In a new home, Neja is reinvented

Photograph of Neja's Nellie Muganda by Rose Hodges

Neighbors in search of Fillmore Street’s famed make-up artist to the stars Nellie Muganda needn’t look far. She’s followed her muse — and a more favorable lease — down the hill to 2118 Union Street.

“You see why I flew the coop,” she says, casting her eyes about the spacious new home of Neja Cosmetics Salon and Day Spa, her expanded and reinvented beauty business. The spot, down a few steps from street level and nestled between a women’s clothing shop and a beauty products store.

It’s twice the size of her Fillmore location — yet the rent is the same. And the space needed surprisingly little work to be transformed from the wine cave it previously housed. Still, Muganda is making it her own by adding new flooring, plants, warm wooden furniture and walls painted in rich shades of yellow, butterscotch and peach to transform her new location into the full service spa it is becoming.

The new spot easily holds the large array of lotions and potions that allow Muganda and her team of make-up artists to work their magic. It also boasts chairs for three hair stylists. And Muganda plans to offer spa manicures and pedicures soon — and, eventually, massages and facials in the spacious treatment rooms in the back.

All that wasn’t possible at her former location, at 1850 Fillmore, where the landlord limited the services she could offer to preclude competition with nearby businesses, which also rent from him. She could offer no manicures, no pedicures, no hair cutting or coloring — only styling and cosmetics. Ultimately, it was stifling.

“As an artist, I felt like I was stuffed in a duffel bag and couldn’t come out,” she says.

Now she is adding the finishing touches to her new home in preparation for a grand opening party on June 8.