NEW YORK — Lauren Bush Lauren is fulfilling her dream to be a shopkeeper.
On Wednesday, she will open Feed Shop and Café, her first bricks-and-mortar store that will sell accessories, coffees and pastries, with a portion of the proceeds going toward fighting childhood hunger.
Located at 55 Water Street in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, the shop features a seating area, allowing customers to enjoy a cup of coffee or simply hang out. Feed Heritage coffee blend roasted by La Colombe and select pastry offerings from City Bakery will be available for purchase.
The space will offer an assortment of Feed handbags and accessories, along with “Feed Finds,” a selection of other socially conscious items, providing customers varied opportunities to give back with their purchase. Feed’s in-store exclusive Brooklyn tote ($35), for example, will provide 10 meals with each purchase to Brooklyn schools. Merchandise, including coffee and pastries, retails from $2.50 for a cup of drip coffee to $250 for the Feed Kenya Bag.
With the purchase of every item in the Feed Shop and Café (products and food), meals will be directly donated to children in need. A ticker at checkout displays in real-time the number of total meals donated from items purchased to date at The Shop and Café.
Asked why she decided to open her first store in DUMBO, Lauren said she first heard about the Empire Stores Development through her partners at West Elm and Shinola, both of which have stores there.
“I’ve always personally loved DUMBO. It’s sort of iconic and New York and you look onto Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge and the cobblestone streets. I heard about this amazing development, and it’s always been on my radar,” she said. Besides Shinola and West Elm, everything else in the development is food. Vinegar Hill House will open a restaurant there at the end of the month and a food court will be in the middle of the center, said Lauren.
Measuring 1,000 square feet, half the store is a coffee bar and half is merchandise, she said. “Hopefully, it will be very organically interwoven. It will feature some of our core classic styles, the Feed burlap iconic bag [$80] and some of our new leather purses,” said Lauren, pointing to the leather bag for $175 and the clutch for $125, both in nude and black, each of which will provide 50 meals.
Lauren will also provide a selection of hand-picked goods. She explained that she chose from like-minded brands and companies that are making goods that are handmade, sustainable or give back in some way. For example, there will be handmade ceramics from A Question of Eagles; organic soy wax candles poured in the South, and alpaca handmade teddy bears made in Peru.
Other items for sale include Cherry Bombe magazine and books such as “Vegetable Butcher,” and “In the Company of Women.” For every book or magazine sold, Feed will donate three meals.
“Everything in the store will be sold for meals. Every latte, every muffin, every Feed find and bag will all give meals to kids. For every Feed Find sold, the organization will give three meals, and for every coffee and food item, it will give one meal,” she said.
As for herself, she plans to spend a lot of time in the store.
“For me it’s a dream come true. It’s something I’ve wanted to see happen for Feed for a long time. I just see it being such a wonderful way for myself and my team to have that interaction with our Feed customer and community. We’re excited to utilize it as our R&D lab,” she said.
Thus far, the brand has mostly sold online. There are a few select stores that carry Feed, but it’s not a major part of the brand’s strategy. “We’ve been more reactive on that front,” she said. “I really want to give customers a way to shop us omnichannel, which right now isn’t possible.
“Bringing the brand to life through the Feed and coffee component is just so exciting given our mission. Not everyone needs to buy a bag every day, but most people buy a coffee or a muffin a day. Giving people a daily way to participate in our brand mission is really neat,” Lauren said.
She noted that five or six floors of the Empire Stores Development are offices which will likely bring in customers during the day. The shop is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Lauren said the Feed Heritage coffee is sourced from four different countries across Latin America and Africa. “We’ve been working with them for almost a year to do testings and tastings to make sure we get our blend perfect. They picked beans from farmers that are ethically sourced and are all organically grown,” she said. A basic cup of coffee is $2.50, a cappuccino is $4, a latte is $4.25 and a bag of Feed Heritage coffee is $17. The shop also has a Draft Latte machine dispensing cold lattes. Eventually, Lauren would like to add more food items.
Asked whether she’d like to take the concept to other cities, Lauren said, “That is a hope. I can’t quite see past the first one yet. We really want to test it out and work out the kinks and make sure this is a model that works for us.
“The whole point of opening our own stores is to continue our own innovation and product development and use it as a test lab to see what’s resonating with customers. Everything in the store will give back. It’s bringing the mission to life in a new way which you can do online, but to do in a physical space will be all the more powerful,” said Lauren.
Discussing if there was any advice her father-in-law, Ralph Lauren, gave her, she said, “He is the master. I just kind of watched and learned. He’s going to come to the space before it opens which will be helpful. I’ve walked through countless stores with him and have seen how he positions and refines things. Hopefully some of that’s rubbed off; we’ll see.”
Lauren said she worked with Michael Gilmore, of Weddle Gilmore, on the store’s decor. “The building used to an old coffee warehouse in the Twenties and has this amazing history, exposed ceiling beams and has a rustic brick wall. Just walking in, it feels historic and on brand for Feed,” she said. She utilizes copper rivets on her products, and she’s brought that into the physical space as well. The coffee and countertop both have a copper finish. There’s one big table for seating in the middle and a counter for six people and café seating. Overall, there’s seating for 20.
An interesting bit of decor is the meal counter, which she commissioned from an old flip-flop train sign, which kicks off whenever someone buys a product and records the overall meal count. So far, the organization has given away 95 million meals since Lauren founded it in 2007. “Our goal this year is to reach 100 million meals and we’re getting closer. We want to have the count get to that, hopefully by the end of the year. Then we might start from zero next year, so the store feels pride in the amount of meals they’re giving specifically.”
Lauren said the meals Feed provides to schoolchildren are nutrient-enriched oatmeal, often supplemented by fresh vegetables from local gardens. Some 20-25 percent is given out in the U.S. (mainly through Feeding America) and the balance to the neediest countries around the world (through the U.N. World Food Programme).
Leading up to Mother’s Day, the shop will feature a flower pop-up from Petal by Pedal (a local New York blooms and bicycle delivery business) and she plans do-it-yourself events at the store to make bouquets.
Meantime, Lauren can’t wait to try out her new role.
“I’ve always wanted to be a shopkeeper. I’m so excited to get that real-time feedback from customers. No pun intended,” she said.