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Enough Nail Salons on Damen Already, Business Owners Tell City Hall

By Alisa Hauser | November 21, 2013 12:26pm
 How many is too many? With the help of lawyers, the owners of two local nail salons went to City Hall to protest a special-use permit request for what could have been the fifth nail and waxing salon in the 1900 and 2000 block of North Damen Avenue.
Nail Salons in 1900-2000 Block of North Damen
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BUCKTOWN — There are six places offering manicures in a three-block stretch of North Damen Avenue — and businesses are claiming victory for derailing a plan to add yet another.

"We don't need another [salon] to die together," said Kwang Lee, co-owner of Amy's Nail Gallery at 1954 N. Damen Ave., one of a number of business owners who complained at City Hall last week in an effort to stop a business license for yet another competitor.

Though the group attended a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Friday about an oversaturation of manicurists in Bucktown, a lawyer for the applicant, Spa Dabin, said his client pulled the request for a permit over a "landlord issue."

Regardless, manicurists like Lee were  "relieved" that Spa Dabin would not be opening at 1937 N. Damen Ave., Lee said.

Nail shop owners were joined by other area businessmen in making the complaint.

A city ordinance requires a special-use permit for any personal service business that seeks to open within 1,000 feet of existing businesses offering similar services.

When Spa Dabin's special-use permit application went up in the window of a storefront almost directly across the street from the salon Lee has run with his wife for the past nine years, Lee  said he "almost cried."

"I couldn't sleep. My English is not so good. I can't express. I hired a lawyer," Won Sun Kim, Lee said.

Julie and Hong Kim, owners of Bien Assorti nail salon at 2010 N. Damen Ave., also hired an attorney, Phillip Laurin, who called the issue a matter of "simple economics."

"Too many firms in a single market for one type of service will lead to struggling, marginal businesses, rather than a balanced mix of solid, viable businesses that can contribute jobs, tax revenue and retail stability to the neighborhood-at-large over a long time," Laurin wrote in a letter to the Board of Appeals, which reviews special use permit applications.

On Thursday, Spa Dabin's owner Sung L. Hyun could not be reached for comment. Nick Ftikas, a zoning attorney for Hyun, said that Hyun withdrew her application due to a "landlord issue."

"I believe there was an issue with the lease that wasn't resolved," Ftikas said.

Laurin said he believes the salon pulled out of Bucktown due to pressure from the surrounding salon owners, including Larissa Stanojevic, owner of ZazaZoo Nail Salon at 1842 N. Damen Ave.

Stanojevic says it wasn't just nail salon owners — she collected signatures from business owners of all kinds along Damen.

"The whole street, everyone was like, 'Wow, that's too many [nail salons]," said Stanojevic. "It's crazy."

"It's good to have more choices for people to come and have a service. But in this two or three blocks, it's packed. It's too much. We need to offer a variety of services," she said.

Laurin said blocking the salon was significant.

“Although today’s world is replete with examples of dysfunctional government, when people work together to make their voices heard, they can achieve victories," Laurin said in an email to DNAInfo Chicago. "People power racks up a small win in the city that works!"