Linda Craig has the best seat in the Art Village, perched above the main walkway while still somehow hidden among all the activity. She worked hard to get there and five years after opening she's right where she wants to be.
The Perfect Ten (A Salon for Nails) is a title as precise as her services, which include foot care, hand care and a specialization in medical pedicures. She provides natural nail care (manicures), is an acrylic nail specialist and works to teach her clients to take care of themselves as much as she does.
She works by appointment only and has built a loyal following in Gulfport and many of the surrounding cities. Seemingly always on the move, she manages her time as a mother of a teenage daughter while giving her time to several organizations and running her business.
A service that sets her apart from others is diabetic foot care.
“It's knowing about the circulatory system, endocrine and all that other fun stuff,” she playfully says. “Your average nail tech, especially here in Florida, is not trained for that. There's a massage that's given from the tip of the toe up to the knee. I also incorporate a little reflexology.”
With more than 30 years of experience, she developed her craft (and her southern accent) in Hilton Head, South Carolina and is a licensed instructor in nail care. It is an industry not as tightly regulated in Florida, she points out, as Florida instructors do not need to be licensed.
She came to Gulfport just over five years ago and became friends with Joe and Charlene Culbertson, owners of the Art Village Courtyard at the time. She opened Perfect Ten not long after for a few days a week and continued to work at another salon in the area while spending lots of time and effort to build up her own business.
“I worked really, really hard and now it's very successful,” she is happy to say. “I have clients that drive over here from northeast St. Pete, Snell Island and all around.”
She has no employees but enjoys the work and especially her clients.
“Some of my greatest relationships have been birthed out of my clients. I have some that are booked out three and four months in advance because my schedule is tight.”
She is a recent addition to the board of the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce (COC), manages the entertainment schedule on the courtyard stage and is a member of the local chapter of Business and Professional Women (BPW).
Along with the cosmetic focus she is particularly sensitive to medical issues.
“Calluses, ingrown toe nails, diabetic foot care – there's a way that I deal with all of that and I teach my clients what they need to know to take care of themselves. It's much more in depth than coming in and getting your toe nails polished,” she says of the services, adding, “I have almost as many men clients as I do female.”
She networks through the COC, BPW, friends and clients and does no advertising, has no web site or Facebook page, just a phone number and an excellent reputation.
“You really have to come in and experience it. It's like Tiffany with Live Curley, Live Free and Leta with Art of Massage, you have to understand what they specialize in and why they do it,” she says, referring to her neighbor businesses in the Art Village. “We're all that way. We're extremely good at what we do. We go the extra mile. We're constantly teaching ourselves, constantly being one step above the average.”
While the demand is there for her services, Craig explains the importance in becoming an integrated part of a community.
“Tourism is great. You get a few dollars off of it but that is not my main entree. We're not only about just providing a service and getting paid for it,” she says, again pointing to the other shops near her. “We have a human interest in you... and that's what sets us aside.”
Linda Craig is happy with the business, her location, a busy schedule and the fact she has re-established some lost ties from her days in Hilton Head. She's also looking forward to an all women fishing tournament in Gulfport next year that she's helping to organize with the COC.
She doesn't sit still, has plenty to say and is making the most from the best seat in the house.
The Perfect Ten (A Salon For Nails) is located at 2908 Beach Blvd. and the phone number is 727-239-5280.