UV Rays to Fit Anyone’s Schedule
by Beth Steury
Who would have believed a high school senior’s class project would launch a career that’s spanned more than twenty-five years for her mother—with no end in sight? That’s exactly what happened for Laura Christen, owner of Electric Paradise Tanning Salon in Decatur, Indiana.
In high school, Laura’s youngest daughter, Danielle, now a practicing dentist, was instructed to research and “build” a business for one of her classes. Danielle decided on a tanning salon and said, “Mom, why don’t WE open a tanning salon?”
“I had never tanned in my life, but my daughters had,” remembers Laura, who then worked part-time at Park Center. After some deliberation, she finally concluded, “That might be a good idea.”
So, in 1990, Laura launched a tanning business. “I started in my garage with three beds and a booth, and officially opened the next year.”
She remained home-based until a move in 2001 brought Electric Paradise Tanning to its current location, where Laura expanded to twelve tanning units. Today, those twelve units include one stand-up unit, two Wolff Cyberdome beds, one high-pressure bed and eight base beds.
The different units provide a varying degree of tanning power. The Cyberdome beds each have fifty-two bulbs, versus the thirty-two bulbs in the base units.
Electric Paradise Tanning’s high pressure bed also includes a massager and facial lamps. The customer will continue to tan for 24 to 48 hours after a session in the high pressure bed.
The safety of her client’s is a priority to Laura. “If someone comes in with no color, we typically start them out at five minutes and then build up slowly,” she explains. A typical session for an experienced tanner is 20 minutes.
“Here, you don’t need an appointment,” Laura says. “Even in the busy season, the most I’ve had anyone wait is 10 to 15 minutes. Most people like not having to make an appointment.”
Clientele traffic lessens in the summer months, then heads into the really slow season for September and October. Things pick back up in November, and by January, Electric Paradise Tanning is hopping again.
“January through May, we get slammed,” Laura shares. “One time, we had 150 customers in one day.”
Electric Paradise Tanning Salon offers many packages to suit the individual tastes and needs of its clients. Currently, the most popular package is a month of unlimited base bed tanning for $33, with an optional accelerator lotion for $10 plus tax.
Minute packages are also available, with each type of tanning unit carrying a different point-per-minute value: 1 point for base beds, 2 points for the stand-up unit, 3 points for the Cyberdome, and 5 points for the high pressure unit. A specially-designed computer program tracks each client’s package purchases and their visits.
“When I first opened,” Laura recalls, “I thought the accelerator creams were just a scam, but they really do work.” She’s convinced their use results in a quicker tan that lasts longer, and they moisturize the skin, as well.
Because Laura is so committed to safe tanning practices, she discourages abuse, such as tanning every day, and cautions against the unregulated use of home tanning beds.
All of the units at Electric Paradise Tanning are controlled by a master timer that ensures no bed can be on for longer than twenty minutes. Laura sets the time for each tanning session from a central location, although there is also an emergency shut-off switch located on each bed.
To make the session more enjoyable, Laura says, “I have CD players in every room and headphones. A lot of people bring their own iPod or phone to listen to music.”
Laughing, she adds, “I did have to wake someone up once.” Laura remembers she had to pound on the door and wall to get the relaxed, sleeping client to wake up.
Due to legislation passed last year in Indiana, persons under the age of 16 are not permitted to tan in salons. And, a parent’s signature is required for anyone under 18. Laura fears the younger crowd may resort to less safe methods of tanning.
She is quick to share that not only does tanning establish a base tan that’s beneficial for those vacationing in a warm, sunny locale, but persons deficient in vitamin D benefit from tanning, as well.
Years ago, Laura accidentally suffered burns to her eyes while using a tanning lamp. Today, she warns, “I’m a real stickler about clients wearing protective eyewear.”
Electric Paradise Tanning also carries a full line of summer-related products, including sun glasses, jewelry, body jewelry, lotions, swim wear, and sandals.
Laura admits both she and her family were surprised at how what began as a high school student’s project blossomed into a successful career. “I’ll probably be doing this until I’m 98.” She laughs, yet her statement rings with a note of seriousness.
Laura’s oldest granddaughter, who has helped out in the shop, has also worked in a number of other tanning salons, so who knows? She may have an interest in the business at some point in the future.
Laura loves what she does and is committed to the business six days a week. Recently, someone offered to help out in the evenings a few hours a week, making her work week a little shorter.
Electric Paradise Tanning is open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Afternoons are busiest. The salon’s extensive hours make it convenient for clients to fit tanning sessions into their busy schedules.
“Most of my clientele are really nice, and I enjoy talking to them.” She appreciates the customers who frequent Electric Paradise Tanning. “It’s made a good living for me.”