NEW YORK — The idea for the blue and pink spray-painted motorcycles in the window of the new Ricky’s NYC on Fifth Avenue came to Todd Kenig late one night. So did the concept of showcasing boxes of Mr. Bubble alongside Mr. Bubble pajamas, a previous window design.

Health and beauty remains at the core of the growing network of family-owned shops — although that’s not obvious at first glance. Ricky’s windows will soon pay homage to Scooby-Doo.

Kenig and his fiancée, Carmen Roman, have "funkified" Ricky’s with neon lights, retro merchandise and pulsing music. So declared Kenig Wednesday, at the grand opening of the company’s 10th Manhattan site and largest store yet.

On Fifth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets the 5,700-square-foot space, plays out on two floors and is the second Ricky’s to include a hair salon, a feature being considered for other units. However, assured Kenig, the cuts and color offered will not be your usual trim. "There are too many salons, we want to do something ‘out there.’"

Kenig’s brother Ricky is the store’s namesake, but he has been taking a less visible role as he devotes himself to creative product development. Their father squares off the four-pillar ownership team. Roman and Todd Kenig are primarily guiding the growth.

Once a discount city drugstore, in the past five years, Ricky’s has morphed into a "comfort store," explained Kenig, sitting with Roman in the new store’s three-chair salon. "You really need nothing [here] but you have to have something." He said they discovered it no longer paid to sell prescriptions, boxes of Tide or bottles of water for a 20-cent markup with national chains like CVS and Rite Aid now competing on every corner. So in came the makeup, wild wigs, face and body products and vast selection of hair care. Also sprinkled into the mix are respective "zones" with candy, candles, fluffy slippers, novelty gifts and books, black lights and even an XXX adult toys nook.

"We want to offer something for everyone in the family," Kenig said. Despite the smattering of adult merchandise, Ricky’s presents a fun, lighthearted atmosphere with ceilings of blue sky and clouds and neon strips running up the handrail on the stairway. There is even a theater-like marquis hanging from the center of the first-floor ceiling. The flooring alternates from pink and blue squares with sparkles to shiny silver aluminum to polished hardwood, depending on the zone. A pinball machine in the candy zone bats at gumballs.Five years ago, Ricky’s was operating three stores registering sales of $3 million to $5 million. Now with 10 Manhattan shops, one in Scarsdale and at least one planned for Los Angeles next spring, Kenig expects sales to reach $20 million to $30 million in 2003. In the number of stores and size of store, "we want to go bigger and bigger and bigger," Kenig said. Eventually, that could include a Ricky’s in every college town and in other metropolitan areas such as Miami. In five years, there could be 30 to 50 Ricky’s.

A mainstay of the beauty department is Ricky’s private Mattése color line, which is given ample space in counters along the left wall at the store’s entrance. Last year, Ricky’s introduced another exclusive brand called Fierce but it was discontinued to focus on Mattése, which "is still on fire," Kenig said. Other beauty items include Frownies, Dirty Girl lip glosses, Ben Nye glitter, Perfumeria Gal lip balms and Fira cosmetics palettes.

At the rear of the first floor is the bath department with wooden fixtures and flooring and a hefty assortment of brands, including Blue Q, Dirty Girl, Queen, Earth Therapeutics, Kiss My Face, Jason, Jack Black, Archipelago Botanicals and Masada. Customer-blended oils are also offered.

Upstairs in the salon area, there is also a broad product range that includes MOP, Difi, Sorbie, Hair Sexy Concepts, Nexus, Multiplicity, Terax, Curl Friends, Aura, Fantasia IC and Lamaur. Redken, Paul Mitchell and Sebastian are expected to be added soon.

"We have the exact same product as Bendel’s," said Kenig, referring to the pricey uptown specialty store, "without the pressure or the attitude."

Here, said Kenig, "the merchandise is as eclectic as the customer, which includes everyone from conservative women to college students to drag queens."

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