By Stephen Frater- Dec 23, 2005, Sarasota Herald-Tribune MANATEE COUNTY -- This story is not for the squeamish.
If a vision of a 250-pound construction worker with cotton balls between his fire engine red-polished toes disturbs you, read no further. And no, it's not one of the Village People.
The week before Christmas, the mysterious message sent shivers down more than a few strong spines. For the 30-man construction crew, the word went out from senior management at John Cannon Homes that there was a mandatory Thursday meeting -- no exceptions.
The tension was high; nobody had the scoop on what was coming down from on high. Chris Rahn, a Cannon construction worker for only seven months, was worried. He'd been working hard to come up to speed in his job, but was uneasy. That day, Brant Webb, his supervisor, had darkly hinted that some "workers who'd been getting into trouble" should be concerned. Rahn dusted off his résumé before the meeting.
They received instructions to gather at the appointed time at the unfamiliar Cooper Creek Boulevard address. Unknown to them, it was the site of The Nailz Place Day Spa, a venue, safe to say, very few of them had ever dreamed of entering. Most would not be caught dead there. As dusty pickups began to fill the parking lot, worried workers dialed one another on cell phones to check the address. Nobody dared miss the meeting.
"Do I have to walk through a beauty salon to get into the meeting?" asked Doug Mumma, project manager at the Founders Club, not wanting to be late. The men, all of whom spend hours a day on their feet, all year long, found themselves treated to free pedicures while sitting in massage recliners. The construction boots came off and the guys rolled their pants legs up to their knees, revealing calves the size of hairy country hams.
While nail techs massaged their feet and lower legs with a fragrant pink lotion, they enjoyed beer, wine and groaning platters of chicken wings compliments of the Cannon sales team. "Feels good," said Chuck Skolnik, a construction supervisor who also opted for on-the-house red nail polish. He planned to "freak out" his wife Thursday night.
"These are the guys that make it happen," said Debbie Gonzalez, the Cannon sales director who came up with the idea. Salon owner Christopher Nguyen, who had to bring in extra help for the big rush of big feet, estimated that almost half of his business for both manicures and pedicures comes from the "stronger sex."
He's confident that some of the guys, most of whom had never had a pedicure before, will be back as regulars. "First they're afraid, but they soon realize they love it," Nguyen predicted.
Jamie Lowicz, a construction supervisor, said he was not embarrassed, despite initially giving an alias when asked for his name. Lowicz was, until recently, a strength-training and defensive-line coach at Riverview High School. Big-time coaching is his dream, but he loves construction. "Look at this," he says waving his massive arm at the row of beefy dudes soaking their tough, tired feet with a beer in one hand and a wing in the other. "They really take care of us."