From Mary El Pearce. Follow her on Twitter@CupcakesDC and email her at maryelp[At]borderstan.com.
Fusion restaurants have long been popular (although I’ve never really gotten the idea – pesto on my sushi? Umm…), but a fusion airbrush tanning salon/antique shop? Now there’s a wild idea. Apparently, there’s even a new word for it: tantiquing.
You may be wondering why someone would open such a shop, but when you walk into Fit to be Tan, conveniently located next to Vida Fitness on U Street, you’ll begin to understand the concept.
“The whole idea is that you enter and it’s a high end boutique experience,” says Paul Corrie, owner of the store, as well as Paul Corrie Interiors, his upscale interior design business.
If you’re anything like me (you burn easily and are terrified of getting skin cancer), a spray tan makes sense. But again, if you’re like me, you have been avoiding getting one because of that episode of “Friends” when Ross’s teeth glow because he gets so dark, and just on his front. But step into Fit to be Tan and your mind will be put at ease.
Corrie calls his antiques “curiosities,” meant to pique your interest while you wait for your appointment. “I’ve tried to make them represent an extension of my brand but more accessible to the general public.” Once in the tanning room, a professional tanner artfully coats every inch of your body with a sugar-based tanning solution. Because a person tans you – not a machine – it’s an even color custom mixed and applied to match your skin.
I got the wedding tan, which is a soft, pretty glow, perfect for a first-timer like me. I probably would have left with a darling toille-covered chair if I hadn’t been afraid my new color would rub off on it. But it just gives me an excuse to pop back by…proof that the antique/tanning salon idea might actually work.
Borderstan: Why did you decide to open a small business?
Paul Corrie: I graduated from law school and practiced for six months. Then I got encouragement from another designer to open my design firm. With the support of my parents, I did it.
Borderstan: Why are you now getting into airbrush tanning?
Corrie: I’ve airbrush tanned for 17 years. Heather, a friend in Arlington who founded Fit to be Tan, suggested opening another location. People who are designers care about the way their homes look, the way they’re represented. The same thing extends to people’s bodies. If somebody cares about the way they look and they’re working out at Vida, they’re probably going to care just as much how their tan looks.
Borderstan: What’s the most challenging thing about running a small business in DC?
Corrie: I think DCRA completely disrupts the opportunity for small businesses to get off on the right foot. It’s been nothing but an uphill battle, but I hang on to the fact that we’ve gotten good press, emails and phone calls like crazy. Also, exposure is a challenge. I’ve never done paid advertising – it’s always been word of mouth.
Borderstan: Do you have any advice to someone thinking of starting their own business?
Corrie: Do your research. I researched the neighborhood and what tanning places exist and how successful they’ve been. Know what you’re doing. I don’t think I would have been as confident about the retail aspect of this had I not had prior retail experience. I think the idea of opening a small business is risky and a big chance, but try to think outside the box and not be so conservative. A lot of the feedback on Fit to be Tan has been how unconventional this is for this city, but people have reacted positively to the quirkiness. If you do your research and feel passionate about it, I feel strongly it will work.