Shop Talk

Couple builds LaVie Spas with hard work, personal touch

Holly Le poses in her Raleigh salon. Le and her husband, Vinnie Lam, own three nail spas in the Triangle.
Holly Le poses in her Raleigh salon. Le and her husband, Vinnie Lam, own three nail spas in the Triangle. TERI SAYLOR

If you ask Holly Le how many hours she works as co-owner of three Triangle area nail salons, she says simply, “a lot.”

Her La Vie Nail Spas in Durham and Cary, and Village Nail Spa in Raleigh are open seven days a week, and Le works wherever she’s needed at any given time.

“I work from morning to night,” she said. “I run around to all the stores, and I go get the supplies for each one almost every week and make sure they have what they need.”

In addition to juggling the three businesses with her husband and business partner, Vinnie Lam, Le also pitches in on services, such as manicures, if any of the salons are busy and her staff need help.

Le, 35, was a teenager in 1998 when she moved with her parents to Orange County, Calif. from their home in Vietnam.

Lam, 36, also moved to the United States from Vietnam with his parents. The couple met in Durham, where they now live.

After graduating from cosmetology school, Le moved to Durham in 2000 to work for her cousin who owned K-Nail Salon in the Southpoint Crossing shopping center.

In 2004, Le’s cousin moved to California, giving Le and Lam the opportunity to take over the business and the start of their careers as business owners.

Le and Lam borrowed $200,000 from a bank to renovate the place by adding new equipment and pedicure chairs.

The couple expanded it in 2011, moving the salon from its 1,400-square-foot space to a 2,400-square-foot space in the same shopping center.

After moving, Le and Lam changed the name to La Vie Nail Spa and added other services such as massages, permanent makeup services and eyelash extensions.

Customer demand continued to increase, so they started looking into opening a second salon, this one in Cary.

“When we started hiring new workers for the Durham shop, a few workers came from Cary, and they brought a large base of clientele from Cary out to the Durham store,” Le said. “They kept saying, ‘We need a spa like this in Cary.’”

They couldn’t, however, afford to open a new shop in Cary. So they partnered with James Ngo, who owned Signature Nail Spa at the town’s Parkside Town Commons.

They were able to buy him out in 2014, and took out another bank loan, this time for $150,000, Le said, to renovate the salon and add new equipment to mirror their Durham spa.

The couple is now in the process of changing the shop’s name to La Vie.

In January, the couple expanded again when it opened Village Nail Spa across from Cameron Village in Raleigh.

“I have always loved Cameron Village, and we wanted to expand our business in Raleigh, too,” Le said.

The three spas have 42 employees.

Le and Lam use social media, including consumer review sites, cable television advertising and word of mouth to advertise the salons. Le says she expects it to take up to three years before the Cary and Raleigh shops reach their full potential.

“Normally business will pick up after about a year or so,” Le said. “For the first six months, you barely make anything at all. Then from six months to a year, you will see business pick up a little bit, and for the good business, it takes a good two or three years of growth.”

Teri Saylor:, @terisaylor