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Shining Stars of Santa Cruz County

Young entrepreneur creates a salon ‘experience’

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Prep & Prime Nail Bar

Ashley Valencia opened Prep & Prime Nail Bar in Nogales, modeled after chic Los Angeles nail salons.

Prep & Prime Nail Bail in Nogales is decorated with chandeliers, oversized paintings, Coco Chanel quotes and a flat-screen TV airing Mexican pop music videos.

The modern, trendy space is inspired by chic Los Angeles salons and promises not just manicures and other beauty treatments, but a place to unwind in a luxurious environment.

“I wanted it to be more of an experience – like you came here to get relaxed, get pampered in a good environment, like somewhere to have fun,” said owner Ashley Valencia.

“There’s nothing like it – maybe in Mexico, maybe in Tucson – but not here,” she added.

The salon, located next to Safeway on Mariposa Road, opened last fall and has already attracted dedicated, regular customers.

“I love the place, it’s beautiful,” said Eva Martinez, a Nogalian whose nails were done in a mix of glossy and sparkly light pink acrylic last fall. She said she was pleased with how her nails looked and thought the custom-made tall, black upholstered pedicure chairs were “awesome.”

Valencia, 29, opened Prep & Prime Nail Bar after she recently returned to her hometown of Nogales after living in Los Angeles for 10 years.

When she searched for a place to get her nails done in Nogales, she said, she only found a few salons and once had to wait four hours for her appointment.

She decided to remedy that problem by opening her own shop and hiring five technicians who offer manicures, pedicures, facials and eyelash extensions. The salon has regular, gel and acrylic nail polish, and can do creative nail art as well.

Valencia said her salon focuses on cleanliness – via easy-to-clean glass pedicure bowls and a medical-grade air purification system – and stocks designer nail polish brands not commonly found in salons, such as Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford and Christian Louboutin.

She said she’s aware that many young people like her have moved away from Nogales in search of better opportunities, so she’s happy to contribute to the community and its struggling economy.

“I grew up here and I don’t want it to die. I want things to be lively like when I was in high school,” Valencia said, adding that when she has children, she wants them to experience an animated Nogales as well.

Her fiance and new Nogales resident Rafael Arenas is also contributing to the local economy with his new personal training business, Perfect Specimen Fitness.

“I guess we just wanted to be entrepreneurs,” Valencia said with a laugh.

Prep & Prime Nail Bar is at 479 W. Mariposa Road next to Safeway and is open 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more information, call (520) 377-0659 or see prepandprimebar.com.

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