SUCCESS STORY – A lifetime of defining modern hair for men and women

When you read about a &#8220hometown boy makes good,” no one fits the title better than Flushing-raised and worldly-successful Michael Mazzei, owner of the prestigious Nubest Salon and Spa, in Manhasset, Long Island, who recently sold his hair care products to L'Oreal for hundreds of millions of dollars.
It was not an easy journey. Born in Italy, near Naples, and brought by his family to Queens, he began his acculturation to America at Marie Curie J.H.S., at 14-years-old and barely speaking English.
&#8220I was taken under the wing of the girls at the school, and they taught me the ways of America and the language,” Mazzei admits.
It was an auspicious beginning, since he made his fortune making women look fabulous.
Going back to his roots, Michael discussed with me his fondest childhood memories. &#8220I remember spending time with my uncle, who was a barber near Naples. He was the ‘guru' of the town, with everyone coming to him for advice and showing him great respect - it left an indelible impression on me,” Mazzei admitted.
&#8220My mother desperately wanted to come to America,” he said, &#8220because she saw it as the land of opportunity. I kiss the ground each day in thankfulness that we did come.”
&#8220I recognized that I always wanted to be like my uncle, he explained, &#8220I was always good with my hands. It was always fun to work with the girls' hair and I became passionate about doing it.”
So off he went to hairdressing school and became an assistant, washing hair in an upscale salon in Queens. Soon, he began setting hair and being aggressive about getting clients for the salon and jealous hairdressers got him fired because once he did a client's hair, they only wanted him.
He believes that being fired was a blessing in disguise. He quickly got another job on Bell Boulevard in Windsor Park and felt like his career was on fire!
He moved to a more upscale salon on Union Turnpike in Jamaica Estates where he was soon doing Fred Trump's wife's hair and many judges' wives. Again, he was so successful, that he decided to take the leap to create a salon of his own.
With the help of a beauty supply company, hair product distributors and a loan of $2,500 from his father, his dream came true but it was only the beginning. Again successful, in a few years he sold this location and opened a salon in Manhattan.
Mazzei honestly shared with me, &#8220It was the days of Studio 54 and I got into that crowd - a wild time - but I wasn't happy at the salon on 72nd Street and Third Avenue. I missed the camaraderie and loyalty of my Queens customers.
&#8220I simply wasn't making the money I had before, so I sold my Manhattan salon and opened again in Queens and Long Island.” His salon, Ultissima, in the Bay Terrace Shopping Center became one of 14 salons. He also opened a beauty school, Ultissima Beauty Institute, in Flushing above Woolworth.
But he found it was not fulfilling - he was disillusioned because it was too difficult to control the quality of so many locations, and sold all the locations and school. So once again, he began over - but always with a vision.
This time he had his eye on one 20,000-square-foot location on the &#8220Miracle Mile” in Manhasset - the former Best & Co. building. He took on a partner, and they worked 24/7 to make it a success.
&#8220It took a couple of years to start making money, but at 32, I bought out my partners and devoted myself non-stop, whatever it took to make it successful.
&#8220I was determined to stop the traffic of women having to go to Manhattan. My salon and spa did that,” he said as he proudly recounted how he joined with another &#8220Queens boy,” Leland Hirsch, a master colorist. Leland was a consultant to all the major color product companies, and worked with Michael for 16 years.
The buzz began between 1976-78, when Vogue and The New York Times wrote that they were one of two sophisticated supermarket salons in the country, with only Kenneth in Manhattan similar in quality and service. They were made! Women flocked to Nubest & Co.
A few years later, they had the idea of creating a color shampoo. Leland worked with chemists to create ARTec Worldwide, designed to keep the tone of the color between appointments. Then followed several more products that achieved national distribution after nine years of testing.
Offers started coming in to buy the product from Johnson & Johnson, Este Lauder and Bristol-Myers, but it wasn't until L'Oreal made them an offer they couldn't refuse - taking three years to make the deal - that they sold their hair care products for nine figures.
Michael's advice for entrepreneurs is to have a vision and a passion, to stay focused, do what you love and market and promote your business.
Today you can find Michael still working on clients and overseeing his &#8220kingdom,” now employing many of his family members.
Recently honored by the Nassau County Museum of Art, he gives back to his community by donating to many organizations.
This is a man who gets it - giving back, loving his work, and never forgetting to fulfill his original passion each day by giving each client the best - maybe that is why he named the salon Nubest.

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