By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
For 20 years, Lion in the Sun has been building valuable relationships and making customers part of the family.
Owner Kim Wherley explained that the history of the business actually goes back to the children's consignment shop that she formerly operated, called Reruns for Wee Ones. She decided to put a tanning bed in a room at the back of the store, and interest caught on quickly.
Lion in the Sun officially opened its doors at 201 Morgantown Ave. in Fairmont on Feb. 4, 1994. More and more tanning beds were added in the years that followed, and Kim sold the consignment shop in 2003 in order to focus on the tanning business.
About that same time, Lion in the Sun added a second store by taking over a salon in White Hall, and then in 2008 another location was built in Fairmont at 1313 Locust Ave. In 2013, the White Hall shop was moved to Kingmont, off Airport Road on Honeybee Drive.
“We really tried to keep up with everything and just make it more available to people on all sides of town,” Kim said.
Plans are in the works to remodel the original store on Morgantown Avenue and bring in new equipment in the next year or two. The shop will be updated to have a more modern, big-city salon feel, like the Kingmont location, said Kim’s daughter Amber Wherley.
“We always want to provide the best that we can for our customers,” said Amber, who has been working with the business for 12 years and has served as the manager for three.
The Morgantown Avenue location features 15 tanning beds, and Locust Avenue and Kingmont are each equipped with 12. Lion in the Sun also offers custom spray tans done by a certified technician, and BleachBright 15-minute teeth whitening.
The business is an authorized distributor of Bee Fit ZXT bee pollen products, which are all-natural herbal supplements that help with weight loss, boosting immune systems and enhancing overall health. In addition, it carries a cosmetic line by celebrity makeup artist Jennifer Bradley.
Because there are so many tanning bed units available, all the locations are walk-in only. Appointments are only accepted for spray tans.
For people who have never tanned with Lion in the Sun before, their first visit is always free, and they receive a free sample of lotion.
“We try to treat our guests like they’re family,” Kim said. “We just want ... to make them feel like they’re at home when they come to us. We’ve made a lot of friends throughout the years and built a lot of nice relationships, and we hope that continues for a long time to come.”
“We value them and want them to have the best experience possible when they’re here,” Amber added.
Lion in the Sun has many loyal clients who come back time after time, and Kim and Amber thanked them for their continued support.
“We have customers that have been with us for 20 years,” Amber said. “It’s great that they’ve stuck with us all that time.”
Lion in the Sun now has nine employees, but will increase the staff to 12 or 13 during peak tanning season, which is typically from February or March to August. Lion in the Sun will begin its extended hours at the beginning of March.
The assistant manager, Latisha Kriston, has been with Lion in the Sun for eight years. Amber said all the employees treat the business as if its their own.
The staff is trained and certified through Smart Tan, and the team always makes sure the salons are nice and clean, Kim said.
“I couldn’t do it without them,” she said of the staff. “We all really work together in making it a success.”
The employees also learn about the different lotions and products so they can tailor them to each client’s needs and wants. They try to help customers understand the tanning process as well as the importance of eyewear while tanning, Amber said.
“Our golden rule here is to never burn,” she said. “It’s important in keeping the care of your skin. We want them to know the process. We call it smart tanning.”
Amber commented that her mom has always been very hands-on and involved in the business and loves interacting with the customers.
“She treats her employees like they’re her own kids,” Amber said of Kim. “I think that’s a lot of what’s made her successful.”
JoLynn Taylor, a friend of the family and former employee, said Lion in the Sun can cheer up anyone who’s having a bad day.
“It makes people want to come back,” she said. “It’s a fun environment. There’s really good energy here.”
In honor of its 20th anniversary, the business is holding a sale Tuesday through Thursday with some throw-back prices from 1994 and $20 off certain services. During the giveaway, one person will win a year of free tanning.
A special guest is also visiting the business. David McFarland from Performance Brands, a skin fitness and tanning products company, will be stopping by the different locations from Monday through Wednesday to provide free samples to customers and tell them about new products.
For more information, call Lion in the Sun on Morgantown Avenue at 304-363-9333, on Locust Avenue at 304-333-7869, or in Kingmont at 304-366-7869. Customers can also visit lioninthesuntanning.com or find the business on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Email Jessica Borders at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.