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Thembeka Johnson’s spa L’Ongle Spa and Mane Salon has been in its place since the mall opened seven years ago. Then three years ago she opened the hair salon for ethnic and Caucasian hair as well.

YN: How did your business start?

Thembeka: I studied to be a teacher and completed my honours in early childhood development, but then moved into the beauty industry. I worked as the features editor on True Love, and then the beauty editor on Oprah. I then opened a retail store in Hyde Park and another in Menlyn Park. This involved lots of overseas travel to source goods, and when I got married for a second time, I decided to settle down. I started researching the idea of a nail spa and then opened my doors in Melrose Arch. Four years later, the mall management approached me to open a hair salon as well, so I did.


YN: Why did you choose this area to set up shop?

Thembeka: I live near to Melrose Arch and my kids go to school in the area so I watched the development of the mall. I could see it wasn’t going to be the same as other malls, so I knew that I had found the right place for my new business.


YN: How did you find your premises?

Thembeka: They were advertising space in the new mall, and I had my business plan ready so we arranged to meet each other. I was lucky to get in at the beginning, when I could request a specific space.


YN: Why are they ideally suited to your business?

Thembeka: The space is fantastic and there’s a lot of foot traffic. There’s a good mix of family and business people in the centre.


YN: Who are your neighbours?

Thembeka: In between our two shops is a Tea Merchant’s. Next door there’s a shop selling robotic toys for kids and adults, and in front we have a body products store.


YN: How many people go through your store each day?

Thembeka: It varies but I’d say around 50 to 60 people a day. The spa is older and well established, so 70% of our customers is from bookings. The hair salon is a little bit less than that with around 60% of our business coming from bookings and the remainder from walk-in customers.


YN: Do you have any expansion plans?

Thembeka: Yes, especially on the hair side. We’ve just been licensed to distribute a hair product from the United States, so the distribution base will also be running out of Melrose Arch.


YN: Do you operate online as well?

Thembeka: Obviously, we’re an in-person kind of business, but we do have websites for both shops.


YN: What’s your most popular service?

Thembeka: We are quite busy with pedicures all the time – even for men. Gelish (gel nail-polish) has of course taken over the nail industry. And for hair, we do colour and cutting – which is unusual for a black hair salon.


Experience it for yourself:

L’Ongle Spa and Mane Salon

011 684 1005


Words: Georgina Guedes
Images: Supplied

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