When VN Nails opened in Salida, Colorado, (population 5,500) I decided that doting on digits must be an ancient tradition in Vietnam. That would explain the prevalence of Vietnamese American owned nail salons in the United States — even in remote Rocky Mountain towns with good ole boy ranchers and agro outdoor enthusiasts
According to the 2012-2013 Industry Statistics published by Nails Magazine, 48 percent of nail professionals in the $7.47 billion US nail industry are Vietnamese Americans. The number skyrockets in California where Vietnamese Americans represent 80 percent of the state’s nail technicians. Having lived in Southern California and also wanting to visit Vietnam, I’ve been fascinated with this phenomenon for years.
Back In The Remote Mountain Town
I arrive for a pedicure at the new Salida salon, which is located next to a Subway and a storage unit rental place. Nearby, Methodist Mountain’s changing aspens decorate the landscape like drops of O.P.I.’s Glitzerland Yellow Shimmer Nail Lacquer. Inside VN Nails, you find the standard salon accouterments, including vibrating massage recliners, ferns, stacks of People magazines, heated nail dryers, and shelves of O.P.I. polish.
The elevator version of “Hey Jude” plays on the sound system, and a gleaming gold Buddha near the register catches my attention. Chinese script decorates the statue’s base, and a somewhat creepy plastic hand, displaying various nail colors, reaches up toward the happy, paunchy Buddha.
Perhaps this practice of pampering goes back to Buddha’s times. I wonder if villagers massaged the hands and feet of traveling monks. The Vietnamese probably embrace this tradition in the same way the Chinese revere acupuncture. Finger and toe tending in Vietnam must be another old school Asian art like grooming bonsai trees in Japan.