By Katie Kohler
It takes a certain level of trust to let someone wield hot wax around your face or most personal area.
Kimberly Gider earned the trust of her clients long before the accolades started dotting the wall of her salon. It doesn’t take many visits to learn how efficient Gider is. A flick of her wrist can do more for your look than your favorite Instagram filter.
Beyond her professional abilities, Gider is open with her personal struggles and aims to make her clients feel as comfortable as possible, especially when they have to bare certain parts during services such as waxing and spray tanning. She’s had a full hysterectomy and a double mastectomy with full reconstructive surgery.
“When a woman cries, or says they are embarrassed, I pull up my shirt right away. They can’t believe I do it. If they want me to stand there shirtless, I will. It makes them feel amazing,” said Gider.
The journey to her current “dream salon and spa” at 902 Fayette Street wasn’t a straight line. Gider attended college with a plan to major in Child Psychology but dropped out after a year and a half. She began waitressing and quickly obtained management positions, but she felt a desire to find, what she called, “her path in life.”
“I wasn’t even thinking at that point of owning a full-service salon,” said Gider. “When I was 12 years old I dreamt of having my own salon but never thought I could do it. My parents thought I was too smart to be a hairdresser.”
The news of her mother’s diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer and her eventual death in 1988, at the age of 45 years old, had a profound impact on Gider personally and professionally.
Gider speaks candidly on the salon’s website and in-person, if asked, about her subsequent struggle with depression and anxiety. She saw an array of doctors and eventually found relief in holistic medicine which she began studying under the guidance of a holistic doctor.
Later, she was hired at a holistic health food store. Gider opened her own store, Better Health and Vitamins, in the Manayunk Farmers Market.
After the farmers’ market closed, Gider decided to find a piece of real estate and include tanning with her vitamin business – and Better Health and Tanning Salon was born.
However, before she opened the doors on the first day of business, she went bankrupt Within days, her doctor also confirmed that she was carrying her daughter, Gabriella. Gider’s father stepped in to get her out of debt and she counts it as one of her biggest blessings.
She then returned to school while running a new business. Within three years of receiving her esthetician’s license, Gider earned praise for her waxing skills and cleanliness in Philadelphia Magazine, which helped spark her business.
In 2013, she moved Better Health Tanning and Nail Spa on 1516 Butler Pike to its current location. It then became Salon & Spa by Kimberly Gider. Currently, their most popular services are waxing, spray tans, and hair. For Gider, she hasn’t ceded her throne as the “Brazilian Queen.”
“It’s just joking, having a conversation with people to take their mind off the pain. Talking to them on a personal note than having them focus on the actual waxing. Kind of a reverse psychology,” Gider said.
She maintains a loyal following and many appreciate the range of hours the salon offers.
“I attribute it to people knowing I really care about them and staying after hours and coming in early,” she says of her longtime customers. “I’ve stayed for people just for eyebrows an hour after closing because I knew it was the only time they could get to me.”
Gider admits working 60-70 hours a week is a challenge since she wants to spend as much time as possible with her daughter.
“If you work hard and stick with something, eventually you will become something. Your dreams come true with hard work,” Gider said. She hopes her daughter learns from her experiences.
“I love that it feels ‘neighborhood.’ Everybody kind of knows everybody. It’s working class, it’s the type of neighborhood where you just love the people you have, it’s a more down-to-earth, fun group of people.”
Philadelphia Magazine honored Kim with the “Best of Philly” award in 2009 for her waxing skills.
In 2010, Kim was written up in Daily Candy for “The top 5 places to get a Bikini wax.”
Best of Philly “Hot List” in 2010, and 2012 for Best Waxer.
Best of Montco for #1 Best waxer in 2011 and 2012.
Salon Today featured her as an Expert Waxer.
Google rated her “Very Good to Excellent” in Customer Service.
Talk of the Town for “Excellent Customer Service” in 2012.