HIGHLAND PARK – During interviews, it often takes a gentle nudge for people to express their feelings. This was not the case when I interviewed Betty Feinerman about the nail salon she has been a regular at for many years: Lotus Nails.
“The Kim Family at Lotus Nails practically carries you into the seat. They take your purse, so you don’t ruin your nails. If you take a piece of candy, they immediately remove the wrapper. It’s a full-service operation,” she said without taking a breath.
Feinerman is not the official publicist for Lotus Nails, but she could be. The Highland Park resident is a devoted customer who’s had a weekly standing appointment there for about five years. It’s a social event where she meets other regulars and enjoys chatting with the owners: Hong, Nikki, their son, Eddie, and his new bride, Sunni Kim.
“The Kims’ mission is to give their clients the best service and to make sure everyone has the best experience possible,” said Feinerman.
Then suddenly two years ago, the Kims sold Lotus Nails.
“It was never the same after the Kims left,” she said.
Hong Kim said he sold the business about two years ago due to health reasons. “Then I got better and wanted to continue where I left off,” he said.
So on May 25, 2017, the Kims bought Lotus Nails back, to the delight of Feinerman and other regular clients.
In 2008, Hong Kim was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He underwent an operation where part of his stomach was removed, and he was declared cancer free. Kim and his family took over Lotus Nails from the original owner in 2011, but the stress was affecting his health, which led to the temporary early retirement.
Hong said that after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, his wife was not emotionally prepared, and they started thinking about “what-ifs.” At the time, his daughter was about to go to college and his wife was planning for the future.
“My wife was a TV and radio news anchor for the Korean community in Chicago for over 20 years, but because the community was small, it wasn’t a high paying job,” said Hong, who was an IT professional for about 28 years. Then some people told her about the nail salon business and in 2008 she bought a nail salon in Chicago.
A few years later, the couple was having lunch in Highland Park when they came upon Lotus Nails. Hong said they thought it was a fantastic location and had a lot of potential, so they spoke to the owner.
Hong said a lot happened during their two-year absence from Lotus Nails. The family had to take care of his father-in-law in South Korea, who later passed away, and his mother-in-law needed help recovering from knee replacement surgery.
There was also reason for celebration, as their son Eddie got married.
Eddie explained that he and his wife, Sunni, had two weddings; one in South Korea and the other in Chicago.
Not only did the Kims miss their clients, but the feeling was mutual.
“After we sold Lotus Nails we ran into one of our clients at Mariano’s and we hugged each other,” said Kim. “It was so touching we almost cried.” Kim ran into another client who is an active woman in her 90’s. “She touched our hearts so deeply, we had to come back.”
Other clients feel the same way.
Longtime client Marcy Abt from Highland Park has been going to Lotus Nails with her mom and her sister since the salon first opened. Her mom even had a birthday party there. Now Abt’s kids and her sister’s kids are also clients.
“I was so happy when the Kims came back,” said Abt. “Most of the staff has stayed with them and it’s nice to see a family work together.” She added that a lot of older people venture out to Lotus Nails in the winter and the Kims always make sure they get out safely because of the ice.
Cal Levin has been coming to Lotus Nails for four years. He said Hong and Nikki are very friendly, and he feels comfortable going there.
“Lotus Nails is very accommodating and they make every client feel special,” said Marcia Balonick.
Feinerman added, “The Kims are always at your beck and call.”
Hong also had high praise for Feinerman:
“Betty is a long-time client who comes to Lotus Nails every week,” he said. “She always has a smile on her face, she’s always saying nice things about us, and she has lots of friends.”
Nikki said it best, “ We clean and polish our customers nails, but our wish is that we make them shine on the inside too. Many people come here who are ill and recovering from surgery, and we want to help them feel better. We care about our customers and treat them like family.”
Lotus Nails is located at 456 Central Avenue. For more information call: 847/681-0123.