Ricky Kenig is somewhat of a New York legend. Originally born in the Bronx, over the years, he has built his name into a vast network of New York City beauty stores, aptly called Ricky’s. Now, 25 years after founding the first Ricky’s on the Lower East Side in 1989, Ricky is ready to do it all over again. Leaving his namesake store in the dust behind him, in April this year Ricky joined forces with makeup powerhouse Alcone to start a new beauty concept store, Kenig + Alcone, that specifically focuses on makeup and hair.
Located in New York's Chelsea district, Kenig + Alcone is a bright, airy and open space featuring a carefully curated selection of exciting and innovative hair and beauty products. The bottom floor is entirely devoted to hair, while the top floor focuses on makeup.
4 months after the big move, VIVE caught up with Ricky at his beauty “candy store” to see how it’s all going.
Summer: What was your inspiration for the concept behind this store?
The new concept was a curation of everything I’ve learned throughout my life. The beauty world has changed so much in the past 7-10 years because of the Internet and social media. My old store was based on an outdated model, where I was constantly fixing and modifying things. Eventually, I reached the point where I thought it was best to start from scratch and return to my roots.
So how does your new store reflect the changes in the beauty world?
Well, the Internet is a phenomenal tool, but its one weakness is that it doesn’t show color accurately. This means that it’s great for replenishing existing products that you already know you like, but you need to physically see the color and texture when exploring new products. Likewise, you may be able to buy a great value hairdryer on Amazon, but Amazon can’t tell you about a newer model or a better version from another competitor in person. The beauty world will never go completely online, and I wanted to create a place where people can go for expert advice.
Was there one particular moment when you realized there was an opportunity?
No, not really. It’s been an evolutionary process for me. Throughout my time at my old company, I noticed that some client needs were not being met and I felt frustrated that improvements were not being made fast enough. I realized that I would have much more freedom outside of a corporate structure, so I quit and started afresh.
What has been the greatest lesson that you’ve learnt from this latest venture?
Choose your partners wisely. Stay away from people that only think about profits and don’t care about ethics, because one day they might turn on you and act against your best interests. Use the power of the Internet to thoroughly research any potential investors to make sure that they can be trusted.
At Kenig + Alcone, you’re the exclusive supplier of many boutique cosmetics brands. How did you build a relationship with these brands?
Well, I’ve been in the beauty industry for a long time, and once people in the industry found out that I was leaving and heard my vision for a new store, many vendors actually approached me. This just confirmed that starting Kenig + Alcone was a move in the right direction for me.
What is your vision for the growth of Kenig + Alcone?
I’m still working out all the small kinks in the store at the moment, but once everything is perfect, I plan on expanding to other locations. I’d like to add 2 or 3 more stores here in NYC, and then create a Miami outpost of Kenig + Alcone. At this store, I’ve created an open and carefree space where people can make themselves at home, and my main goal as we gradually grow is to ensure that each store retains that close-knit feeling of community.
So far, what has been your greatest achievement at this store?
Well, I’m so happy to be able to interact with all my customers and listen to their needs. I’m at the store every day, from opening to closing, and I do everything I can to make sure that they are satisfied. If we don’t stock a product that someone wants, I will contact the vendor directly to get a hold of that product.
Wow, that’s amazing customer service! On a slightly different note, could you please describe your daily grooming regime?
Mine is simple. Soap, toothpaste, a spritz of cologne – that’s it. I’m probably the worst customer at my store!
So, if you could only choose one top product, what would it be?
It’d probably be the cologne I use. I’ve only ever used one type of cologne my entire life, and that’s Wonderwood, by Comme des Garcons.
You clearly know New York City very well, having lived in the city all your life. What is your favorite spot in NYC?
Now that’s something that’s not simple to answer for me! It’s got to be a three-way tie between my favorite restaurants: Peasant for Italian food, La Esquina for Mexican and Miss Lily’s for a fun Carribean/Jamaican vibe.
Kenig + Alcone is located at 538 Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave. between 14th St. and 15th St). It's open 10 am to 8 pm Monday to Saturday, and 10 am to 6 pm on Sunday. Stop by to explore exciting new products and meet Ricky in person!