I-Team 8

Surge of Blacks in Indy nail industry boosts economy

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In a industry that has historically and largely dominated by the Asian community, Blacks are now making their own way into the multibillion-dollar nail business.

Arthur Harris is owner of Textures Institute of Cosmetology, the only accredited minority-owned cosmetology school in Indy. Harris says he didn’t offer nail training services in 2011 but, by 2017, he started to see a growing need in the Black community for nail technicians.

Now, he says only six of his students are in the hair school; 20 are in the nail school. All except one of the nail students are Black.

“Some people just want to do nails. They just want to specialize in nails, and it’s only 450 hours (of training), that’s what the state requires,” said the owner of cosmetology institute off West 86th Street and Michigan Road. “I think there’s a little … I want to say … “swag” that we do to the nails that no one else can do.”

Harris says the nail business is slightly easier to get into compared to the 1,500 hours it takes to be certified in hair styling.

A 2018 report by the Labor Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, shows that only 2% of nail technicians are Black nationwide while 76% are Asian. Those numbers are quickly changing in Indy’s nail scene.

“As a Black woman it’s a thing of being kept,” said Bryanna Fentress, owner of Polish Bar Indy Nail Salon off Pendleton Pike and North Franklin Road on the northeast side. “Colors are an example of how we express ourselves.” 

According to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth, money circulates from zero to one time within the Black community, compared to the more than six times it circulates in the Latino community, nine times in the Asian community, and an unlimited amount of times within the white community.

“The Black dollar doesn’t stay in our community long at all,” Fentress said. “It’s important to keep your money here, and the reason a lot of us do not know that we should is because we weren’t taught.” 

Fentress says there is value in Black customers relating and talking about everyday experiences with their nail artists. “If I’m going to need a service, I want it to come from my culture. It’s keeping the circulation of us alive.”

Black-owned nail salons, technicians in Indianapolis