When Tricia Lee opened up Polish Bar Brooklyn in 2005, it was a new concept. And actually, it was Brooklyn’s first nail polish bar. Lee came up with the idea after working for MAC Cosmetics for eight years. “I’ve shared this story many times before. I’m probably, the longest living nail biter. So I was very much into nails. I had had a decade of cosmetic experience and business management experience, so I wanted to create a salon that I would enjoy – a place that offered a spin on the nail salon experience. It was 2005 and there were not many choices,” she says of her reasons for opening the business.
At the Clinton Hill salon, people can get such services as brown sugar pedicures and coconut-vanilla manicures. And nails are polished only with high-end brands, such as Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. In-house cosmetologists offer makeup applications and lessons in a private makeup room. Waxing, eyebrow and eyelash services are also on the menu.
In the years since Lee launched her trendsetting business, many have followed but Polish Bar has survived and thrived. “The field has certainly become over-saturated. I read somewhere that there were 7,000 nail salons in Brooklyn in 2015. I think salons like mine sparked a lot of interest in the industry,” she notes. “At Polish Bar, we have always focused primarily on natural nails and upheld strong hygienic standards. The Polish Bar experience is quality service with quality products in a cozy environment.”
Of course, over the years Lee has had to adapt to trends and the economic climate. “I think everything from changes in trends, deeply discounted low grade salons on every block and gentrification has impacted our daily business. We are challenged by the smallest things, like a spike in water or gas charges. Very few things stay the same,” she explains. “I’m working with small businesses in 2015. In almost a decade of operating a store and leading a brand, I’ve discovered a passion for working with others to do the same.”
Looking down the road, Lee says she wants to help other young business-minded women. “Long-term, I would want to work with young women on beauty and self-esteem. I interact with so many young women daily, who have so much to say and could be a great support to even younger women,” she says.
Surely one of the tips she will pass on is the lesson she learned as an entrepreneur: accepting failure. “I know, now, that failure is a part of the process and that if you even tried, that can count as a win,” she explains.
Even after a decade in business, Lee still enjoys what she does. “One of the things I enjoy the most is thinking of new ways to connect with our core client and executing interesting off-site promotional events. It feels like we are meeting you where you are and creating The Polish Bar experience for you there. Be it, your office, gym, boutique or some other place. The women are really a lot of fun and they lose it when they see our pop-up nail bar. It never gets old,” she shares with a chuckle.