More on our honorees:
Valley is co-owned with sister Julia; it’s a beauty boutique offering top-shelf nail, skin and waxing services in a warm and relaxing environment. Since October of 2006, Valley has been creating a bizz with their inspired nail-art, virtually painless wax and holistic skin care. Raised in Studio City in LA’s famed San Fernando Valley, NINA, a real, live Valley Girl, has been living in NYC on and off since she attended NYU and The New School. After graduating school in ’98 she returned to LA where she wrote and performed sketch comedy, improv, stand-up comedy and her one-woman show, Around The Way Girl, a show that was produced by the online social network, Friendster. In 2004 Nina returned to NYC to live full-time. Her one-woman show proved to be the catharsis she was looking for, and she decided to quit the business when she finished performing her show. She bounced around a bit, picking up a real estate license and quickly realizing an appreciation for architecture and the Real Estate section of the times does not a realtor make. She also became an active Community Board member for her district on the lower east side, where she was living at the time. Spending time in the growing downtown creative community of designers, retailers, branding innovators and tastemakers, Nina was inspired to create something of her own. The idea to start a business was crystallized over emails between Nina and her sister, Julia, who was backpacking in South America, and when Julia returned to the states, the two hit the ground running.
M.I.S.S.: What woman, besides your mom or grandmother, do you find inspirational?
I had a hard time with this one, because the first person I think of is my Mutzi (aka my Grandmother), Dr. Gretel Bleich Rubin. She is 94 and she still cracks me up. She escaped Vienna when she was 18 – forced to leave her parents, who died in the Holocaust. She came to America with nothing..hungry and with fifteen dollars. She fell in love with my Grandfather, Jerry, a handsome and charismatic man, and who became a wonderful father. He was an alcoholic, and he overdosed and died when he was 37 years old, leaving my Mutzi with four children. She couldn’t stand the idea of her kids being the “poor kids who lost their father”, so she packed up and drove everybody to Mexico, where there was a growing community of Jews who had escaped the nazis. They lived there for a year, and returned to NY, where Mutzi started a children’s clothing line, Gretel. Mutzi was smart, funny and beautiful, and she soon caught the eye of the only man I ever knew as Grandpa, Lester Rubin, whom she married a year later. He was a lawyer and a bachelor at forty years old – never married. He fell in love with Mutzi, married her and adopted my Mom and my two aunts and uncle. They had another daughter, my aunt Donna, soon after they married. My Grandpa Lester had a crippling fall in his early eighties, and Mutzi cared for him in his wheelchair for the remaining six years of his life.
When I was growing up Mutzi would send me affirmation pencils that said things like “I Am My Own Best Friend” and “I Will Not Should On Myself Today”. When she was seventy Mutzi got her PHD in Psychology and began a private practice; she continued to see patients into her late eighties. She played tennis until she was ninety. She made it very clear to me from a young age that she was not a victim and that she/we had nothing without a sense of humor. Shitty things happened a lot, but she faced them and she “adopted an attitude” (imagine the German/New York accent). Mutzi has had an enormous impact on me and how I view life. She has faced the events in her life with honesty and dealt with a tremendous amount of pain and loss, but she has chosen not to be a victim and she has chosen to see the humor in situations..and boy, has she laughed.
I had moved to nyc for the last time/for good in 2004, and I had decided I was finished with acting…my solo show had been a huge catharsis. I knew I wanted to start a business, so I emailed my sis, Julia who was traveling for a few months in south america, and we decided to go into business together. With basically no knowledge or experience in the beauty or fashion industry (other than being discerning clients), we decided to create a multi-divisional retail space, with an apparel and accessories, and a beauty division offering superior nail and waxing services. We knew we wanted to offer a caliber and variety of services we had yet to find in nyc. Julia and I had always been the go-to friends for where to find the best waxer etc, so we figured why not be the place that everybody comes to, since we we’re really specific about what we want and people trust our judgement. We also decided to incorporate something for our clientele to nosh on by offering fresh bowls of Acai, the braziian power fruit. We basically wanted to create a shopping/service experience without the attitude found in a lot of the cool guy shops in nyc and la…that’s why we called the shop Valley. Valley was considered totally uncool, and we wanted people to know that’s where we grew up and we think it was great. It’s about owning where you’re from and not having to put people down or be too cool for school.
We planned for about 6 months, attending business plan writing course, tradeshows in beauty and fashion. For those reading who know Valley, you know that we have since moved from our original space that we opened in ’06 – our first 2.5 years were incredibly challenging. We got a ton of press coverage right off the bat, and we developed a very loyal following – the big issue was our location. We were a little too ahead of the curve planting ourselves on orchard and hester on the l.e.s. – zero foot traffic, not to mention we were buried in scaffolding for the first year we were open. It’s now been three years, many sleepless nights and an enormous amount of elbow grease, and we have relocated to Nolita in a perfect little spot on Elizabeth Street. We folded our apparel division, choosing to focus exclusively on our beauty services, and we licensed part of the shop to our friend (now business associate), Christina Kornilakis (formerly of Sweet Tater), who opened Portia & Manny in our shop – she’s selling amazing vintage apparel and accessories, and carrying on with us in the multi-divisional theme we established at Valley’s first location.
I feel an overall sense of pride about the environment we’ve created with Valley. It’s a unique contradiction, in that our design aesthetic is more of a California rustic, mid-century vibe, and yet the nail art is at the opposite end of the visual spectrum with crazy colors, sparkles and glittered bling. Because of this, we draw a wide variety of clients, and on any given day Valley feels like the ultimate NY melting pot.
WE WOULD LOVE TO GET GWEN STEFANI IN FOR HER NAILS!! We also want to collaborate on a line of wax/feminine products, based on what we’ve learned – but we haven’t begun to investigate partners…we’re open at this point.
Running a retail service business is a constant juggle between the front and back of the house. I constantly try to find a balance between being at the shop and taking care of clients/ making sure things are flowing, or burying my head in my computer to focus on business growth, our next move, sifting through paperwork and focusing on various promotional projects.
Do your due diligence. I cannot stress the importance of doing research before you invest your time and money into a brick and mortar (or any type of ) business. If you can, LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION- YOU HEAR IT OVER AND OVER, AND IT’S FOR A REASON. Talk to women/people who have gone before you and really hear what they have to say. Then weigh the options thoroughly and make your own decision.
Valley is located at 198 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012.
You can call about their services (212) 274.8985 or visit them online: www.valleynyc.com
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