Aida Pacheco chatted about her relaxing massage while a nail technician painted each of her fingernails with a fresh coat of polish and a stylist simultaneously towel dried her hair.

Aida is not a celebrity, but she was given the star treatment as a customer at Imagen Salon and Day Spa, located on 475 E. Vuelta Caminata Del Rio in Oro Valley.

As a customer for almost four years, Aida continues to return because of the fair treatment for each customer.

“I’m here because everybody is treated equally,” Aida said.

Aida’s head to toe treatment would not have been entirely possible just a few months ago. Imagen Salon and Day Spa moved to a two-story custom space on Aug. 1, after spending 22 years at a leased location on 7348 N. Oracle Road.

Deborah White, the nail technician who painted Aida’s nails, described the move as a “labor of love” for Iris Sanchez, the owner and founder of the salon and spa.

Sanchez, dressed in a floor length dress with ornate jewelry, knows every crevice of the new 6,700 square foot space. She pointed out the manicure and pedicure rooms, a boutique that will soon have fashion accessories and clothing, 14 hair styling stations, five massage rooms, and even the gold-leafed dome that she painted herself.

“My real force behind starting the salon was my passion to do hair,” Sanchez said as she took a seat on a plush, leather chair in the Wi-Fi lounge of the spa. “Even as a child, my mother had to hide the scissors from me because I would cut my dolls’ hair.”

Sanchez is one of 13 siblings. “We’re just a bunch of girls that like to put on makeup,” said a chuckling Sanchez. “We’re the typical Mexican family that likes to dress up.”

Sanchez’s father died when she was two years old, leaving Sanchez’s mother to raise all 13 children alone. Her mother’s strength gave her the motivation to pursue her passion for hairstyling. “My mother was my everything. She’s been gone for 15 years and I still can’t talk about it,” Sanchez said, her eyes filling with tears.

She recalls shaking with nerves when she first opened the salon in 1985. “I started to see the response and I realized that I could keep going. I’ll probably never stop,” Sanchez said.

The amenities available for guests at the spa have grown considerably. The spa now has separate rooms for manicures, pedicures, hairstyling, massages, waxing, shopping and facials. “We started with just hair and nails but now it finally has the complete feeling,” Sanchez said. “It is now designed in a way where I can give the guests all the services that I’ve always wanted to render.”

This sentiment is reflected in the employees of the spa as well. “Our clients are important to us. Iris stresses that she doesn’t want to see anybody walk across the room without saying hello to everyone in that room,” said White.

Sanchez doesn’t let herself get distracted by fancy publicity stunts in order to grow her business. She said that some spas use gold and escargot in their facials, but stresses that her salon will never be about that. “They teach you to have some gimmick. Back down to the basics is my gimmick. Serve your guests,” Sanchez said.

White recognizes Sanchez’s loyalty to her customers and staff. “Some of the people have been here for almost 20 years. Iris has a great relationship with her customers and employees,” White said.

“People ask why I didn’t call it Iris Salon. It’s never been about me. It’s about reaching the next level of your dream,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez named the salon “Imagen,” which means “Image” in Spanish. “My husband said, ‘Don’t you think that is going to be hard to pronounce?’ and I said, ‘Yes, hopefully it will make people talk about us,’” Sanchez said.

Sanchez is thankful for her husband Abe Sanchez’s constant help with her business venture. He does all paperwork and provides direction and support every day. Sanchez and her husband have twin daughters, Tatianna and Dishae Sanchez, 20. Iris Sanchez hopes that one day her daughters would like to be involved in the salon, but respects their own personal wishes for their futures.

“All my life I fought people telling me that I was never going to make it. They say, ‘No, you can’t’ and I say, ‘Watch me!’ I teach my girls that,” Sanchez said.

Ashlee Cain is a journalism student at the University of Arizona.

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