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The Bottom Nail Salon styling, inspiring in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood

Located in the heart of the Austin neighborhood, a black-owned nail salon is gearing up for prom season.

With their colors for their special evening already picked out, ladies walked in looking to have their hands and feet match their evening gown.

The Bottom Nail Salon, 5624 W. Chicago Avenue near Parkside Avenue, has been in business for 16, including at its current address since around 2010. The salon’s owner, Jackie Pitman, is a trained nail technician, opening the business in September 1996. The Bottom has six nail techs, all having received their license from Dudley’s Beauty College on Chicago’s South Side.

“I wanted to be my own boss,” Pittman said. “I wanted to take my talent and share it with the women in the community.”

Pittman originally opened on Chicago Avenue near Pine Street. She spent 10 years there before saving enough money to open a second nail shop in Maywood called the Bottom #2. That shop, however, closed in early 2008. Most of the nail technicians relocated to the West Side and Pittman’s new space on Chicago Avenue and Mayfield Avenue.

As April turns to May, the Bottom had a lot more clientele coming in this past spring. Young woman lined up as early as 9 a.m. to be the first person in line for some nail work. A mother and her daughters arrive and sign the walk-in sheet and have a seat in the waiting area.

“I come every two weeks and get my nails done by Ms. Jackie,” Theresa Davis said. “I have two girls going on prom this year so it’s only right that I bring them here. I know they are going look great.”

Stephanie Phipps, one of the nail technicians, has worked alongside Pittman for 15 years. Phipps is among the nail techs young ladies heading to prom call upon for an appointment. Her specialties include 3D nail art, with colorful flowers and rhinestones to match every color.

“If this puts a smile on their face, I’ve done my job,” said Phipps, adding that her workday goes from 9 in the morning until 10 or so at night.

Last year during prom season, which runs from late April through early June, the Bottom serviced about 300-350 girls, not including those who attended two or three proms. The Bottom also has male clientele who come in for manicures and pedicures as well, but during this time, it’s hard to be seen unless you have an appointment.

This year will be Phipps’ last at the Bottom. She and Pittman had a conversation about her leaving to open her own shop. Phipps came to this decision at the beginning of the year, and by February had settled on a space located on Austin Boulevard.

“I’ll be taking my talents down the street,” she said jokingly, mimicking NBA champ LeBron James’ statement before leaving Cleveland for Miami.

Phipps announced her move on her Facebook and Instagram pages. Her clients, she said, have been really accepting to the decision and have been booking appointments for the Bottom and her new place. Phipps will officially leave the Bottom next month.

“This is a decision that I made with Jackie, and I think it’s time,” Phipps said. “I think there should be more black-owned businesses in the area–I want to see what it’s like.”

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