Meet Your Neighbor: Ana Molinari & The Palm Avenue Empire
August 28, 2012
Posted By: Megan Greenberg
Hey Donald Trump ...it’s time to start considering early retirement because there’s a new mogul taking over and, believe it or not, she’s got a more camera worthy coif than you do.
Ana Molinari has been taking over downtown bit by bit for some time now. As the go-to hot spot for all things hair and makeup, Ana’s reputation for unbelievable talent and artistry has been several decades in the making. Ana’s other businesses, bridal boutique La Mariee and model agency Molinari Models and Talent, have been part of the Ana Empire for many years, but now these shops have new real estate along the uber-charming Palm Avenue, expanding Ana Molinari’s from a one-stop shop to a three-store superpower.
Most Sarasotans know that Ana Molinari’s is more than a salon. Ana’s offers spa services - everything from facials to pedicures, as well as any hair treatment you could ever need, plus all of the products to go with it - like the Alpha and Omega of hair care: Kerastase. Plus, Ana supplies a boatload of unique and gorgeous items from one-of-a-kind clothing to super chic hats to bright and shiny baubles, including one of my favorite pieces - a $30 watch that looks like a million bucks that girls stop me on the street to admire. Ana has had her foothold in the Sarasota industry for over 30 years and there’s no wondering why. Her talents and hard work are unmatched as are her products and services. Plus, they offer champagne. Always a win. And Ana has a super sexy accent. And with her signature red lips and blunt cut bangs, this powerhouse is a beacon of all things fashionable. I don’t know about you, but when I’m dealing with the betterment of my head - whether it’s skincare, makeup or a new hairdo - it certainly puts me at ease to know that the woman in charge is not right on trend, she’s past it. She’s an artist. She makes the trends.
I sat down with the three women at the helm of the expanded Molinari mega-ship. Ana Molinari, of course, who was eager to chat about her love of her business and the hard work that goes into making it a success. Kara Nally, manager and bridal consultant at La Mariee - which, by the way, have you ever heard this girl sing? Trump may be retiring because of Ana but Christina Aguilera is about to move to Antarctica because of Kara. And thank you for that, Kara. One more season of The Voice and I was going to turn a microphone into a shank and shove it in my ear. I also chat with crazy-talented makeup artist, Eri Vincent, who has been the manager of Molinari Models for some time but finally has a storefront to call her own. Oh, and don’t let the ‘Models’ title fool you - this storefront is a full on makeup retail spot where you can buy the best goods available and then have Eri give you lesson on how to apply it.
PS - there’s champagne available upon request at any of these stores, which, I think may be the key to Ana’s bubbling success. That and her signature red lipstick, of course.
Ana’s is big on team work. Like, BIG on team work. “If i have to clean the bathrooms, I will. If somebody needs to paint the new locations, we will. We are here to work and make something happen for all of us!!”
Megan: Where are you from originally?
Ana: Lima, Peru. (ps - Ana is pronounced like ah-nah. Think Anna but with a sexy, Peruvian accent.)
Megan: What inspired you to get into hairdressing?
Ana: Since I was 5-years-old, I’ve always been obsessed with hair and makeup. My father was a beauty chemist who would have me try all of the products.
Megan: How did Ana Molinari’s start?
Ana: It started 31 years ago with salons in Longboat then Siesta Key. I came to Palm Avenue 17 years ago and have been in same location ever since. About eight years ago, we launched our Lakewood Ranch locations, which was one of the first storefronts in Lakewood Ranch.
Megan: What inspired your modeling agency?
Ana: I was just trying to be helpful. If I saw a model type I would say ‘'You should be a model” (Megan note - Ana is always right. Always. If she tells you that you should be a model, you better just start modeling. If she tells you that you’d make a great hot dog, then you should buy some buns) But there weren’t any agencies in town. So, a couple of years ago I thought why not open one myself? Plus, my son, Sergio, is an entertainment lawyer, so he was able to help with contracts and other legal details in the business.
Megan: What inspired your bridal boutique?
Ana: It started when my daughter, Fabiola, was getting married but couldn’t find a dress that she was truly in love with, her dream dress. We had to go to Tampa and other towns and I thought why is there just not a place here?? Fabiola (Beckmann) is now in charge of coordinating all of the wedding groups that come through salon. She is the reason we are so busy doing weddings. She is the beginning, the key to the door.
Are you seeing the theme? Ana needs something so she creates it. Essentially, Ana just makes shit happen. She does. She needed a local bridal boutique - voila! La Mariee was born. No modeling agency? No problem, she’ll just open one up herself. I’m trying to convince her that Sarasota is desperately lacking a miniature pony farm. I’m hoping to see Megan’s Minis by Christmas.
Megan: You now have three businesses along the same street - what is the most rewarding and the most difficult part about this?
Ana: It’s all rewarding. It’s so easy to manage when everything is so close by. Our Lakewood Ranch location may be farther away but it’s managed by the amazing Frederique McCrary, who has been part of the team for ten years, so I’m not concerned. The only challenge is pleasing the client every single time.
Megan: Tell me more about your LWR location.
Ana: It’s a very large space, 5000 square feet, with a gorgeous spa. We can do big parties, too. We can close the salon, if necessary, to give a whole day of beauty for large companies or huge wedding parties. We have enough people on staff to make sure that each client is receiving individualized attention.
Megan: What do you offer that sets you apart?
Ana: We are all artists. We don't teach everybody to do same thing, everybody has their own artistic voice. We learn the technique and then do what we want with that technique. And we believe in each other. Plus we have the highest quality products and we are always learning new things. Just Monday I took a class on how to work with the newest extensions.
Megan: Why do you think you are so successful?
Ana: Hard work.
So, let’s chat with Kara and Eri, the ladies behind La Mariee and Molinari Models, shall we?
La Mariee opened eight years ago next door to Ana Molinari Salon. Recently, this beautiful bridal shop moved a few stores down to the corner of Palm Avenue and McNash. You can’t miss it. It’s takes up the entire corner with huge glass windows that show off their exquisite items - from dresses to veils to unique vintage jewelry to the entire line of Spanx. Including Spanx thongs. Yup, thongs. I’m not really sure how that works. I’m expecting Spanx mittens and spanx scarves soon because nobody likes chubby fingers that could be tamed into submission with a little spandex.
Megan: What do you love about your job?
Kara: I truly love being involved in one of the best milestones in someone’s life.
Megan: Who’s your favorite bridal designer?
Kara: I’m a Romona Keveza girl. All the way. But, it really depends on the bride and the style of the wedding. Erin Cole is also absolutely gorgeous. We have some great designers. Oh and our bridesmaids dresses come in so many colors and sizes and shapes. And we also carry the best designers for veils and accessories, like Homa and Malice Henderson.
Megan: How did you get involved with La Mariee?
Kara: I have worked for Ana for 7 years. I was hairdresser but kept getting sidetracked with the bridal stuff. When a position opened for La Mariee, I jumped on it. I’ve always loved bridal everything. As a kid I was always flipping through my parent's wedding photos and as a teen I could always be found visiting antique bridal stores.
Megan: Besides your amazing bridal selections, anything you want the public to know?
Kara: Yes! You don't have to be a bride to come in. Come pick something from our full line of Spanx. We also have evening wear and great accessories. Oh, and we offer champagne!!
Megan: Was it easy moving from the smaller location to this huge space?
Kara: Well, the space become available, so we went crazy. We moved everything overnight and painted and put it all together in one week. The larger space lets us carry more items like new lines of jewelry and new lines of dresses.
Megan: What sets you apart from other bridal boutiques?
Kara: I think we have a more couture feeling. We have dresses from all over world. We carry silks and linens, plus we cater to all price points.
I’m about as ‘bride-y’ as a leather sofa, but you can bet your rump that I’m going to be at La Mariee for the next month sauntering around in my Spanx, sipping champagne and trying on loads of vintage jewelry. This place is so pretty. So, so, so pretty. I’m about as into weddings as I am into food poisoning, but this store is so freaking gorgeous, with such a great manager, in the best spot in downtown, that I’m really considering buying a dress or two and wearing them ad nauseum until one of you makes me stop. For real, this store is gorgeous. Pop in, have some bubbly and chat with Kara. Oh, and tell her to sing for you while you’re at it. Check out her Facebook Fan Page - she is amazeballs.
Molinari Models and Talent has been theeeee spot for talent for years now. You've seen their work on the covers of SRQ and Sarasota Magazine, as well as many other well known publications in town. You know those mega-hotties at Chillounge that are always dressed in wild fashions with the most gorgeous makeup and awesome hairdos? Yeah, that’s all Molinari right there. And a lot of it is Eri’s doing. This girl’s makeup skills are so extreme she’s practically a ninja. A makeup wielding ninja. Wait, she’s part Japanese - perhaps she’s more samurai?
Megan: What does this agency do?
Eri: Well, we are a modeling AND a talent agency. So, we’re looking for kids, adults and teens for commercials, print ads, fashions shows and other opportunities.
Megan: And you’re also a makeup store?!?!
Eri: Yes we are! I’ve been doing makeup for Ana for years - for weddings, date nights, models, and so on - but now that we have the storefront it makes it a bit easier to be a retail store that offers lessons and services. Want a smokey eye for a big night out? I can do that! Need to learn how to apply fake eyelashes? I’m happy to show you how.
Megan: So people can come in for any makeup related need?
Eri: Of course! You can come in and purchase items from our extensive selection of products and I can show you how to apply it right there or just help you pick out what’s right for you.
Megan: What are some of your favorite lines in the store?
Eri: Right now one of my fave lines is this new Athena 7-minute lift. It’s botox in a bottle. It’s amazing. We are about to get Kevin Aucoin, who is the best of the best of the best in makeup. He’s an artist who uses and creates the best tools, colors and product combos. His stuff is extremely high quality and the packaging is gorgeous. He did the makeup for Sex And The City.
Sex And The City? Enough said. Since you are already going to be at Ana’s getting your hair done and then down at La Mariee trying on tiaras and silk gloves, pop on into see Eri. One look at her flawless face and you’ll know that you need her in your life. Personally, I’m obsessed with makeup. I’m usually doing it wrong, like wearing green eyeliner and applying so much blush that clowns are embarrassed for me, but I’m obsessed nonetheless. I could just stare at Eri’s face for hours. She has the most perfect face of makeup I have ever seen. It probably doesn’t hurt that she has a perfect face underneath. PS - Eri is joining the Sarasota Day team as our Incompass Style correspondent. Look for her blogs about tips, product reviews and trends!!
If you are already a loyal Ana fan, then none of this comes as big news to you. If you’ve been privy to the many services offered at Ana Molinari’s then you definitely have already been back for more. You know what they say ..Once you go Ana you never go back. If you aren’t already an Ana devotee, please do pop in for hair care, manicures, facials, hats, clothes, makeup, you name it. The Molinari empire does it all.