Home SHOWS unlicensed nail techs and an ‘absentee’ CEO

unlicensed nail techs and an ‘absentee’ CEO

by Ohio Digital News

Embattled nail salon Glosslab has been scrambling for cash despite celebrity backers that include former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, The Chainsmokers and rapper Lil’ Yachty — and some insiders claim the company is in danger of shutting down for good, The Post has learned.

The New York-based chain — which has touted a water-free, hygiene-minded approach to manicures and monthly memberships for unlimited access to its salons — has been mired in chaos under founder and CEO Rachel Apfel Glass, according to former employees.

As reported by The Post, Glosslab has lately been accused by landlords of skipping hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent, even as it has shuttered stores. Insiders blame an overheated and chaotic expansion under Glass — with multiple sources claiming she was nowhere to be found even as the company unraveled.

“She had no interest in the day-to-day operations of this business,” one former employee said of Glass, asking not to be identified. “Rachel was fully absentee. Her interest was in picking out nail polish colors for Instagram posts.”

Glosslab, lead by CEO Rachel Apfel Glass, has been sued by landlords for not paying rent. Scott Roth/Invision/AP

Another former executive said, “Rachel was very interested in doing podcasts and being a working mom … She was trying to build a personal brand but neglecting the brand she was running.”

Glass declined to be interviewed for this article. A spokesperson for Glosslab said former employees’ allegations that Glass was “hands off” and “absentee” were “a very inaccurate characterization” of the executive.

Glosslab recently defaulted on a $5 million loan from a key partner — Joshua Coba, the co-founder of publicly-held European Wax Center, sources said.

Last year, Coba bought seven Glosslab salons, becoming its first franchisee and agreeing to expand the franchise nationwide. But now the stores he bought are affiliated with New York company in name only, former employees tell The Post.

“It’s a delicate situation,” another former employee said, adding that without Coba’s support the company has a “bleak future.”

Asked about the rift with Coba and the $5 million loan default, a Glosslab spokesperson did not deny the allegation, but called it “inaccurate,” declining to elaborate. Coba didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Chainsmokers declined to comment. The Post reached out to Culpo and Lil’ Yachty for comment.

The company once had 21 salons and 20 in the pipeline, but today there are just 14 locations. Google Maps

Faced with a dire shortage of licensed nail technicians, Glosslab has resorted to costly and bizarre measures — including buying Uber rides to send workers from Manhattan to understaffed salons in Westport, Conn., and Hoboken, NJ — a roundtrip that could easily top $300, former employees told The Post.

In addition, New York-based technicians were handed daily cash bonuses of $150 to $200 to cover shifts in newly opened salons across state lines, sources said.

The bigger problem, according to insiders: The company has long fielded complaints that it hired underqualified and unlicensed technicians — who kept their jobs despite mishaps and concerns raised by customers, employees and city inspectors alike.

Glosslab was so desperate for workers that “if nail techs had friends or family that wanted to work, we would have them train at one of the locations alongside another licensed technician,” a former employee told The Post. “They’d train for four or five days and then be sent to Glosslab.”

According to another former employee, “We had numerous instances of nail techs cutting clients, or giving them botched manicures. When clients would complain, the company would throw money at the problem by giving them a free manicure or even free memberships in hopes they wouldn’t leave a bad review.”

A Glosslab spokesperson responded that “all of Glosslab’s technicians are licensed,” and that, “As is common practice in the industry, Glosslab offers free services to correct manicures if a customer isn’t satisfied.”

Yelp reviews of Glosslab include photos of customers’ nails bleeding post-manicure. Another unnamed worker told The Post that things like this often happened because many of the nail technicians at the company weren’t licensed.

It wasn’t just customers that Glosslab was deceiving — but also prospective investors as the chain scrambled to raise cash, according to sources.

“Whenever an investor would be visiting the store the company would place fake appointments in our books so we would look busy, even going as far as having employees of the company sit in and get their nails done to give the illusion of a successful business,” a former employee claimed.

“Many managers would be upset about that because after the investor would leave they would delete all the fake appointments out of the books,” the source added. “These appointments took up slots that actual paying customers could have taken causing that store’s metrics to be down for that day.”

A Glosslab spokesperson responded that “this is untrue,” adding, “Glosslab pays its staff for every appointment. Staff were never asked to provide services for which they were not compensated.”

Rachel Glass founded Glosslab in 2018 in NYC. Getty Images

Glass was recently “looking for more investors, but [she’s] concerned about sharing why there’s so many closures,” added a worker, who was laid off last year and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

As for Coba, he doesn’t pay royalties and has severed ties as a partner after Glosslab defaulted on his loan. Coba stepped down from EWC’s board in 2021 and runs his own franchising consulting business.

“Glosslab is not supporting him as a franchisee because they don’t have the resources to,” said a former employee. “They are not doing any of the things that a franchisor does.”

Insiders say the company began spiraling out of control during the pandemic after it partnered with The Lab, a Brooklyn-based angel investment firm. Co-founded by Andy Stenzler, who started the Rumble boxing fitness chain, The Lab brought in celebrity investors and steered Glosslab towards aggressive expansion.

At one point, Glosslab had 40 leases, including 20 operating salons — it’s down to 14 now — and another 20 under construction, sources told The Post.

“Our rent bill for stores we were building was as high if not higher than the stores we had,” a former employee said. By 2022, Glosslab “was already out of the business of running stores and only in the business of opening stores and that’s ultimately what went wrong,” the employee added.

As of last year, Glosslab reportedly raised “roughly $20 million” Glass said in a Fox Business interview and had opened 21 locations across Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington, DC.

Despite the chaos and the dire cash shortage, Glass last year hired a consultant at about $8,000 per month to run her social media accounts, according to the employee.

“We convinced her that there would be a mutiny since she had just laid off corporate staff, but then she’d decide that our next big thing needs to be retail products but we had neither the budget nor the staff or resources to invest in it. It wasn’t a plan, it was a whim,” the employee added.

Aspiring Glosslab workers would only be trained for four or five days before offering nail services, while New York law required a 250-hour course.

Some salons were shut down by local health inspectors. In Washington DC, the Dupont Circle and Market Circle salons were temporarily closed in November and have since closed for good, according to a report.

If health inspectors ever showed up at New York salons, workers were instructed to “give them the runaround and say you don’t know anything and you just work here,” according to a laid-off worker.

Another former employee who worked at a Manhattan location in 2022 recalled a tense visit from a city inspector who confronted staff over their lack of license documentation. According to New York law, nail technicians must complete a 250-hour course and pass written and practical exams. Their licenses must be posted on the premises.

“He demanded to see at least pictures of some of the nail tech’s licenses,” the source said. “They were panicking in the basement over it. The inspector ended up staying for hours in our store speaking to the director of operations trying to get to the bottom of the issue.”

Nevertheless, “After that incident, nothing changed,” the source added. “There was no company push or initiative for all nail tech’s to be licensed.”

A Glosslab spokesperson responded: “Like most companies in most industries, managers at Glosslab take the lead when inspections occur so employees can focus on their jobs.”

Glosslab was paying rent on as many as 40 locations at one time with only half that amount open for business, a former employee told The Post. Scott Roth/Invision/AP

Constant cash crunches likewise spurred shortage of basic supplies at salons, including gloves and nail files for technicians, insiders said.

“The company would drop off cheap drug store gloves and not the medical grade gloves we usually received, because these gloves were cheap,” a source said. “The acetone would eat through the gloves and cause holes in them mid service with the client.”

A Glosslab spokesperson said reports of short supplies and lesser-quality gloves were “untrue.”

As Glosslab’s financial woes worsened, the landlord of the Darien Commons shopping center sued in October to evict Glosslab for failing to pay its rent for several months last year.

Glosslab has skipped out on other leases, The Post earlier reported, including its retail space at 401 Third Ave. in Manhattan’s upscale Murray Hill neighborhood, which displayed a public notice from its landlord alleging that Glosslab owes it $146,542 in back rent.

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