Tropic Tan Company owner Stephanie Szamlewski insists tanning beds aren’t a “dumb blonde thing,” but from soon they could be a 24-hour thing.
On Tuesday, Szamlewski plans to extend the salon’s hours to allow customers to use the beds overnight. This would make it the only 24-hour tanning salon in the Chicago area and possibly the second in Illinois.
The first 24-hour tanning salon to operate in Illinois was 24 Hour Tan in Mokena, which opened in 2011 but has since closed. A handful of 24-hour gyms in the area also have standing tanning booths.
Szamlewski said she and her family purchased the Crystal Lake location just before the pandemic hit. Szamlewski grew up in McHenry and said he spent 23 years in the tanning industry.
While she describes the previous two years as a “roller coaster,” she is thrilled to be able to expand the show’s operations.
“You have to think that we have so many different people living different kinds of lives,” Szamlewski said, describing a clientele that requests to use the lounge at unusual times.
After some research, Szamlewski said she found that 24-hour tanning salons worked well in Florida, and she thought Tropic Tan could take advantage of that opportunity here. With so many local salons and the ongoing financial struggles small businesses face, Szamlewski thought the move might help bring Tropic Tan to the fore.
“Tanning is very popular in the Midwest,” Szamlewski said. “This show is booming.”
Salon customers include healthcare workers who come to the salon early in the morning after an all-night shift or new moms who can only come in the evening. Szamlewski said she works hard to build relationships with clients, many of whom don’t necessarily have the stereotypical profile of tanners.
Men actually outnumber women among the salon’s clientele, many of whom are over 50, Szamlewski said. For them, Szamlewski thinks keeping the salon open later might be a game-changer, as some older men are comfortable coming when it’s not so crowded.
“People come here to escape the chaos of their lives,” Szamlewski said. “It’s not always about the tan.”
The salon also offers infrared sauna, spray tan and red light therapy services. Szamlewski said many male clients use the latter to relieve nerve pain or improve blood circulation.
In addition to the expanded hours, the salon has also had a facelift, with new counters and furniture, and new designs on the tanning beds. The salon won’t be busy at all times, but customers will be able to use a key fob to enter and access the tanning beds, or even purchase lotion or product from a drop-down menu inside.
“There is passion here,” Szamlewski said. “I’m not a franchisee. I’ve been in the tanning industry for over 20 years and have sworn to do things differently.
Tropic Tan Company is located in the Commons of Crystal Lake shopping center off the Northwest Highway. More information about the salon’s services and products can be found at tropictanco.com.
Correction: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Stephanie Szamlewski’s name.