Alley Cat Nail Lounge: A Backyard Business

This past year has made the term “working from home” part of everyday vocabulary. However, for one Mid-Ohio Valley resident, the term became much more permanent as she opened her own business in her backyard. Jess McRobert opened the doors to Alley Cat Nail Lounge this past summer welcoming her current and new clients into her own salon.

Jess’ story moves quickly as she graduated from nail school in September 2018, was licensed by October, and hasn’t looked back since.

“Being a stay at home mom with two small children, I was looking for that creative outlet I needed for myself. I wanted to invest in not only a hobby for myself, but something that could be more long term,” she said.

After working for another salon, Jess set out to create her own business this year.

“I tend to prefer a smaller, more calm space when I’m working. I’m definitely not made for the large and loud salon life! I like things kept a certain way and tend to be a creature of habit, so having my own space where I can control the change is a better fit for me personally,” she said.

So, with the pandemic as a motivator, Jess opened Alley Cat Nail Lounge. The name is a play on the location of the salon as she is now operating in a residential area directly behind her home.

“I had been playing around with the idea of working from home for a while but wasn’t ready to take the leap into more of a residential area. After COVID happened, we decided to remodel half of our detached garage into the shop. Eric worked night and day on the construction part while I handled the paperwork side and together we made it happen. He definitely took my vision and brought that to life for me,” she said.

I think people appreciate honesty, it’s easier to get to know someone and be relatable when you are yourself.

Nestled behind her house, the little nail lounge was a work of heart from both her and her husband. In total, the construction took about six weeks to finish. According to Jess, her husband completed the entire renovation on his own, with only a few of her “amazing sidekick skills” along the way.

While her husband focused on bringing her vision to life, Jess worked on making the salon an extension of herself. With her brightly colored hair, quick wit, and brutal honesty (out of love, of course), Jess brings as much of herself to the business as possible. Jess knows that her personality is part of what keeps people coming back to her chair every month.

“I always keep it real – what you see is what you get! I think people appreciate honesty, it’s easier to get to know someone and be relatable when you are yourself,” she said.

Part of the appeal of working so one-on-one with her clients is all of the new people she meets and the friendships that she forms. To her, there is a trust between a nail tech and the client where they can just sit in her chair, unload after a long day, and hopefully leave feeling better than they did when they entered.

Jess plans to keep the salon intimate with just her and another nail tech working at the time. The relaxed atmosphere also allows Jess to flex her schedule around what matters most in her life.

“I love having the ability to be fully in charge of my schedule coming and going. I can make my days look like however I want them to. I don’t have to miss out on school parties or field trips, I can be available to my kids and my clients without the stress of someone else being over my schedule,” Jess said.

For Jess, her family is part of what keeps her in the Mid-Ohio Valley as she raises her family and operates a small business.

“The MOV is my home. I was born and raised in Parkersburg and have deep roots here. I know the area and I know the people, plus our friends and family are here, so I don’t see us going anywhere,” she said.

As for deepening those roots, Jess plans to keep promoting the Alley Cat brand and sharing her shop with the Mid-Ohio Valley as a home-based salon.

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