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For Scoop’s Stefani Greenfield, being fired helped her reevaluate her career goals.
This story first appeared in the November 14, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Sometimes being fired is the best thing that can happen to a person. Just ask Stefani Greenfield, co-owner and creative director of Scoop.
It was after she was let go as vice president of design and merchandising at Esprit that Greenfield conceived the concept for what has grown into a successful chain of specialty stores for women and men.
“It’s a funny thing about being fired,” she said. “Back in 1995, I referred to the termination of my employment as mutual, as I had no idea of what my fashion future would hold. Today, 15 stores later with a small degree of success under my belt, I take pride in confidently proclaiming I was fired.”
After she left Esprit, she and her now-partner Uzi Ben-Abraham met for dinner in Manhattan’s SoHo — a meeting that resulted in “conceiving our first-born Scoop.”
Greenfield said that although she had many offers — she had spent six years at Donna Karan and had worked on the launch of DKNY — “my internal compass was not pointing me in the direction of a hierarchy in a big company.”
Knowing that Ben-Abraham had “created a fabulous store called Atrium, I began to ramble on and on and on about this vision,” she recalled. “During my work hiatus, I spent hours Rollerblading around Union Square market asking myself what I wanted to do with my work life. Over and over, I kept returning to the same place. People have always said to me: ‘I’d love to shop in your closet.’ Maybe I should open a store like my closet.”
Greenfield’s closet was stocked full of everything from designer wares to vintage pieces. “For every one piece of [Azzedine] Alaïa that I bought instead of my food, there were 20 from Canal Jeans. And my electric bill-paying was glamorously rerouted to my favorite vintage haunt, Cheap Jack’s. I love retail, it was definitely in my blood. Every day after high school, I worked at a store called American High on 63rd and Madison, which remains one of my favorite inspirations. It was beyond brilliantly merchandised and branded with a fabulous logo.”
The owner and creator, Howard Himelstein, she said, was also the founder of Camp Beverly Hills.
When you walked into American High, Greenfield said, “you knew that you were in the right place. Cleverly modeled after a high school gym, everyone hung out on the bleachers and shopped amidst the contagious energy that I still remember 20 years later. This was a true tipping point.”
Greenfield dreamed of “having a store that would be the retail equivalent of that bar on ‘Cheers’ where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came, designed to emulate the ultimate fashion editor’s closet. Make it cool, but not uptight, provide fantastic service and try and create my own contagious energy.”
By the time the dinner with Ben-Abraham ended, Greenfield said, the two of them had decided to be partners and make her dream become a reality. “My eye, his retail background, as well as a location on lower Broadway at Spring Street, it was all happening,” she said.
Although Ben-Abraham already had the site, the SoHo of 1996 was a different place than it is today. It was essentially “a foreign country,” she said, and represented one of the challenges the store would have to overcome to survive and prosper.
“We had a clear vision of how we wanted the store to look: polished concrete floors — they were cheap, who knew it would become an ‘in’ thing someday — stainless steel fixtures, a seating area, an environment that was all about the contents,” she said. “If you removed the clothes and hung paintings, it was a gallery, or if you added place settings, maybe a hot new restaurant.”
Greenfield knew the store needed to be “all about the product, merchandised by color, classification or trend, never by vendor. The fixtures were there to help tell a story and our team of fashion experts would serve as your storytellers, navigating your head-to-toe fashion journey.”
This was the “foundation” of wardrobe building and creating a new concept of ‘the ultimate closet,'” she said. “It was all about the must-have items that could stand alone or be worn together to achieve your head-to-toe total look.”
With the merchandising plan and location set, it was time to come up with a name.
“The name had to signify who we were: What’s up, what’s happening, what’s the deal? What’s the scoop? Scoop, how fabulous. Back then, it was novel, fresh, original, perfect. And can you believe it only took us three years in business before people stopped calling up asking for today’s flavor and if we sold ice cream by the pint,” she said.
“It wasn’t like we opened up and were a megahit,” she added. “Nobody came.”
But Greenfield persevered by “never looking to my right or to my left — keep your focus straight ahead. To innovate is much more important then to imitate. Evolution is growth, 12 years and 15 stores later it is only the merchandise that has changed, but our vision will always remain the same.”
From Day One, Greenfield and her team have sought to provide Scoop’s customers with differentiated merchandise. “A lot of our customers shop together, they end up at the same dinner parties. Do you want to be at the same party wearing the same print dress as everybody else?” For Scoop, it’s about “taking a brand and looking to do something special [that’s] going to work for your customer. We look through the garbage to find the next great thing. It’s a matter of how deep do you want to dig.”
Greenfield said orders are written individually for each of Scoop’s stores. “In every single demographic, we have a different customer and we have to know her DNA. There are some areas where women work and some where they’re chief executives of their households. It really depends on taking the temperature within each community. That’s what makes it special.”
Greenfield and Ben-Abraham continue to seek out markets where Scoop can expand and the company plans to soon enter California, she said. “I think that a Scoop woman, man or kid exists all over the world. There are certain genres of Scoop that will work in certain areas better than others, but people are people. They know the celebrities, what’s happening in fashion, and maybe from a price-point level they can’t buy everything, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know. A Scoop can live anywhere. Scoop is an energy, it’s a lifestyle and there are a million different lifestyles in the world.”
On the matter of runway shows, Greenfield said she attends because they “start our creative ball rolling. It’s the best way to see what’s happening out there. Depending on the collection, it’s either something that we use for inspiration to set the tone, or something that we’re buying for a head-to-toe look. If you’re in this business at all, that’s where it all begins.”
She implored the gathering to get out from behind their desks and “inhale what’s happening around you. Take the temperature of what you see and inspires you, and use it. Teach your people, mentor your team, we have to train the next generation so we can retire. Listen, be interested, it’s far more fulfilling then trying to be interesting.”