The Milky Wave Story


Milky Wave Tie-Dye is:  Lazaros Tselikidis and Jessica Tselikidis

Helen Meets Niko

Our founder, Helen Gist-Tselikidis, was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, before moving to New York City at age 20. She studied acting at American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  For the next 17 years she actively pursued an acting career, but to no avail.

In 1980, she met a handsome Greek man at a bar where she was working.  It was love at first sight; his name was Niko.  Born in Therme, Greece, a tiny village outside the city of Thessaloniki, Niko lived there until 1971 when his sister convinced him to move to America to be with the rest of the family in New York City. He took the American name, Nick.

Helen and Nick were married June 6, 1981, and in September of 1981, they welcomed their first and only son, Lazaros.  For the next 6 years, Nick worked in his family‘s restaurant while Helen worked as an improvisational teacher in addition to her job alongside Nick at the restaurant.

Helen Learns to Tie Dye

In 1987, Helen learned how to tie-dye a spiral and a heart from her niece, and Milky Wave was born.  Tie-dye filled the creative void that acting had left.  She used her tax refund check to buy shirts and dyes, and she and Niko began selling their creations on the streets of New York at the famed Columbus Avenue flea market.

In 1989, tie-dye became all the rage, that was the best year ever!  No one else was making their own tie-dyes.  Nick had come into his own, and began creating new designs that had not been seen in the current market. They were contracted by E.G. Smith to dye 1,400 dozen pairs of socks per season. Boxes of socks overran their small apartment, so much so that Lazaros had to sleep on them for months!

Unfortunately, they were soon flushed out of the Columbus Ave market by a big tie-dye manufacturer. Their profits were cut in half, so they packed up their wares and moved down to Houston Street at the Soho Market where they did well for the next three years.

The Family Moves to Virginia

In 1992, Helen and Nick decided it was time to move to Virginia because they didn’t want Lazaros to grow up in the City.  They soon found out that it was going to be difficult to make enough money locally to sustain their livelihood in Virginia. It seemed that the conservative area where they were selling kept closing doors on them, so they started taking turns trekking back to Houston Street in New York every weekend.  They had no money for a car, so they had to go by Greyhound Bus.

It was on one of these trips to NY that Nick met a blue haired designer, whom he thought was an F.I.T. student, needing tie-dyed fabric. It turned out, that blue haired kid was Todd Oldham.  This association brought not only money and bragging rights (and deadlines!) but also prestige to Milky Wave. Suddenly, there were celebrities wearing Milky Wave dyed Haute Couture. Helen and Nick were even eventually asked to dye fabrics for the interiors of the Hotel at South Beach and the  Mohegan Sun.

Eventually, they found the Sperryville Emporium in Virginia, where for years they flourished.  Alas, the Emporium was sold, but as they say, when one door closes, another one opens. Nick began selling at the Antique Store at the intersection of 29 and 17 in Opal (which is now the McDonalds). Helen gave up a lot of the selling part of the business to dedicate some time to her passion for acting at the Virginia Renaissance Faire.

The Next Generation

Lazaros joined the tie-dye business at age 17 and apprenticed under his parents.  Business was slow going at first, and Nick moved to several locations on Rt. 29 until Milky Wave found a home at Pete’s Park & Eat. Pete and Maria Linardakis have been a godsend. When the building behind their restaurant became vacant, they offered it to Nick. It was wonderful to finally have a store that allowed them to stay out of the elements.

Meanwhile, Lazaros had met a girl in high school, Jessica, and again, it was love at first sight. Jessica helped with the business when she was between jobs, and joined full time in 2009 after their son, Niko, named after his grandfather, was born.

In early 2006, Nick was diagnosed with stage four bladder cancer. He fought hard to hang on. He made dyes even through radiation and chemotherapy.  Lazaros and Helen’s sister, Joanna, worked for free while Helen cared for her beloved husband. He died around Thanksgiving, 2006, and was buried in a tie-dyed casket. Six years later, Helen passed away suddenly in the summer of 2012. The family and many friends are grieving the loss, while Lazaros and Jessica step up to continue the family business.

A Bright and Colorful Future

Today, Milky Wave is considered a landmark in the area. Lazaros has followed in his mother and father’s footsteps, creating fabulous new designs and mastering techniques that he has learned both from his parents and from other influences. Jessica is grateful to have a career that allows her to be home and spend so much time with her son, Niko.

It’s been a long journey for Milky Wave Tie Dye, and not always an easy one. They’ve had ups and downs, struggles and strife, but they have made it through with the strength of their family bond, and their love for the work they do.  Every shirt, every tapestry, every piece that they create, is made with much care and love.  This isn’t just a business to the Tselikidis family, they eat, sleep, breathe, and live tie-dye.

 Posted by at 10:55 am