Most real estate buyers would run from a building with a roof that allowed hundreds of gallons of water to leak onto the walls and floors each time it rained.
Uyen (pronounced Gwen) Le, however, saw the water that gushed through the roof as a good sign for a new business. According to Feng Shui, a leaky roof means future fortune - and it proved to be one of the deciding factors for Le locating her Beauty Bar salon at 26 N. Tejon St.
In fact, the 30-year-old Saigon native bought the building for about $435,000, using money from a small business loan, her family and her own savings account. (And the roof got fixed.)
The full-service salon, which opened Monday and includes pedicure and manicure stations and a spa area, is the culmination of 11 years of daily salon work, business studies and sweat equity that Le has worked toward for the past six years.
"I have always wanted to open a full-service salon in a nice building downtown and not just a hole-in-the-wall," she said.
Le's salon is not the only hair and beauty salon in downtown. There are at least seven other salons and barbers around her. But her 3,000-square-foot Beauty Bar may be one of the few, if not the only one, with a blow-dry bar - an assembly-line set-up where people can get a cut, wash and blow-dry in about 30 minutes.
Le's road to business owner hasn't been easy. She and her parents tried to get to the U.S. when she was 4 years old, but the boat they were in flipped off the coast of Thailand. The family spent the next three years in a refugee camp before an uncle could get them into the U.S. She was 7 when the family finally made it to San Diego in 1990. Le's father died in December 2000; in 2003, she and her mother, Helen, moved to Colorado Springs.
That's when Le learned the intricacies of running a business, mostly from her mother, who bought a nail salon at 2832 N Powers Blvd. in July 2003. Le began working for her mother the next day, spending 11-plus hours, seven days a week in the shop. Five years later, in 2008, Le bought the nail salon from her mother. She has since expanded the business and increased her customer base nearly three-fold.
She attributes the majority of her success to her mother's work ethic and self-reliance.
"She is very independent," Le said.
But a friend, Jennifer Crosby, attributes Le's success to her spirit and attention to detail.
"She is just very determined, and when she sets her mind on something, she does it," said Crosby, who has known Le for 10 years. "She is very strong, yet very gentle."
Le said she is not always as strong as her friends and family believe.
"There are so many times when I go to the bathroom and I cry 'cause I want to give up," she said.
But she never has and likely never will.
Le wants to see downtown become a place where other young professionals can build their businesses and their lives. She believes anyone can succeed in America, if they work hard and smart. Le said people, especially women, should stop listening to the naysayers and pursue their business dreams without hesitation or doubt.
"I love that I, as a woman, and an Asian woman, have the same opportunities here as everyone else," she said.
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.