Downtown Phoenix Campus to see new nail salon instead of restaurant on campus

On Arizona State University's Tempe campus, there are five Starbucks, two Jamba Juice and Subway restaurants, a Mexican grill and about a dozen different cafes — not to mention another restaurant serving up crepes and a milkshake machine in the Memorial Union’s P.O.D Express.

At the Downtown Phoenix campus, students waited with anticipation for the opening of new eateries that might come along with the shiny new law school building.

But there was a glimmer of hope for students – a new business opening up on the first floor of Cronkite school, right on the corner of First and Taylor streets. 

What could it be? A Panda Express? An Einstein Bagels? A Jamba Juice (because who couldn’t go for a smoothie in 100-degree heat). Or how about a … nail salon? 

Scheduled to open this October, the Downtown Phoenix Campus should get ready for the addition of Vera Icon, a nail salon and spa. But, a nail salon on a college campus? Is that necessary?

This isn’t an entirely new concept, the University of Michigan welcomed a nail salon in 2013 because the nearest one was more than five miles away, according to the Ann Arbor News. And just down the street in the Arizona Center is another nail salon. 

Patrick Panetta, director of project management for ASU real estate development, says the project is a partnership with the City of Phoenix designed to open spaces underneath Cronkite and Taylor Place to make it accessible to the public.The goal is to make the campus and surrounding area more pedestrian-friendly

“There wasn’t a specific mandate that the spaces had to be one type of retail or another. The idea was not to put classrooms or offices there,” Panetta says. “We quickly filled out three retail spaces on Central Avenue in the Cronkite building with restaurants, and we had this other space available for a number of years. We entertained it for restaurants. There was a lot of different interest on it.”

The women who run the Arizona Broadcasting Hall of Fame in Scottsdale looked at the space for relocation and took a pass on it, according to Panetta. A smoothie business was also interested, but decided not to commit. 

“Ultimately, the one we settled on and who we signed the contract with was the woman who wanted to do a nail salon,” Panetta says, referring to salon co-founder Veronica Hurtado.

While the idea of new business taking up space on the the Downtown Phoenix campus is exciting, skepticism does come with a nail salon beneath the school.

“I think a salon should be at a mall or shopping centers,” says Heidy Martinez, an elementary education senior at ASU. "I prefer for that location to be a restaurant since there isn't a lot of variety of food on our downtown campus. There's a couple of food locations around us, but it’s more than a 10 minute walk to get there. In my opinion, we're here to learn and get a degree, not get our nails done.”

Alexus Washington, a journalism sophomore, says she is unhappy with the idea of the nail salon. 

“I think it’s just kind of random putting a nail salon there,” Washington says. “ I think they could have put something else there, like a study area for students. I don’t think students are going to want to spend their money on getting their nails done.”

Most students feel the same as Washington, preferring that the university instead opt for something more practical than a nail salon. Food is important, nails a little less so seems to be the sentiment amongst most Downtown Phoenix campus students. 

“It’s always really dead on the weekends in downtown Phoenix. I think it’ll get revenue on the weekdays, but that’ll be its most popular time.” says Kelly Broderick, a journalism sophomore. “I don’t know if that’s the right place for a nail salon. I think they could have put something else there that benefitted the students more.”

But not all students were angry at the placement of the nail salon. 

"I think it will be great that there will be a nail salon in the middle of campus because it lets people with really busy schedules get their nails done and go straight to meetings or class," says Heidi Gurtz, ASU nursing student. "It will also allow more students to have jobs on campus but not regulated by ASU so the 20 hours a week limit won't apply."

While some students may be confused about why a nail salon is coming to their campus, there are a couple factors to consider about the Cronkite space:

How much space there actually is: There isn’t enough square footage in the space to be a full restaurant. According to Panetta, 1,300 to 15,500 square feet is on the lower end for the ideal amount of space needed for a restaurant. The space which the nail salon will go into is only about 1,100 square feet.

Infrastructure: While Bowl of Greens and Subway have access to building exhaust and other building infrastructure, the space on the corner of First and Taylor streets does not have those same luxuries. 

“Gas was brought to the space, but it didn’t have the same infrastructure capabilities, so that was one of the drawbacks of trying to make it into a restaurant," Panetta says.

But perhaps students should not be quick to jump the gun on this one. Vera Icon is offering special deals to customers, including ASU students. New patrons of the salon, set to open in early October, can expect "Karma Hour" and "Kindness Appointments." 

Karma Hour will be Monday through Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. and will serve as a happy hour, where a portion of Vera Icon proceeds are donated to a local non-profit. They have partnered with One n Ten to bring awareness to Aids Awareness Month, as well as the LGBTQ community.

Kindness appointments will be limited appointments which are offered to women who are survivors of domestic violence and attempting to gain employment. "Kindness" will also be offered to “students who have overcome an adversity and have shown academic excellence," Hurtado says. 

Hurtado is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite school and has been working on this project for the last three years.

The addition of a nail salon to campus could bring a lot of new revenue and attention to downtown – a community that is constantly growing. 

"The energy of the campus (drew me into downtown Phoenix). It just feels good to be here," Hurtado says.


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