Story is not just a store. “It comes from the perspective of a living magazine,” explains founder and owner Rachel Shechtman. “If a magazine tells stories by writing articles, we do the same by selling merchandise and brands around a subject matter.”
Themes have included His Story, focusing on men and curated by the editors of men’s glossy Details, and Love Story, with which Shechtman opened the shop in February 2012. Each “story” is temporary; the shop’s contents are changed every four to eight weeks, when, in a theatrical move, the windows are covered up, the set is struck and a new concept moves in. In a similar vein to themed pop-ups, items on sale are brought to life with evening events as varied as conversations with fashion designers such as Norma Kamali, chocolate and whiskey pairings, and pitch nights for budding entrepreneurs.
The result is a more personal retail experience, channelling the spirit of wonder that Mr Selfridge made famous. “People love the element of surprise when we open a new story and they see the reveal,” says Shechtman. She is also emphatic about the value of community; over 50 per cent of customers are locals and during summer months a lemonade stand is run by children from the neighbourhood. Shechtman describes the typical customer as being between six and 80 years old, while prices are from $5 to $5,000. And, best of all: “No one else is doing this here.”
Indeed, when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York City Economic Development Corporation ran a competition to find the city’s most innovative fashion retail and technology start-ups, they collaborated with Story and held the press conference there.
Actress Susan Sarandon strolled in one day and was soon lending Shechtman a table from her ping-pong establishment, SPiN, for the Wellness Story. The table took over a third of the shop – a brave move, but Shechtman is adamant that each concept should combine sales with experiences. The Making Things Story, for example, which hosted a range of DIY workshops and demonstrations, was 25 per cent merchandise and 75 per cent experience. Here, sponsorship becomes part of the revenue. “We partnered with General Electric for Making Things because they know a lot more about injection plastic moulding and laser cutting than I do,” she explains. The combination works: the store was profitable within a year.
Situated between Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, the 10th Avenue location shows how Midtown West is on its way up. The store is also within view of the High Line, which attracts some 4.4m visitors a year. And this summer’s theme was the decidedly tourist-friendly Made in America, with items ranging from premium men’s underwear by Flint and Tinder to all-natural soaps by Smith & Chang.
What’s in store for October? Well that, as they say, is another story. The Made in America theme has been extended and the next one is still very much under wraps.