Nails and cocktails

Shannon Dunlap

Photo By David Robert

After teaching for 12 years, Shannon Dunlap knows what it’s like to want to be pampered while being pressed for time and cash. She and her husband, Darin Dunlap, opened Soak Nail Spa + Lounge out of a 1920s house at 628 W. Second St. earlier this year. They serve cocktails, pedicures and manicures—a combination she thinks Reno women can appreciate. For more information, call 324-7399 or visit

By the name of your business, I can come to you when I need a drink and a manicure at the same time. Is that right?

Exactly, or pedicures also. We’re not strictly cocktails, but we offer that in addition to our services. People can come at lunch and get an ice tea and enjoy a pedicure. We worked really hard to get the full liquor license. We’re zoned for cocktails and spa, and we did that with the idea of being able to have parties and things with our spa. What we want it to be is to meet in the middle between a strip mall salon and a high-end day spa. So it feels like a fabulous experience and spa, but the cost is much less, and the time commitment is much less.

You mentioned you keep costs low. What are the prices like?

Entry price is $36, which is awesome, because we’re a high-end place. We’re super conscious of sanitation. … All of our instruments come in sterilized pouches; we use a traditional bowl-style pedicure, with beautiful rocks in the bottom. It’s really kind of cool as opposed to the big spa foot baths, which have been in the media recently because if they’re not cleaned properly, they can be a problem. The $36 is your basic soak pedicure—clipping, light massage, hot towel wrap, warm lotion massage and polish. Then our seasonal pedicure is our highest end, which is $60—that comes with a cocktail, and we change those per season. Right now, we’re doing the Pink Pedicure—it has sliced ruby grapefruit in the bowl, a warm grapefruit lotion massage, a hot towel wrap and our signature Pink Drink. People are coming just for this cocktail my husband created. It’s a vodka drink with blood oranges and passion fruit and a sugar rim.

Sounds like a fun place.

We have a book club that comes in every month. We have bachelorettes, bridal showers. We have little girl birthday parties, where we do sparkling ciders. … We can do 4-5 girls at a time. We’ve done parties of up to 25 people.

How did you get the idea for this?

When I was living in San Francisco, I was teaching there for 10 years, and there was a nail spa I used to go to quite frequently. I got the concept loosely from that, but the liquor license piece of it is just from having grown up in Reno and being a native Nevadan. I thought, “It’s too perfect: manicures, pedicures and cocktails.” It just seemed like a good fit for Reno. … You can go in for 40 minutes, have a manicure and pedicure and a drink—or not—catch up with friends. I think that also separates us from other spas—it’s not zen quiet, and it’s not obnoxiously loud. It’s just a nice, relaxed soak nail lounge.

Had you done this kind of work before?

No. I think if you talk to teachers—a lot of teachers have a lot of great ideas. My husband and I have always had this entrepreneurial sprit, and you think, “Oh, this would be a great idea.” We just found one that really fit with us and went with it. I hire highly trained technicians—they are the technical experts, and we run the business aspect of it.

With so many nail shops around, do you think you have to diversify to survive?

I think there are a lot of day spas and a lot of nail shops, but I believe we’re the only nail lounge. I’m a huge fan of going to a day spa—but I don’t do it that frequently. I think this is a totally different concept. It’s a niche that didn’t really exist here in Reno—coupling that spa experience with manageable time and manageable dollars in a really chic and unique environment.