WALLA WALLA -- Derri Reid wheels her liquid sunshine into the Rob Paul Salon on a dark Friday evening.Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8321
"Where's the best light?" she asks, scouting the Rose Street business for a place to set up her mobile tanning operation.
Two stylists giddily guide her toward an open space under a chandelier while salon owner Rob Paul finishes a cut on one of two remaining clients for the day.
From a circular bag Reid pulls out a brown nylon contraption that springs to life as a three-sided tent. A rolling tote bag holds a mini-compressor, hose and three shades of the tanning solution that will make these salon employees look like they've just spent an afternoon on a tropical beach instead of a shift at work on a damp winter's day.
In less than five minutes, the space is transformed for a virtual spray-tan party. All that's left is for stylist Andrea Burt, the first to cross the tent's threshold for the evening, to conquer a bit of initial awkwardness.
"You can go completely naked, or you can wear underwear, or I have disposable underwear, if you want," Reid explains before misting a bronze tone over Burt's skin.
Minus a few cocktails and a multi-million-dollar poolside pad, the mini-party is like a scene from an episode of "The Real Housewives of Orange County." Incidentally, the television show was where Reid got the idea for her new business, Sunkissed Spray Tanning.
A self-professed reality television junkie, Reid caught a glimpse of a spray-tanning party on the Thursday night TV series. She began researching how to introduce the concept to the Walla Walla market. She launched her business in January and has largely spread the word through Facebook. She has since booked tanning events for a wedding party, private groups and businesses. The first among the latter: the Rob Paul Salon.
"I'm going to start by spritzing this pH-optimizer on you," Reid explained to Burt at the start of the roughly 20-minute process. Fellow stylist Tiffany Bell followed behind Burt while three chairs away the owner of the salon anticipated his own turn in the tent.
"Saggy, skinny, stretch marks -- it all looks better tan," Paul quipped.
The cost for the mobile tan, which generally lasts five to seven days at a time, is $33. Pre-purchased tans are discounted from that starting price.
Paul and his employees were introduced to the mobile tanning business by former stylist Camyn Eisele, who also happens to be Reid's younger sister. The business model may have been inspired by a television show, but Eisele is her sister's muse in the entire concept.
As young teens, the sisters loved the dark-hued results of an afternoon under the Walla Walla sunshine. But a little more than a decade ago, a then 13-year-old Eisele was diagnosed with melanoma. After surgical removal of the tumor the girls began their quest for a healthier way to achieve a bronzy glow.
"I enjoy being tan, but I don't want the damaging effects of the sun," explained Reid, who juggles her new business with a position as general manager of Isenhower Cellars.
If the operation grows, Eisele will be there to help with the business into the daytime hours. Based on the response from her first business party, the future looks bright.
"I love this," Burt said, checking out the tone in one of the salon's many mirrors before heading out the door for the night to show it off to friends and family.
"Tell them I sent you to Hawaii," Paul cracked as the door closed behind her.