In honor of AAPI Month, I'm excited to share my New York story!  My hope is to inspire and uplift those facing challenges or uncertainties, particularly those who are starting anew in unfamiliar cities or countries.  

jin soon choi

Jin’s New York Story 


I was known as “Bicycle Jin.”  I rode my bike to clients' apartments for manicure appointments throughout New York City with my gear strapped to my back.  Before I earned this nickname, I worked in fashion, an industry parallel to beauty, by designing a small line of classic women’s wear that I sold at an outdoor market in Seoul, Korea.  


While it was fulfilling, I felt I needed to make a drastic change in my life.  Riding my bike through the streets of New York with a heavy backpack wasn't exactly the change I had in mind, but eventually the hard work paid off; opportunities started coming my way.  From my first days in New York, I was impressed with the generosity bestowed upon me from people who were willing to help someone whose ideas about beauty were delivered throughout the city on a bike.  Jin Soon Choi


My early manicuring experience in salons was valuable, but I was always frustrated with the idea of hurriedly performing manicures and pedicures to push clients out the door.  I particularly disliked being rushed when the salon was busy because I was simply incapable of doing a fast yet thorough job.  One of my clients who liked my detail-oriented work was a beauty director at a fashion magazine.  She understood my need for an alternative outlet and introduced me to an agent.  When I was booked to do a magazine cover with Susan Sarandon, my first celebrity, I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting a movie star. I still remember how nervous I was at first, but we quickly became comfortable with each other and when I was finished, she told me that she loved my work.  It was then that I realized this personal exchange should be available to everyone - not just stars.  This outlook has since not changed and continues to exist in the intimate settings I work to create in my own nail salons. 



I was doing well as a freelance manicurist, establishing my reputation in the beauty industry, when another client/friend of mine helped me get a storefront in an East Village tenement building.  I met John Coughlan, the architect who had renovated the building, and hired him on the spot to design my salon.  I was impressed with his innovative ideas and he admired me for my brimming scrapbook of photographs from magazines depicting my taste in design.  The first Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spa was the next big step in my life.  It also introduced me to John, my future husband.    

In creating a salon, I knew that I wanted to have my own distinct identity by providing top quality service in a serene and inviting setting.  Using my Korean ancestry as a source for inspiration, my husband John designed and built my first salon, which opened in December of 1999.  Every aspect of the salon, from the antique school desks used as manicure tables to the citrus tea that is offered to each client, was carefully chosen to reflect my sensibilities. This cozy 300 square foot space was an immediate success, becoming a favorite manicure/pedicure oasis in New York City.  For the first couple of years after opening the salon, I spent nearly all of my waking hours working there, taking clients and training the technicians.  To this day, I am flattered that my technicians refer to the nail shape I use as the "Jin Soon Shape."   


Within a year of opening the first shop, I dreamt that I found a vacant commercial space in a West Village building that I had worked in years earlier.  The next day, I visited the building and there was in fact a vacant storefront!  The space was in terrible condition and required a gut renovation, but a few months later, John did his magic again.  Double in size, the West Village salon has a decidedly more modern aesthetic than the East Village salon, but still retains the intimate, jewel-like atmosphere that has become the Jin Soon trademark. 


In December of 2005, at the urging of our clients, we ventured to the Upper East Side to open our most dramatic salon of the first three, but it maintains the boutique-y and calming setting that we created in the Village salons.  It was featured in Interior Design Magazine in 2006.  John established an architectural theme that is common to our first three locations that make the salons recognizable as a collection, while each salon retains its own distinct personality.  The Upper East Side salon not only marked another branch of the Jin Soon Natural Hand and Foot Spas, but also continued to help me promote the concept of a toxic-free mani/pedi in a relaxing atmosphere. 


After more than a decade without opening a new salon, we opened our JINsoon flagship salon in Tribeca, but this one with a decidedly modern aesthetic.  Spanning over 1,250 square feet, this concrete-floored spa with abundant maple wood detailing has 8 opulent pedicure stations and 12 manicure stations and is meticulously designed to accommodate both corporate gatherings and private events. 

My clients often suggest that we open salons in other cities in the US and abroad, but I'm so involved in the day to day operations of the business that I feel I would lose the personal touch and attention I need to run a salon if it was more than a subway ride (or bike ride) away from my apartment. 


I try to remain steadfast in my commitment to natural nail care, both in my salon services and product offerings. For me it's all about overall well-being, so I adhere to a policy of avoiding harsh chemicals such as acrylic, powder, or hard gels. Instead, I have created my product line to reflect my dedication to natural treatments, incorporating a wealth of organic ingredients into my products. 

My award-winning Honeysuckle + Primrose Cuticle Oil and Argan + Rose Hand Cream exemplify this approach, and I plan to continue developing nail and skincare products with natural ingredients.  

 JINsoon nail polish is one of the few brands that is "21-free," meaning it is free of the 21 most commonly used harsh chemicals in nail polish, while providing a long lasting application.


The JINsoon brand has been a prominent sponsor for numerous fashion houses during New York Fashion Week, including Brandon Maxwell, Jason Wu, Proenza Schouler, Helmut Lang, and Peter Do. Additionally, JINsoon has been involved in runway shows for Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, and Tommy Hilfiger, among others. The brand has also contributed to the glamour of events like the Met Gala, where it has adorned celebrities with stunning nail designs.


Needless to say, my schedule is as packed as ever, with the constant juggling of salon duties, photo shoots, and interviews. Yet, I wouldn't have it any other way. Despite the whirlwind pace, I am determined to remain deeply involved as both a hands-on manicurist and the creative force behind the JINsoon brand. New York has undeniably been a nurturing environment for these endeavors and I am so grateful for those who have supported me on my journey.

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