By Carla Branch

Anna and Cindy in front of Anna Salon & Spa (Photo: Katie Smythe)

Anna Hoangoanh Nguyen was born in Vietnam. In her second year of college, she applied for a visa to come to the United States. Seven years later, in 1999, she got her visa and moved to Northern Virginia. In June, 2018, she purchased the salon where she has worked for 18 years. Anna Salon & Spa was previously known as California Nails but Anna has been the face of the salon at 778 S. 23rd Street in Arlington for many years.

Why did she want to come to Virginia? “Love,” she said and laughed. “I also wanted to study.”

In Vietnam, she studied business and literature. “When I talked to an advisor at NOVA, though, she suggested I study computer science because there were a lot of jobs in that field,” Anna said.

At Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), she improved her English and completed the computer science curriculum. She continued her studies at George Mason University, became a U.S. citizen and had her first child, all by 2004. Her son Andrew graduated from St. Rita’s School in Alexandria last year and is now a freshman at Bishop O’Connell High School. Her daughter Annabelle is in kindergarten.

Anna began taking classes at NOVA but needed a job to support herself. “I worked at a place where Vietnamese people in Virginia came to send money home to Vietnam,” she said. “I met the owner of California Nails and he suggested that I could earn money working for him in the salon.”

That was in 2000 and she has worked at the salon ever since. “I took a lot of classes and kept learning about nails, hair and skin care and I enjoy working with people,” Anna said.

Her family also took an interest in working in the salon. Cindy Nhan Nguyen is Anna’s mother. She is licensed in massage and also does hair, nails and skin care. Anna’s cousin Holly also worked in the salon for some time and now owns her own salon in Falls Church. Anna’s brother Kevin also works in the salon.

“My family has been very supportive and it is good to have them working with me,” Anna said.

What about the American names? “Anna is my confirmation name so that was natural,” she said. “I suggested Nancy for my mom but she said that sounded like an old lady so she chose Cindy. We picked American names because they are easier for our customers to remember.”

Anna Salon & Spa on S. 23rd Street (Photo: Katie Smythe)

Buying the salon was not easy. “After the previous owner died, I was offered the opportunity to buy the salon but I just couldn’t,” she said. “In June, when I was offered the opportunity again, it wasn’t a great time either but with my family’s help, I did it.”

Anna has completely redone the salon. She removed interior walls, redid the floors, walls and lighting; bought all new equipment and re-worked the private rooms where spa treatments are provided. “We had to have all of the work done at night because we couldn’t afford to close the salon,” Anna said. “That took longer but it was worth it. Now we have a salon that is comfortable and welcoming to our customers.”

Anna hopes to give back to the community where the salon is located. “People have been very good to me,” she said. “As our business grows, we will do more.”

She began by offering an 80% discount on microblading for cancer patients. “When my husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, we were very lucky that he was accepted into an experimental treatment program at NIH. People have been so kind and I just want to do what I can to help others who are going through what my family has experienced,” Anna said.

To find a complete list of salon and spa services and to learn about holiday specials, visit Anna's website. She also operates a beauty academy in the same location as the salon and spa. The curriculum and licensing requirements are also on the website

Editor’s Note:
Anna has been doing my hair and nails since she began working at California Hair and Nails in 2000. Like many of her longtime customers, I appreciate her attention to details and the special care she provides. We are all very proud of what she has accomplished.

Anna Salon & Spa