Brooklyn, New York’s first nail bar, Polish Bar Brooklyn is celebrating five fab years of helping women get pretty– and polished. Owner Tricia Lee Riley, opened Polish Bar after working for MAC Cosmetics for eight years ending up in store management and retail operations, a skill that would come in handy.

Tricia Lee was kind enough to chat with Coco+Creme about her signature nail color, favorite nail tips and nail trends that she can’t get enough of for fall. Oh, and guess what? We’re giving away a $50 gift certificate to Polish Bar Brooklyn to celebrate this fab 5 anniversary!

Coco+Creme: What led you to open a nail salon?

Tricia Lee Riley: In my last two years at MAC, I was in a position that really allowed me to assist with the massive store openings. After getting into the process of it, I saw that I had a talent for opening businesses, getting them off the ground and getting them set up. I kept my Polish Bar ideas written down in a notebook. I’d made up a menu and wrote concept ideas.

C+C: What makes Polish Bar different?

TL: I think the one thing that makes it very different is I came from the number one beauty brand in the country. I was with them at a very influential time. When I started with them my checks were hand-signed by the president of the company and when I left the company it was a household name. There wasn’t anything that I didn’t learn during that time doing retail operations and expansions at MAC. I think that has really helped me with certain skills that I bring to the business and it shows. It shows in the way that the store looks and the experience clients get in the store. I mean, everyone loves going into a MAC store and the experience it creates in addition to purchasing your products. That’s the culture that I come from. It’s definitely infused in everything that I do, because it’s almost the way I was raised, you know?

Also, the connection of the salons to the neighborhood is important from being a chic hangout out for the neighborhood people to the artwork in the bar. The organizations that we work with and co-brand with have a really strong presence in the neighborhood of the store. We’re definitely where beauty meets trendy in Brooklyn. Our bar is a place that people can walk into and be proud to bring their girlfriend who is visiting New York and run into someone you know: a beauty editor or local celebrity.

C+C: What services does Polish Bar offer?

TL: We have a small service menu. We do natural nails, waxing, our famous brow shaping and lashes and makeup application. I would say we have become known for our ‘trend manicures.’ Nails have become such a big part of fashion in the last few years. It’s something that we have always represented but it’s just nice that the fashion industry have given nails their place. There’s a nail section in every magazine now. When I first started, I had a Lookbook of nail looks and I used to have to cut the hands off of the models in the fashion spread and try to blow the images up. Now, I can just pull full nail articles. Nails are a huge part of your own personal look, an extension of your personality and style.

C+C: So true! Do you have a favorite nail color? A signature color that just defines you as a person?

TL: Oh, yes! Definitely! My absolute favorite color is this color from Zoya nail polish. They have a color called Charisma. It is the brightest fuchsia pink like circa 1980s style pink! It’s just beautiful. I can convince almost any women to try this color, no matter what age, work or profession. Last year, it won the Allure Beauty Editor award, and I was like finally! It’s so bright and electric and it lights up the room. People always seem to look at me when I wear it and say, ‘Oh, what is that on your nails?’

C+C: Do you have any favorite nail tips and tricks?

TL: Personally, one of my habits, that I really try to encourage other people to do is to try everything crazy in the winter time. When I’m the only one seeing it on my feet, I can get a sense of what I like and what I don’t like about it. I like to try those more daring colors in the winter for that reason.

It’s important to get pedicures year-round [especially in the winter] because you do more damage wearing boots. Also, the biggest nail tip that I always give to people is to really invest in their own base and top coats. Bring them to the salon or use them at home.

And there are really great benefits to using nail treatments. There’s a reason to use a great nail strengthener so you can grow your nails and they aren’t peeling. There’s a reason to use a great topcoat that’s going to seal your polish and give you high shine. It’s important to always invest in that no matter what salon you go to.

C+C: Are there any nail trends that you are looking forward to this fall?

TL: I’m seeing a lot of olive! It’s like ‘the fall of the mints.’ I’m seeing a lot of greiges [gray and beige] and honestly, it’s nice to see mauve. I haven’t seen mauve since my mother used to wear it. I see a lot of that in the collections regardless if its Chanel or Zoya or OPI. The mannequin hand (“nude” nail polishes) is also big with the girl who used to always wear sheer pink, nude or french tips. They’re branching out too. They may not try a blue, but they will try a skin tone brown where their skin and their hands are all the same color. That’s a big trend, and it’s started already.

C+C: Any big plans on the horizon for Polish Bar Brooklyn?

TL: In [one] week, we will be celebrating our five-year anniversary with a rooftop soiree because it’s a big milestone for a business. We’ll definitely focus on expansion and seeing where we are needed in the future. A lot of our business now is actually our pop-up nail bars. We provide that service for many big industry events.

We’ve done pop-up nail bars at The Gilt Group, HBO, TriBeCa Grand, Time Inc., you name it, we’ve done it. We started doing this about two and a half years ago at bridal showers. We always did our Polish Bar parties. This has become big business for us, because the express mani bar will have the hottest colors coming out for summer and the fall, and one or two nail trends that women are asking for. This really helps to break the ice at parties and it’s almost like a form of entertainment.

Our craziest one ever for Coco & Breezy. We had to do neon express manicures under a black light when Shatter first came out. So we’re in this room, and the black lights are everywhere and they’re launching their Fall collection in February. It was just hilarious because we are painting neon green, orange, white, pink nails with black shatter over it in a very club environment. It was so hot!


Not only did Tricia Lee take the time to chat with us but one lucky Coco+Creme reader will win a $50 gift certificate to Polish Bar in Brooklyn. All you have to do is share this post on Twitter and Facebook and leave a comment after. A winner will be selected at random. Good luck!

-Channing Hargrove

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