What happens in Richmond heads to Vegas

Scott Black, owner of Bombshell, outside the salon at 10 S. Crenshaw Ave. (Photo by Michael Thompson)

Bombshell owner Scott Black outside the salon at 10 S. Crenshaw Ave. (Photo by Michael Thompson)

With a big money backer on its side, one of Richmond’s fastest-growing companies is turning its eye toward Sin City.

Scott and Melissa Black plan to expand their Bombshell Brazilian Waxing and Skin Care Studio to Las Vegas. It’ll be their fourth Bombshell location and the first outside of Richmond.

“This move will put Bombshell on a national stage,” Scott Black said.

The expansion will be financed in full by Zappos chief executive Tony Hsieh (pronounced like Shea) as part of his Downtown Project, a $350 million venture to transform downtown Las Vegas.

Don Welch, left, Melissa Black, Tony Hsieh and Scott Black. (Photo courtesy of Scott Black)

Don Welch, left, Melissa Black, Tony Hsieh and Scott Black. (Photo courtesy of Scott Black)

Bombshell offers tanning, hair, nail and waxing services. The husband-and-wife team launched the business in 2009 in Carytown, and it was recently named one of the 25 fastest-growing companies in the Richmond region. It also has a location in Short Pump, and a third location at 4821 Commonwealth Center Parkway in Midlothian is slated to open this winter.

Old-fashioned hustle and what Scott Black calls a “serendipitous collision” on a bus in Las Vegas helped move the idea along.

According to the Downtown Project’s website, $50 million of its budget is dedicated to bringing small businesses to Las Vegas. The overall goal of the project is “to transform Downtown Las Vegas into the most community-focused large city in the world,” and organizers are looking for feasible, cutting edge and newsworthy businesses. Entrepreneurs can apply online to pitch their ideas, but the Blacks went with a more direct approach.

After hearing about the project in fall 2012 from his mother, Scott Black launched a telephone and email campaign to get in touch with Hsieh personally. By December, he was able to email Bombshell’s pitch to a Hsieh assistant. The next day, the Blacks received an email from Hsieh inviting them to pitch their idea in person, attend a Zappos holiday party, and take a tour of the Downtown Project and Hsieh’s house.

Within weeks, the Blacks were on a plane for Vegas and headed for the Zappos party.

“We got on a random bus that was about three-quarters full,” Scott Black said. “And lo and behold, Tony [Hsieh] gets on that bus and comes walking down the aisle … and sits down behind us. I turned around and introduced myself and he said, ‘Yeah, we’re meeting tomorrow.’”

The Blacks received a verbal commitment from Hsieh in March, and Scott Black said he is meeting with an architect this month to go over plans for the Las Vegas location. The Blacks are reviewing a letter of intent for the final deal.

The agreement will allocate up to $500,000 to get the Las Vegas Bombshell up and running, Scott Black said. The money, which carries a low interest rate, will have to be paid back once the Vegas location becomes profitable.

Scott Black expects the Las Vegas location to be open for business in 2015. In the meantime, the Mid-Atlantic region should prepare itself for more Bombshells.

“It’s very possible Reston or Georgetown could get a store before [the Las Vegas location opens],” he said. “We have our next 26 locations mapped out.”

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