As is the way of many busy New York City women, long-time friends Nadine Abramcyk and Adair Ilyinsky Goodyear found themselves frequently convening after long days for a quick catch-up and manicure—where they spent a lot of their time dissecting the typical nail salon experience and how they would love to make it better. Nadine, who is married to serial restaurant entrepreneur Matt Abramcyk (Smith & Mills, Navy, Tiny’s & the Bar Upstairs) was no stranger to running her own business (she owned much-loved West Village boutique, Mick Margo (RIP)), but Adair was riding the ranks of traditional retail as a financial analyst, and so it took a lot of talk and even more manicures for the two to resolve on actually disrupting the industry. In 2010, they opened their first tenoverten salon in Tribeca—an airy, mid-century modern space in a landmarked building with nary a massage chair in sight—and drew women from across the city in droves. It makes sense: The space is beautiful and unharried, the polishes run non-toxic (they do their own 8-free line now, too), the nail jobs are thorough and perfect, you can book services online, the prices are reasonable, and the hours are extensive (most locations are open until 10pm). There are now four locations in New York City, including a brand-new outpost in the financial district, with a fifth making its debut in Austin’s South Congress Hotel later this month. Below, we asked the pair a few questions about what it takes to build a brand and run a successful business.
On Adair: MICHAEL KORS Bathrobe Jacket, STELLA MCCARTNEY Jeans, PIAGET Possession Rose Gold Diamond Earrings, PIAGET Possession Rose Gold Diamond Ring. On Nadine: 3.1 PHILLIP LIM Blouse, PIAGET Possession Rose Gold Diamond Pendant, PIAGET Possession Rose Gold Diamond Ring, PIAGET Possession Rose Gold Diamond Bracelet.
A few favorites from the tenoverten 8-free line. On Nadine: PIAGET Possession Rose Gold Diamond Bracelet.
On Adair: PIAGET Possession Rose Gold Diamond Rings.
On Adair: NILI LOTAN Blouse, STELLA MCCARTNEY Jeans, PIAGET Possession Rose Gold Diamond Earrings, PIAGET Possession Rose Gold Diamond Bracelet, PIAGET Posession Yellow Gold Chain Motif Ring. On Nadine: NILI LOTAN Tuxedo Blazer, FRAME Tee, TIBI Culottes, PIAGET Possession White Gold Diamond Pendant, PIAGET Possession White Gold Diamond Rings.
A Q&A With Nadine Abramcyk and Adair Ilyinsky
Nadine, you already were an entrepreneur at heart; Adair, how did you build the courage to make the plunge?
Adair: Quite honestly, I was so confident about our concept that I didn’t even think of it as a risk. I remember when I announced to my mother that I was quitting my (stable!) job and opening a nail salon with Nadine, I was frustrated that she uttered a tiny bit of concern. Now that I’m a mom and have a totally new perspective, I’m so grateful that she didn’t talk me out of what must have sounded like a crazy idea!
Nadine: Being an entrepreneur is so difficult yet so rewarding. Being that neither of us have beauty backgrounds it was terrifying to imagine owning a nail salon, yet having Adair as my partner from day one made it seem plausible and made for a more than fun journey. When one of us is feeling downtrodden the other one is having an inspired day and we strike a balance that seems to pull us through any tough moments we encounter.
What were the biggest obstacles in the early days of building your business? Any big surprises?
Adair: We laugh about it now, but when we first opened in Tribeca in December 2010, we were above a vacant space and our heat couldn’t compete with the frosty temperatures. Our contractor gave us a big, scary propane space heater that we had to light with a match every morning, which we were terrified to do. I’ll never forget creeping up to that heater with trepidation, but it’s overcoming those silly challenges that makes us more resourceful and confident about overcoming any obstacle.
One of the biggest surprises has been how much time we devote to HR related issues. Navigating health benefits, wage bonds, sick pay leave, etc. can be tricky and time consuming, but of course it’s all part of running a successful business.
Nadine: In the beginning, the long days of running a salon between just two people was exhausting yet provided the best lesson: Be able to do any role in your company from top to bottom. Working the salon floor opened my eyes to every aspect of each position within our company. I was surprised by how customer-service intensive the front desk position is, however, I never would have known how to guide managers without being in the “hot seat” myself. We appreciate our employees so much more since we come from a place of true understanding of their roles.
What’s the best part? What are the things that you have to do, but wish you didn’t?
Adair: The best part for me has been getting to know our customers and employees. So many of our customers have become friends and our employees (all 100+ of them!) feel like our extended family. We know about their spouses, children, dating lives, weekend plans—it’s really enhanced our lives so much to have them in it. It’s also a privilege to work with my best friend, which often makes it not feel like work at all, especially when we’re slightly delirious after a long day and erupt into laughter on a conference call.
One hard part for me is to give critical feedback, although I know it makes me a better manager and also helps strengthen our team. Spending time to develop our employees, even if it involves some corrective measures, helps them and our business grow.
Nadine: The best part of building a business is the amount you learn during the journey. It can be totally overwhelming at times and you certainly never feel like you can leave work behind at the end of the day but the rewards outweigh those downsides. We’ve built a truly chaotic and lovable family at tenoverten that brings a lot of fulfillment to my life. Worst part? I hate going on bank runs, even though I love that the tellers know us by name since we are there all the time!
Any big future plans for the business? How do you decide where to expand next?
Adair: We hope to keep expanding our business organically, as we have been. Opportunities arise and some work out while others don’t, but we really try to expand thoughtfully while being very protective of our brand and not sacrificing the customer experience. We don’t have a master plan that demands that we open X number of stores in X number of years, which would seem counter to the tenoverten culture we’ve created. As for the tenoverten product line, we are very excited to be expanding into more safe, 8-free nail care and treatment products, building on the success of The Foundation, our nourishing basecoat, and The Shield, our high shine topcoat.
Nadine: We have the Austin salon opening within the next month followed by a salon in LA.
You both have two young kids and husbands with full-on careers—how do you work your days to fit everything in?
Adair: As the expression goes, it takes a village. We have an amazing sitter and my husband is extremely supportive as well. The luxury of being one’s own boss is that while we work extremely hard, I am also the master of my own schedule. I can drop Esme, our oldest, off at school in the morning or take Louisa, the baby, to a music class during the afternoon, so it allows me to strike a work/life balance that makes my family and me happy.
Nadine: I’m starting to go grey from it, but I just try to be as present as possible in each moment since I know I will look back and think how fast it all went. I cannot imagine my life without my iPhone calendar and would probably be sitting at home reading the paper all day if it mistakenly told me I had no meetings one morning!
How do you work in time for yourselves?
Adair: I’ve realized that I really have to carve out time for myself. With two little girls, it won’t just fall in my lap! Whether it’s getting a facial or going to a dance cardio class, my trick is to just book and pay for it online so that I’m less likely to allow myself to get caught up in something else. I also cherish the half an hour or so before bedtime when my husband and I just read—no cell phones allowed—to decompress from the busy day.
Nadine: I exercise regularly. It is my therapy and keeps me feeling grounded. That’s the most valuable time just for myself on any given day. I’ve also started to take advantage of traveling a bit again with girlfriends which is eye-opening in so many ways. I come back from those experiences whether just one night or multiple days feeling reinvigorated and inspired. Women are doing incredible things across all industries today!
Any tips for squeezing an extra 30-minutes out of a day?
Adair: I’ve signed up for auto replenishment for as many products as possible. From my favorite Lancome mascara to my husband’s razor blades from Harry’s, it just shows up at our door and I don’t have to think about—or spend the time—reordering. I also recommend getting a same time mani/pedi. Two technicians give a mani and pedi at the same time, which might not be as relaxing as traditional back-to-back services but definitely saves 30+ minutes!
Nadine: Laying clothes out the night before for my kids and even myself if I know I will need to dress more properly than my usual casual attire the next day. And I’m a coffee addict so I save loads of time when I make coffee at home instead of walking out of my way to grab a cup a couple of times throughout the day.
Favorite kid-friendly spots and restaurants in New York?
Adair: There are so many changes happening in the Financial District, which is why we are particularly excited to have opened our new salon on Fulton Street. We love taking our kids to Brookfield Place for lunch on the weekends. While my mom pointed out that Hudson Eats is a glorified food court (such a novelty for New Yorkers!), it’s so well designed and all of the artisanal food vendors are yummy.
Nadine: The SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park, Color Me Mine pottery in Tribeca, Warren 77 for brunch as the video games in the front provide endless entertainment for the kiddos, and The National for an early dinner in Midtown, as it has the best menu for grown-ups and kids alike.
Favorite date night spots?
Adair: Of course we love Nadine’s husband Matt’s restaurants in Tribeca. Sitting by the fire at Tiny’s is nice and cozy. We also just tried a new-ish restaurant in Hudson Square called Houseman that was delicious and inventive and perfect for a date night.
Photographer: Angi Welsch
Hair & Makeup: Vivi Lapidus @ Tricia Joyce
Special thanks to NAVY