"What do you mean, 'boat'?"
Randy Laufenberg's Journey to Nantucket
“What do you mean, ‘boat’?” --how Randy Laufenberg got to Nantucket
Randy Laufenberg grew up outside Madison, Wisconsin, on a dairy farm his father’s family had owned for over 150 years. So naturally he wasn’t that interested in the minute details of East Coast geography, and had no idea, when he was first headed here from there, that Nantucket was in fact an island. It wasn’t until the friend who was to meet him on arrival asked him “Should I meet you at the airport or at the boat that Randy first had a clue of what to expect. “What do you mean, ‘boat’?”.
And that first 1989 summer wasn’t propitious, either. The economy was slow and jobs were few and far between. After six weeks Randy found work at The Hair Concern on Old South Road doing shampooing--that was NOT Randy’s original plan, since his extensive experience had been in restaurant management. He admits to thinking, during that summer, “I’m going to spend the summer shampooing blue-haired ladies and then I’m going to leave this god-forsaken island forever!”
But as it has a tendency to do, Nantucket snared Randy as it’s snared so many washashores over the years. And the experience at Hair Concern led him to be interested in nail services, and that’s led him to a business life in nails, home décor, gifts and spa treatments, so…. Turned it out wasn’t too bad a summer after all.
After attending the University of Wisconsin for a few years Randy decided that restaurant management was more interesting so he changed direction, putting himself through college waiting tables like so many others. He then found work for a Midwestern Italian restaurant chain that went head-to-head in competition with Olive Garden. As you might have guessed, Olive Garden won, and Randy found himself back in Madison to build and run another new restaurant, with an associated gift store. There Randy found his gift for room décor, creating perfectly-constructed wall displays that people could buy exactly as is, complete with map of measurements about what went where, to bring home and re-create in their own living rooms.
But while living in Madison an acquaintance told Randy he had to visit Key West, and after three visits within a year he chucked everything, packed his life’s belongings into the back of a Chevette and decamped for Florida. He was 26.
In Florida, brutally hot in the summers, he became acquainted with a Nantucketer who invited him to come spend the summer here. After a visit back home to see family in Wisconsin, he booked his flights (Madison-Boston-ACK) without ever realizing that Nantucket was an island. The rest is history.
His first interest in nails led Randy back to Wisconsin for one more winter after that first summer, where he took intensive courses in order to become certified as a nail technician in that state, one of the most difficult licensures in the country. Fortified by that knowledge he returned to Nantucket in the summer of 1990 and started doing nails professionally at the Hair Concern, where he stayed for three years before opening his own shop, On-Glaze, in 1992. Soon he had expanded On-Glaze to include décor and gift items, echoing his early success in that field, as well as providing nail services to discerning customers. Now Randy’s salon provides regular and shellac manicures and pedicures along with special fingernail décor.
Then an interesting thing happened. Randy kept reading about the health risks being taken by women who received pedicures--stemming from the fact that the foot tubs, with their circulating Jacuzzi-like water baths, were in fact breeding grounds for bad bacteria and fungus. No matter how clean they appeared to be, and how thoroughly they were sanitized between uses, the silicon seals surrounding the water outlets, being absorbent, were natural breeding grounds for all the bad stuff that collects in warm wet places, most dangerously for people, fungus, and there were reports of leg, toenails, nail and skin infections from those tubs. Turn on the jets and that miasma of stuff went blasting onto the patrons’ feet in the ostensibly clean water they were soaking. Trade publications addressed those issues, but the public was still unaware.
Being the entrepreneur he is (“I come from a long line of farmers who were independent business owners. I guess it’s no surprise--”) Randy saw first a need, then an opportunity. He worked with different laboratories to produce products that he that didn’t yet exist in the marketplace: pedicure products that were reasonably water soluble without being greasy and yet sufficiently softening. When applied and then left with a steamed towel to “soak”, the client’s feet were given a true treatment but were never exposed to potentially unhealthy cross-contamination. A kind of “facials for feet” is the way Randy explains it. And the Naturally Nantucket skin care line was formed.
With Naturally Nantucket Randy’s business turned in a different direction. In addition to offering manicures and pedicures with four full-time employees, he concentrated on experimenting with skin products. After two to three years of experimentation the line now includes scrubs and body lotions in many different scents, all derived from natural products. And looking further ahead, Randy plans to create a complete unit package that other nail salons can purchase from him, to replace the “hot tubs” now in use with these safer, steam-induced foot facials.
Along that line, it seemed sensible to narrow the shop itself to spa products instead of its current emphasis on décor. There will be soaps, luxurious towels, candles, robes, and hostess gifts in addition to the usual spa skin products.
And over the next few weeks there will be really good deals available on existing home décor items that won’t fit into the new spa emphasis, so head on over to West Creek Road to take advantage of Randy’s great eye and good taste at greatly reduced prices as he reorganizes his space.
“Nantucket has been really good to me,” Randy says. “I have a lot of friends here. I like to travel but I still love coming home here. My job isn’t done here yet. There’s a lot ahead.”