lend credence to claims that one is a model in a water-wings catalog. Against the hushed hiss of a Mystic Tan booth, Robert presides over a selection of supplements, sports drinks, and shakes, and draws on a certification in sports nutrition while guiding clients through health and weight-loss programs.
A wildly successful alternative to traditional day spas—its more than 300 locations blanket 36 states and half a dozen countries—Planet Beach Contempo Spa Eastlake is a futuristic relaxation station where state-of-the-art machines administer all the spa and tanning services. These friendly automatons sometimes replace familiar treatments, as in a red light therapy bed, which does a red light treatment on the full body. But other equipment maps out new spa territory entirely: the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber moisturizes the whole body with nutrient-rich steam in order to offset the effects of a dry climate or a rear-end collision with a salt truck. A Saunatox and other machines whiten teeth, and spray tan skin.
Planet Beach operates on a gym-style membership system, meaning that members purchase packages or pay flat monthly rates. As members spend more time at the spa, they get to know the helpful assistants who are always on hand to demonstrate how to use the equipment without activating its ability to cry.
It's all about relaxation at Purple Door Day Spa, where the staff strives to make their clients look and feel refreshed. Their treatments range from acne-clearing facials to facials gentle enough to treat clients who are also undergoing chemotherapy. Aside from skincare, they also specialize in hairstyling—cornrows, lock styling, and braids—waxing, and makeup applications.