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By Joel Beers
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By Dave Barton
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With discount nail salons littering every corner of the county, cleanliness doesn't always override thriftiness. Sure, you're getting a $15 manicure/pedicure, but the mysterious origins of the cuticle nipper about to perforate your pinky and the foot spa that may or may not have been disinfected before you got there should persuade you to think twice—and go elsewhere.
Tsigonoff, 43, and Leago, 39, are the owners of the new Krème de la Krème Nail Lounge, the latest business to open in the burgeoning Belmont Heights neighborhood of Long Beach, home to boutiques such as The Kids Are Alright, gourmet deli/grocer Olives, and the Library coffeehouse.
While the striped awnings of Krème de la Krème are enough to make the storefront stand out among its neighbors, it's the décor that really lets you know this place is different: pastel-pink walls, white fixtures, candles, toile-print curtains, crystal chandeliers. A large framed portrait of Marie Antoinette—who else?—watches over an array of (complimentary) champagne and cupcakes.
Leago, a full-time business lawyer in downtown Los Angeles, started out as Tsigonoff's nail client four years ago in Long Beach. After bonding over their Southern roots and a desire for a quality area nail salon, the two became fast friends and conceived the idea of opening Krème de la Krème together.
"In addition to an elegant, inviting environment, it was important for our clients to feel like the salon was a home away from home," explains Tsigonoff.
The two then dedicated themselves to researching how to provide the most hygienic methods to service their clients: disposing of all products, using heat to sterilize all stainless-steel instruments, and the decision to opt out of those popular spa chairs you see in most salons these days. Instead, Leago and Tsigonoff went with the FootsieBath, a heated, mobile pedicure-spa system with disposable liners. The FootsieBaths are just as comfortable as the stationary spa chairs—especially when you're enjoying a pedicure from an overstuffed ultra-suede armchair—only without the threat of that pesky athlete's foot and fungus stuff.
"[We wanted] a salon that would offer impeccable and friendly service akin to the old-fashioned beauty parlors, where everyone knew everyone else's name," Leago adds.
Krème de la Krème offers a wide array of services, such as the express manicure ($20) and pedicure ($28), if you're in a hurry, or the opulent Krème Brûlèe manicure ($38) and pedicure ($56), which includes everything from aromatherapy soaks, callus repair (for which most salons charge extra), paraffin dip and exfoliation.
The prices may seem steep—especially when compared to the shady nail place around the corner that airbrushes sunsets onto acrylics—but the décor isn't the only obvious element of quality. While getting my nails done by the flawless Neary (who, I must add, shares my intense love for short, buffed nails and, most important, friendly and talkative-but-not-overbearing nail technicians), I noticed things like exclusively OPI (read: long-lasting!) lacquers, glass files that are especially delicate on the nails and pomegranate scrubs. The nail lounge also offers Bio Gel nails, the healthier replacement for harmful acrylics—and the harsh chemicals that come with them.
So while I didturn down the offer of champagne and pretty cupcakes while Neary was gently filing away at my ticklish feet (and calluses), I realized it was probably the first time I've failed to question just where the hell those nail clippers had come from. And then I requested a glass of water with a lemon wedge instead.
Krème de la Krème nail lounge, 3423 E. Broadway, Long Beach, (562) 434-4004; www.kremedelakreme.net. Open Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. or by appointment.