How We Became Tanning Salon Owners

Photo by New Sunshine LLC used with permission

About 30 years ago Iwona and I started our first business cleaning homes and offices, and that is how cleanliness became our obsession.

When we started the tanning salons about 22 years ago, cleanliness was our first priority, and we wanted to make sure you got the BEST and SMARTEST tan for a reasonable price.

Did we ever tell you how we decided to open a tanning salon?

Iwona was getting her pre-tan on for a summer vacation. You know — back when we all were allowed to leave the house and go places.

Here’s how Iwona recalls that day 22 years ago.

Naked in the tanning room with freshly applied expensive salon-quality tanning lotion I notice the plastic I’m about to put my bare ass on is murky and thick with haze.

I scrape the plastic with my fingernail and eww, gunk comes off on my fingernail. The floor has dust bunnies and the wall drips of lotion… At least I hope it’s lotion.

I just wish I could float above the floor and the tanning bed so I wouldn’t have to touch anything. Yuck!

To make matters worse, the tanning bed won’t start so I yell for help — I’m naked after all and don’t want to get dressed.

After several attempts to get the operator’s attention she rudely tells me that I have to wait the necessary 24 hours to tan. It’s the State law, as many of you know.

You can imagine I’m furious… I’m naked and have already applied a very pricey but very good tanning lotion. I shout over the wall, “Why didn’t you tell me that before sending me to the room?

Then to a lobby full of waiting clients I explain to the operator how their service sucks, their salon is filthy and you don’t even get a decent tan.

That’s when I announce to the world, “I am going to open a tanning salon and do this much better.”

When I get home I tell Don I want to open a tanning salon. He says, “You’ve got to be crazy.”

22 years ago I told her she’s crazy.

I was a researcher for the US Army then — nothing secretive. I was a historic preservation architect then, and the Army is the largest steward of historic buildings in the US.

There was plenty of work. And great health and sick-leave benefits.

That was a good thing because I used to get frequent head colds and every May, as sure as weeds in your garden, I’d get an upper respiratory infection.

At the time I bought into the whole sun-scare propaganda. My natural tan olive skin was a pale pasty white from years of sun avoidance. I even mowed my lawn near sunset in fear of any sun exposure.

I was a caveman, more than even cavemen were cavemen.

I slept in a cave. I drove in a cave to work. My work cubicle had no windows, so I worked in a cave. I shopped in a cave. And when I got home to my cave, I drove my mobile cave into a garage cave. I didn’t have to see the sun if I didn’t want to see it.

I was in the dark and happy in my ignorance.

So, when Iwona explained she wanted to open a tanning salon you are not surprised my response was, “You’ve gotta be crazy!

I tapped into my researcher mojo and went to work collecting academic studies to prove my hypothesis, “Iwona is crazy to open a tanning salon.”

What did I discover in the mounds and piles of research papers and technical data?

To my surprise, Iwona is not crazy. It turns out both too much and too little sunshine can be bad for you. Avoid sunburn.

The real surprise — it is much worse to get too little sunshine by a considerable margin.

The new question to answer was: “How to get moderate sun exposure without a deleterious sunburn?

Well, the answer is in the sanitary (virus-free), solitary (socially distant), and controlled (measured dose) environment of a professional indoor tanning salon.

Bam! That was my epiphany. Iwona was not crazy, I was for my irrational fear of the sun.

And I haven’t suffered an upper respiratory infection since I embraced the sun — in moderation.

When we first opened Classic Tan we were concerned because we didn’t know anything about tanning or running a brick and mortar business…

We just knew how smart indoor tanning makes you look great and feel amazing!

But what caught us off guard was how helping people look great and feel amazing made us feel. It didn’t matter what mood you were in upon entering our salon, you always left confident and elated.

What a great business we thought. Our guests walk in unsure and out of sorts and walk out confident — ready to take on the world.

I remember asking one client why she tans. She said, “Because tan fat looks better than white fat.” She feels better in her own skin after tanning is what she is saying. She loves it when she hears, “Nice tan!

But the REAL hidden benefit is the fulfillment we get when we see someone leave happier and more confident than when they came to us. And that’s what this business really is about for us; we’re guessing if you’re here, then indoor tanning probably means you want to look great and feel amazing — are we right?



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Don Kermath

Don Kermath


Don Kermath transforms your workforce into productive, cohesive, team-players who stay for the long haul and contribute to innovation and excellence on the job.