Ray Beauty Supply has got to be one of the last old-school businesses left on 8th Avenue off Times Square. I've long admired their vintage sign, and their title, "King of Beauty," but I'd never gone inside until recently.
Ray has been here for over 50 years and their claim to fame is being "New York's Oldest Beauty Supply." Owned by the Mastrangelo family, who bought it from the Rays, it's a favorite of hairdressers, but they also sell to consumers. They've got everything--shampoos and cosmetics, wigs, hairdryers, clippers--everything.
At first glance, the staff looks a little intimidating, Bronx-style beauty supply guys posing in muscle shirts with baseball bats on their website, but I found them to be sweet as pie, helpful, and generous. Before making a sale, they'll give you free tips on how to deal with hair troubles and even print out recipes for DIY products you can make at home.
I suspect the angry reviews on Yelp might be due to the fact that this place, and its staff, probably does not suffer princesses gladly. Ray is King, after all, and this is not Sephora.
They've even got a "you break it, you bought it" sign--I haven't seen one of those in years. Hanging on chains from the ceiling it reads, "You open, you buy! You break, you buy!" Definitely not Sephora.
As a bonus, in the front window and in back, the store has a small collection of antique barber furnishings--a chair and a towel warmer, plus a handful of candy cane-striped poles, including one dating back to 1903. If you're in the market for an antique barber pole, inquire.
Otherwise, go in and buy some beauty supplies.