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By Vishaka Robinson | September 20, 2012 | Style & Beauty
Kenig plays around on his office door with Pale Pink matte lipstick, NYX Cosmetics ($6).
The Lincoln Road store, located between Drexel and Pennsylvania Avenues
Ricky’s carries many exotic bath and body products
Chase Me nail lacquer, Ginger + Liz ($12)
Kenig, in his NYC office, decided to bring his empire of makeup and beauty supply stores to Miami because of the city’s beauty-savvy population and, now, reputation as a design mecca
Born-and-bred New Yorker Ricky Kenig may have his roots in the Big Apple, but the fast-talking founder of Ricky’s has a longtime affinity for Miami. “I’m a Jew from New York, so we never went anywhere else but Florida!” he explains. “If you were rich, you went to Acapulco, and everyone else went to Miami; I must have been at least 100 times, and still love it just as much as I did when I was a boy.”
So it’s fitting that his first Miami store—which he opened a decade ago off Lincoln Road—is one of the company’s most stellar success stories. “Per foot, it has the biggest turnover of all of our stores,” he says, adding that it’s in part thanks to Miamians’ devotion to humidity-tackling hair products. “They are huge sellers for us 12 months of the year here.” It was the existence of such a beauty-savvy population, combined with our city’s reputation as a hotbed of design, that made Kenig look to Miami when deciding to unveil his new vision for Ricky’s.
The Best of Ricky’s pop-up shop—located at 657 Lincoln Road—opened on August 1, and showcases more than 400 products in artful cardboard installations. Expect to see new nail polish from cult vegan line Ginger + Liz, candles by Shine, and Stila cosmetics. But that’s just a taste of what’s to come; Kenig plans to open the first of his re-envisioned stores in South Beach this winter. The details are still under wraps, but it’s thought that Slade Architecture, which most recently revamped the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse lounge at JFK, will integrate Kenig’s passion for minimalist design and Asian culture into the store’s interiors.
Having spent his formative years working at his father’s chain of Love drug stores during the 1970s, Kenig decided to go solo after noting that downtown New York—the stomping ground of the city’s photographers, stylists, and hip young things—was woefully underserved beauty-wise. “None of the Love stores were past 34th Street; they were all uptown,” he says. “Well, I’m a New Yorker, and I don’t know anything past 14th Street, so I saw it being wide open.” With an $88,000 loan from his father (“I paid every cent back”), Kenig set about slowly creating his empire—which now numbers 28 locations across the US.
His can-do approach and a passion for sourcing off-the-radar products quickly made Ricky’s a pit stop for some of the most recognized names in fashion. In the early ’90s, photographer Steven Meisel came to the store searching for matte bobby pins that wouldn’t bounce off light during a shoot. Kenig’s answer? “I said, ‘I can spray-paint a batch or sand them down.’ He said, ‘You’d do that for me?’ And I said, ‘Sure!’ They were very inexpensive, not worth me producing on a big scale, but I like to help customers solve a problem.”
But it wasn’t just industry insiders who received special treatment. Kenig remembers dashing down to Kiehl’s to buy product off the shelf for the store. “All these women were coming in trying to buy Kiehl’s Silk Groom for their men, so I went and bought it for them. You can’t do it with the focus on making the holy dollar; you are creating a business. I made $500 a week for the first three years because I never needed any money—I had no life.”
Like all good salesmen, Kenig understands the allure of shelves of shiny new products. “I love shopping,” he whispers, “but I’m learning now to calm down. I would buy one of each thing first, but then, if I got a stain on something, I couldn’t handle it, so I started buying twos, one to wear and one in case. Then I ended up buying threes. It all came to a head when my daughters and then girlfriend discovered my stash: I had more than 200 Rick Owens T-shirts—I’d forgotten I even had them.”
With a pop-up shop and a new store in the offing, Kenig has had plenty of excuses to head down to Florida. When in town, his home-away-from-home is always The Standard: “Every single room is a good room, and it’s just so nice and peaceful,” he says, adding his must-eat restaurant, which might surprise people. “It’s Shake Shack,” he says of the Manhattan import. “I almost feel as though nobody in Miami knows about it. It’s on a side street off Lincoln Road. I had dinner there every single night last time I was in town because there are no lines. In New York, it’s a different story—it’s an hour wait dealing with huffypuffy people. Just one more thing to love about Miami!”
photography by gregg delman (opener, kenig)