Meet Your Merchant: Tropical Tans |

Meet Your Merchant: Tropical Tans

Terry Cassettari, left, and Emma Westrope oversee daily operations at Tropical Tans in Grass Valley.
Cory Fisher/


Tropical Tans

147 Joerschke Dr. Suite 3, Grass Valley

Phone: 530-477-8707

Facebook: Tropical Tans


Monday through Friday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

No appointment necessary

There are certain people who just seem to stand out, looking like the picture of health in the darkest, dampest weeks of winter. Look closer and you’ll see that it’s the tan — that bronzed, even glow that extends beyond the neckline. If they haven’t just returned from a tropical vacation, chances are they know Terry Cassettari, who has owned Tropical Tans in Grass Valley since 1988.

A Nevada City native, Cassettari graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in civil engineering and got a job with Nevada County before going out on his own. In the 70s and 80s, he went on to serve as fire chief for the Nevada City and 49er fire departments, then worked as a strike team leader for CalFire, then known as CDF. Years later, after briefly dabbling in real estate, he stumbled upon what seemed to be a worthy business opportunity — a tanning salon.

In 1988, Cassettari bought Tropical Tans, then located in Nevada City. It turned out to be a decision he never regretted, as business has been steady ever since, despite the ebb and flow of the economy over the course of three decades. In 2003, he knocked down the walls and renovated three adjacent suites in a small shopping mall on Joerschke Drive, where the salon has been ever since. Day-to-day operations are primarily shared with his manager, Emma Westrope, and one part-time employee. Currently, Tropical Tans has an estimated 2,000 regular customers on the books, many of whom have been maintaining that year-round glow for over a decade.

The salon offers several different ways to tan. There two types of lay-down tanning beds — four that are considered “high intensity” and four “regular,” in addition to one stand up bed. Additionally, there is a booth designed exclusively for UV-free tans by Mystic Tan, which allows customers to get a full-body tan in a private, warm, automated spray tanning both in minutes. The fine mist is estimated to last a week to 10 days, said Westrope, and is a natural grade food product, so customers are not inhaling toxins. Customers can receive a discount if they purchase multiple tanning sessions at once.

“And there’s no waiting around,” she added. “You can slip your clothes on right after.”

Both Cassettari and Westrope said the laws and regulations at tanning spas are in place for a reason. Tanning is to be done in moderation to avoid over exposure to UV rays. In fact, the salon has been known to turn away customers who come in with sunburns from swimming at the river or those eager to tan too often. Additionally, California law that prohibits anyone younger than 18 from using tanning beds.

“When it comes to tanning, it’s always better to be conservative — we’ve never had anyone burn,” said Cassettari. “We require our customers to wear goggles — some salons don’t. But tanning can be good for you — we’ve had some dermatologists recommend us to patients with skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema, or those with vitamin D deficiencies.”

Tropical Tans has won “Best Tanning Salon” in The Union’s Best of Nevada County awards every year but one since 2006, a great source of pride for Westrope and Cassettari. They attribute this to their high standards when it comes to cleanliness, equipment maintenance and quality customer service.

The salon offers more than a tan — it also carries an impressive selection of hand bags, accessories, clothing, teeth-whitening supplies and swim wear year-round. A full line of Hempz moisturizers are for sale for home use, or as personal supplies used solely for tanning, which are kept under each customer’s name on site.

For the past several years, Westrope has also offered “body wraps,” a procedure that claims to promote body toning, firming and the elimination of toxins. As with tanning, many customers come in for a “wrap” before an important event, such as a vacation, the holidays, a wedding or anniversary party, said Westrope. Whole wedding parties have been known to come in as a group.

Going forward, Cassettari said the salon will be adding more equipment, such as a collagen therapy bed, passive exercise toning tables, an oxygen bar and an additional stand-up tanning bed.

Both Cassettari and Westrope say the best part of running the salon has been the customers they’ve come to know over the years.

“Despite the fact that we have more than 2,000 customers on the books, it’s our goal to each person, because we truly appreciate their business,” said Cassettari. “The best part of coming here each day is the relationships we’ve built with our customers.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at

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