My style guide to NYC: Nicole Russo, personal shopper, image consultant and founder of NR Styles

NR Styles founder Nicole Russo shares her favorite Queens stores, salons and spas

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Nicole Russo, the stylist, personal shopper and image consultant behind NR Styles, spills her favorite lesser-known Queens stores, spas and salons. She reveals what makes places such as LIC Living, Simple Skin Spa, Soleil and Pin Up Queens worth the trek to the outer borough.

  • Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    Nicole Russo

  • Photograph: Jenny Evans

    Tailor Shop Alteration

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Concept E Salon

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Mira Iskhakova at Concept E Salon

  • Photograph: Jenny Evans

    Soleil

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Salon Diva

  • Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    LIC Living

  • Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    Roost Double Petal Fiori frame, $27, at LIC Living

  • Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    Izola flask, $24, at LIC Living

  • Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

    Rice DK metal tray table, $72, at LIC Living

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Simple Skin Spa

  • Photographer: Jenny Evans

    Red Wing Shoes

  • Photographer: Jenny Evans

    Red Wing Shoes six-inch boots, $200; chukka boots, $200; and nine-inch Logger boots, $295

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    The Nail Place & Foot Spa

  • Photograph: Jenny Evans

    Pin Up Queens

  • Photograph: Jenny Evans

    Coro 1950s multistrand beaded necklace, $68, at Pin Up Queens

  • Photograph: Jenny Evans

    1960s metallic brocade pointed-toe pumps, $68, at Pin Up Queens

  • Photograph: Jenny Evans

    1970s tribal statement necklace, $48, at Pin Up Queens

  • Photograph: Jenny Evans

    Stray Vintage

  • Photograph: Jenny Evans

    1960s frosted glasses, three for $30, at Stray Vintage

  • Photograph: Jenny Evans

    Geographia Map Company 5 Borough Street Guide of New York, $5, at Stray Vintage

Photograph: Melissa Sinclair

Nicole Russo


Stylist Nicole Russo worked in marketing and business development before founding her personal-shopping and image-consulting company, NR Styles (nrstyles.com; $950–$2,000 per package), in 2011. “It came to be by accident,” says the FIT grad of her career switch, prompted by helping a friend dress for a new job post–grad school. “I like to consider myself an educator. It’s really about providing people with the tools they need to look their best, as opposed to just an outfit.” Throughout her own transformation, Russo has kept one thing constant: the borough she calls home. “I’ve been in New York for about ten years and spent eight of those in Queens—I’ve lived where there is no subway,” jokes the Woodside resident, who previously spent time in Bayside, Forest Hills, Flushing and Astoria. “It’s really convenient to every other borough and what you get for what you spend is way more valuable.” We tapped Russo’s vast Queens knowledge about where to go to get the most bang for your buck.

Aleterations: Tailor Shop 30-94 36th St at 31st Ave, Astoria (718-956-4064, tailorshop.biz)
Russo discovered this cash-only alteration shop on Yelp after searching for a reputable local tailor to take in a J.Crew cashmere blazer that was too big. “It’s a little more expensive than a typical tailor or dry cleaner—you’re going to be looking at a 10 to 15 percent markup—but if I’m doing anything more than a hem job, I go there because I know it’s going to be done right,” she says. “[Owner Elena Priedane] is very direct and blunt. She’ll say no when she can’t do something, which I appreciate. I like her honesty; I want my garment to be treated special, not me!”

Eyebrow Shaping: Concept E Salon 179-24 Union Tpke at 180th St, Fresh Meadows (718-591-7939, conceptesalon.com)
“Everybody seems to know each other,” reflects Russo of this four-chair parlor. “It reminds me of an Eastern European Steel Magnolias salon, where they all gossip about their lives while they get their hair done, except clearly in a different culture.” Yet she bypasses the familial atmosphere to get her arches threaded ($10) in a private back room by Mira Iskhakova. “She is a brow artist and she knows it—she can reshape anybody’s eyebrows in ten minutes,” enthuses Russo. “She’s one of those people I continue to go to even though she’s far away from me. About a year ago, she got into a horrible accident and couldn’t work for six months. During that time, I just had bad brows; I was literally waiting for Mira to come back.”

Furniture Shop: Soleil 71-43 Austin St between 71st Rd and 72nd Ave, Forest Hills (718-520-8419)
“I’m at that age now where I’m starting to invest in more quality pieces that I’ll take with me as I move,” says Russo, who plans on doing so at this hybrid furniture, clothing and accessories emporium. “It’s a clustered mess but that’s part of the charm—everything is for sale. You can find interesting [house-brand furnishings] that are well made from real wood, and a lot of it’s travel-inspired. I recently saw an Asian apothecary cabinet ($500) that had the feel of something you’d get at Restoration Hardware.”

Hair Salon: Salon Diva 47-03 Francis Lewis Blvd at 47th Ave, Bayside (718-631-8631)
Despite the fact that she’s had her mane coiffed by Long Island stylist Desiree Lomino-Gatchalian (facebook.com/unleashbeauty) for the past 12 years, Russo has accompanied her best friend to this neighborhood salon for affordable cuts (women $50, men $30) and color ($65). “If I didn’t have my girl, that’s where I would go,” she admits. “It’s nothing too chichi or over the top but they treat customers like family. You walk in and it’s kisses on each cheek; you feel like you can trust [their work] because everyone looks pulled together. Plus, they give a great blowout ($40).”

Home Decor: LIC Living 5-35 51st Ave between Vernon Blvd and 5th St, Long Island City (718-361-5650, licliving.com)
This lifestyle boutique has been around for just under a year, but Russo already considers it an important addition. “It has that cool Brooklyn-boutique vibe but it’s in Queens, which I appreciate because [the borough] gets a bad rap,” she explains. Household items ($3–$195), such as Roost mirrored trays ($75) and Kiss That Frog glass crown champagne buckets ($175), are mixed in with women’s clothing ($68–$200) and accessories ($40–$300) for both sexes. “The home decor is my favorite. There are flasks ($24) with cute sayings and charming prints ($24–$50) that read hello sunshine—it’s a little whimsical. Plus, it smells amazing in there too.”

Massage:Simple Skin Spa 72-09 Grand Ave between 72nd Pl and 72nd St, Maspeth (718-651-3200, simpleskinspa.com)
“I really like to find places that are clean, affordable and not too over-the-top,” says Russo, who discovered this therapeutic spa after a friend gave her a gift certificate for a deep-tissue massage (55mins $95). “I have a back injury and [the therapist] was great about listening when I told him about it. The Arcona products ($20–$105) he used made my skin feel amazingly soft afterward.”  

Men's Shoes: Red Wing Shoes 47-01 Queens Blvd at 47th St, store A, Sunnyside (718-392-2242, sunnyside.redwingshoestore.com)
Although this Minnesota footwear company carries a small selection of women’s shoes ($75–$180), Russo considers it a go-to for men’s boots ($70–$450). “I’ve brought many clients—and boyfriends—here,” she says of the brand’s sole NYC store. “[Red Wing] is known for providing shoes that are functional for a man on the job building things, but they also happen to be unbelievably well crafted—the leathers are delicious, and they look really cool and rugged.” Despite the kicks being a bit of a splurge, Russo promises they’re worth it. “The brand stands by its product, so you’ll have them for years, but I can’t imagine them breaking down.” 

Nail Salon: The Nail Place & Foot Spa 34-55 Francis Lewis Blvd, Flushing (718-463-2433)
“It’s one of those spots where you walk by and think, ‘That place is a dump,’” admits Russo of this inconspicuous salon. “It’s right next door to a gas station and you can’t see inside, but you’ll stop short after you walk in because it’s not what you’d ever have imagined: Everything is brand-new, there are lots of sitting areas, and it’s bustling but quiet. It’s a good manicure ($7) that lasts, but what really did it for me was the free shoulder massage [during the service].”

Vintage Clothing: Pin Up Queens 22-03 Astoria Blvd at 22nd St, Astoria (347-746-8711, pinupqueensnyc.com)
“It’s a straight-up rockabilly-chick–style store, which is really unique to Astoria, and I love that it’s so authentic,” says Russo of this newcomer that stocks women’s garb ($25–$200) from the Victorian era through the 1980s. “Sometimes when I go to a vintage or consignment shop, it feels like a hodgepodge of someone’s attic, but this is clean and well organized. Everything is in good condition and they even offer alterations ($20–$100).”

Vintage Decor
: Stray Vintage 48-09 Skillman Ave between 48th and 49th Sts, Sunnyside (718-779-7795, strayvintage.com)
“It feels like he pulled [together] all of these special, pretty pieces that he loved and wanted to share with people,” describes Russo of coowner Dan Glasser’s eclectic shop, which sells vintage glassware ($10–$30), mid-century lighting ($25–$100) and used records ($3–$12). “I found an awesome pair of gold triangle earrings from the ’80s that were maybe $20, but the focus is more on decor, furniture and little tchotchkes that largely span the ’40s through the ’60s. There’s a edginess to [the merchandise], whether that translates into a punk piece or a bold print on a lamp shade. You can see that he has a funky style.”

Follow Cristina Velocci on Twitter: @cvelocci


Users say

3 comments
gwennie1228
gwennie1228

Please tell Nicole Russo to get her facts straight about Concept E Salon. I know because I followed Mira ( I called her the "Anastasia of Queens") to Concept E. After years of going to the creme de la creme of hair salons...Maximus, to Newbest to Great Neck and Manhattan Salons with names I cannot remember...I ended up following Mira and to Concept E and never left. First of all, 4 chairs? Not quite. Clearly it is not a huge salon, but it certainly does NOT have an Eastern European feel. Clearly the reviewer has not been in to some of the houses in this neighborhood or "real" Eastern European Salons ..try 108th Street in Rego Park for that. Even Mira will tell you. Concept E feels like lower Manhattan. I stayed there with great hair stylists and colorists like Vinny because...well..I"m getting top of the line work near my home. Yes , there is a wonderfully homey feel but sorry, too many of the clients generally are too busy working with full time careers to sit around and gossip for hours. Where did she come up with this? John is always pleasant and has a great eye along with all of the stylists. Vinny as amazing with color and cut. Nicole Russo needs to get her facts straight. What's I find so wrong about her perception is that the client base she "thinks" Concept E serves wouldn't set foot in Concept E. Maybe she was sleeping when she walked in...LOL. . Maybe she should have taken two minutes to talk to the great staff at this salon. Mira is a find but so are the hairdressers. Concept E ROCKS! I would give a 5 to Concept E as well as Mira over all but a 2 for this review. Just way off . Sincerely, a long time customer...NY metro area born and raised!

Laura
Laura

As a native of Queens, I am always happy to see us get some good exposure. However, the language used in this article suggests an underlying bias against Queens that is so typical of TONY. For example, is it "worth the trek to the outer borough"? Queens is actually not as far away as some people are led to believe! We are AMAZING and chock full of so many cool places. We are the MOST DIVERSE county in THE USA! if people can come to Queens from all over the world, surely a subway ride can't be too onerous!

Rachel Johnson
Rachel Johnson

This is a great article, I love the suggestions!

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