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December 20, 2005 > Sweet Magnolia, take me away...

Sweet Magnolia, take me away...

by Tina Cuccia

Step in the door, breath deeply -- but don't close your eyes because they are in for a treat. Gentle off-white colored walls that nicely off-set indoor palm trees, lighted candles perched on leafy sconces and classical music in the background will immediately put your mind at ease. Welcome. You have just entered Sweet Magnolia Nail Spa, a place that offers an anytime-of-the-day get-away that will melt your holiday shopping nerves.

Sweet Magnolia Nail Spa is not just a place to have your nails done in the Mission San Jose District of Fremont. For one thing, the spa also offers a wide selection of facials massages and waxing. Sweet Magnolia is more like an experience that will have you coming back for more. Where else can you get a chocolate pedicure while you nibble on chocolates and cookies and sip tea?

If there is one thing you will remember about Sweet Magnolia - though there are sure to be many things - it's the abundance of hot steamy towels that will warm you down to your very soul. Most procedures include an encounter with soothing hot towels and it may turn out to be what you like the most about whatever you had done at Sweet Magnolia. If, in the back of your mind, you are compiling a short list of those must-haves in heaven, be sure to include plenty of hot steamy towels. There may be nothing more luxurious than having one placed on your face, hands, feet or body.

Proprietor and manicurist Dianne Duke opened Sweet Magnolia in May. She says it is something she has always wanted to do and was thrilled to finally get the opportunity.
The spa, she says, is the result of hard work, dedication and the dream of her staff including Janet Pate who provides manicures and pedicures along with Duke at the spa, and esthetician Daneila Ghibanescu who performs facials, massages and waxing procedures.

Duke's desire was to create a place where her clients including women of ages (and men, too) could come to have their nails done, get a facial or whatever they like and have the chance to chat over a cup of hot tea with lemon. She said she was thinking of the 1989 movie "Steel Magnolias" when she was creating the concept of her spa. The movie is set in a beauty shop in a small-town near New Orleans, where regular customers would come to get their hair done as well as share their latest news on the family, the grandkids and perhaps some local gossip.

"I loved how it was a place women would come and feel comfortable and part of something," Duke said, describing what it was about the movie that she was trying to capture with her spa.

"We even invite ladies to just come and have tea," she said. "We like people to be around. There are no rush jobs here." It even says so on several of the walls where a framed statement on the wall lets customers know that procedures are not performed lickety-split, rather, customers are doted on and fussed over and every manicure, pedicure and the like are done to perfection - as long as it takes is the rule of thumb.

Duke also liked the look and feel of the South, known for its charm and hospitality. Inside her spa, windows are draped with southern-style window treatments and all-around elegance. And while candles play a starring role in the lighting of several of the rooms of the spa, paper lanterns provide additional lighting. Overhead fluorescent lighting is featured in manicure and pedicure rooms where full lighting is required for detail work. Duke also selected the magnolia as the floral theme because she loves the flower. And she felt it was a perfect tie-in since magnolia trees exist outside her door along Mission Blvd. The magnolia is also the official state flower of both Mississippi and Louisiana.

Something that is very important to Duke is her spa's cleanliness. She and her staff is fastidious about keeping everything spic-and span clean and sanitized. They even have a dedicated sanitation room. "We're sticklers about cleanliness," Duke says. "It's a real concern. We feel that shoddy cleanliness has given the industry bad name." Every tool used on every customer is cleaned and sanitized before reuse. Files and orange manicure sticks that often sit around salons and get used over and over, are sent home with every client in addition to toe separators (used in pedicures) and throw away foam sandals that customers wear around the spa and home if they like.

Even the massaging chairs that connect to tubs where clients place their feet for a pre-pedicure soak are "pipe-less," which means water doesn't flow through and around the inside of the chairs. "It's healthier because the water doesn't get in to allow bacteria to grow," Duke said. "The chairs are cleaner and safer for the environment and for our clients." And after every pedicure, the tub is sprayed with disinfectant and made ready for the next pedicure.

Each of the procedures (pedicures, manicures, massages, facials and waxing) is done in separate rooms, all warm and inviting. Duke has gone out of her way to provide high-end services and cutting edge quality products, offering them at reasonable prices so you don't have to spend a fortune to feel like you just have. Following is a description of what you can expect for some of the procedures offered at Sweet Magnolia.


Sweet Magnolia offers a variety of manicures from a Basic Manicure at $18 and full treatments like the a Little Bit of Zing that exfoliate and moisturize your skin at $38. They also offer nail enhancements that make your own nails stronger, harder and thicker as well as acrylic nails.

If you have those hard to grow nails, the kind that chip and peel or are just thin and break easily, one of the treatments Sweet Magnolia offers is a unique and natural procedure called the "Natural 10 Floride Spa Maniure." The treatment promotes natural nail growth for those who would like to enhance their own nails instead of going the acrylic (fake) nails route.

The Natural 10 Floride Spa Maniure is a floride treatment that is placed on nails to thicken and double the strength of your own nails. The treatment will toughen your finger nails, fill and smooth ridges and, best of all, nail polish that is later applied will stay on longer instead of flaking off soon after it is painted on. The reason polish flakes off, says Duke, is the oils from your fingernails will seep up and get under the polish. With the 10 Floride Spa Maniure, the polish sits on the floride - not your nails - so polish won't flake off. The cost for this treatment is the same as a Basic Manicure at $18.

And if your nails are wet when you are ready to leave? Someone at Sweet Magnolia will be happy to take your keys from you and start your car. That's just the kind of personalized service they love to provide.


Pedicures, the cure for a bad day and the ultimate feel-good experience are offered in abundance at Sweet Magnolia. You can get a Basic Pedicure for $23 or a Chocolate Pedicure at $38, which includes a variety of divinely chocolate smelling products such as foot scrub, a moose (mask) and lotion. Afterward, your feet are each wrapped in a hot towel and then the two of them are wrapped in two more hot towels. It's Fremont. Other available pedicures include the Oasis and the Escape, which are equally luxurious.

Next to a pedicure and of course a massage, a facial is one of the best ways to treat yourself and rejuvenate your skin. This is a Sweet Magnolia specialty. A variety of facials are offered starting at $40. Ghibanescu, who has 18 years of experience, will spoil you with her gentle touch and give you a little advice about how to take better care of your skin with a few bits of wisdom about life in general thrown in. Again, there are those cozy hot steamy towels. With the European Facial, after cleansing and exfoliating your face, a mask is applied to your face and topped with hot towels. Ghibanescu gives you about 10 minutes to lay there in absolute calm. It will be 10 minutes of your life that you will definitely remember. Daniela also performs massages and provides a full waxing service that a customer recently described (during her pedicure) as the best waxing experience she has ever had.

While Duke may have realized one of her dreams of opening a spa, she says she looks to the day when she can offer a full day spa, including a cafˇ, steam rooms, sauna and a tanning booth so clients could spend the entire day there and really indulge themselves.

In the meantime, if you have the time, Sweet Magnolia is definitely the place. If you need a manicure in a hurry that's no problem, but if you want to come and hang out with the girls and chat about the kids and what you are doing for the holidays while you get a manicure, pedicure or more, Sweet Magnolia would love if you dropped by. Duke has done her best to create a place that brings beauty and elegance into her customer's lives, offering them a place they want to go and stay a while. "And you don't have to dig deep in your pockets or save forever to make getting pampered part of your day," Duke says.

"Having a family-friendly home environment that people want to experience and enjoy - that is a big thing to us," she said. We all need to laugh a little more and we all need to have someone generally care about us a little more. I just think people don't take enough time for themselves. That's a key thing. We want people to take time for themselves to be healthier and happier."

Sweet Magnolia Nail Spa
132 Anza Street
Fremont, CA 94539
Open Tues - Sat 10 7 p.m.
For more information, call (510) 656-2457 or visit

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