John and Melissa Filewich met in a Chicago area high school and became sweethearts after they graduated. They worked for a while, married, and then decided to attend UAH. Melissa used to spend her summers in Rogersville with her grandmother, so Alabama was already a second home; and like so many of us, they are grateful to call Athens home. While they were attending UAH, they used to come to Tan Lines to tan, and never dreamed they would one day become the owners. By way of back story, Melissa was in a serious car accident in high school and had to have extensive facial reconstructive surgery. Tanning had an important role in her recovery, greatly boosting her confidence, and became a permanent part of her lifestyle.
They both graduated with degrees in business, and worked for two large cell phone companies. John works in Huntsville for Verizon in tier-one tech support and is planning on making it his career. However, Melissa was commuting to work in Birmingham nearly two hours every day, and it was grueling. John and Melissa had owned several businesses, and this just seemed like the next right step. When Tim and Judy Springer decided to sell Tan Lines earlier this year, John and Melissa knew this was the “fit” they were looking for. John sacrificed greatly in terms of sweat equity in order to help Melissa, and Melissa gave up her successful corporate career in order to make the new Tan Lines a reality.
They made a number of changes in the salon, starting with a theme. Most tanning salons understandably have a tropical theme as part of their décor, but Melissa and John wanted to create a safe, homey atmosphere where kids could come and be comfortable while their parents took a few minutes for themselves. Tan Lines has a well-stocked Keurig machine that no doubt will be especially popular when the weather finally gets cooler. They replaced the tanning beds, stocked the salon with the highest quality American-made lotions at the best prices, and all of it is paying off. “We had 30 new sign-ups in October,” Melissa told me.
Tan Lines offers spray tanning, which has come a long way from the days when it made you look like a human Cheeto. “We use Norvell products, and they are the very best,” John told me. He took me back to the booth to show me how it works, and I never would have guessed that both he and Melissa were sporting a spray tan. They just looked healthy and natural, and I was glad to know that the products used are made from food. “We offer discounts for wedding parties who want to look their best on that special day,” Melissa said, and business is brisk during prom and bridal season.
No matter how much effort you put into renovating, replacing, and re-decorating a business, none of it is going to matter if you don’t have friendly, experienced, customer-focused staff. Jordan Smith, who has worked for several years for the previous owners, is someone who truly loves what she does, and it shows. She stayed on through the transition, and I can speak from experience that she is one of the biggest reasons that I have been a satisfied Tan Lines customer.
My own reason for frequenting Tan Lines is possibly a bit different than most. I have had a life-long battle with eczema, and it gets much tougher when winter comes. Tan Lines has what they call a “red bed,” which is short for infrared light therapy. This type of light helps skin, bones, wounds, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), shoulder pain, tendonitis, carpal tunnel, knee pain and so much more. It also reduces stress, and Melissa swears by it. Last year I used the red bed package, and I had one of the easiest eczema seasons ever. Tan Lines is right next door to Ultra-Fit, a highly personalized fitness studio that opened last spring, and active Ultra-Fit members get to use the red bed at no charge.
What is unusual about Tan Lines is that they do not require a contract. Tan Lines offers comparably priced tanning packages when compared with other salons, including monthly packages and by-the-minute. They do not use EFT, and their packages are flexible. “Hardly anyone has packages by-the-minute anymore,” John said, and added, “I want everyone to get the best value.”
One of the things that is very important to Melissa is to provide eye protection for every client. “Other places charge you nearly five dollars to purchase the standard tanning goggles, and we do carry those if you want them,” she said. She then pointed to a basket in the hallway that holds disposable eye protection and said, “I can relax knowing that this is always available to our customers at no charge.”
If you have been considering a tanning package for yourself or as a holiday gift for someone you love, you need look no further than Tan Lines which promises, “Dollar for dollar, this is your best value.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner