NEW YORK — Story, the Chelsea neighborhood retailer that changes its theme every four to eight weeks, is celebrating Valentine’s Day through March 11 with Love Story. But founder Rachel Shechtman isn’t clobbering consumers over the head with clichés employed by other retailers such as cheeky greeting cards, heart-shaped chocolates, red roses and risqué lingerie.
Rather, she conjured up a love story with multiple meanings. There’s loving Story, the store, and the way Shechtman lovingly chose brands for the concept. Also, gifts that will be beloved, and most importantly, self-love.
“It’s not [really] about Valentine’s Day. Every day should be Valentine’s Day. Women especially need to indulge in well-deserved self-love,” said Shechtman, adding that the assortment is driven by female-owned brands and start-ups.
Other offerings include Mathematics by Marci’s launch of fine jewelry, including 14-karat gold pieces with hidden messages known only to the wearer, and self-indulgences such as Lingua Franca cashmere sweaters, Skin’s organic sleepwear and It’s by U, a DYI floral subscription service that ticks off two boxes at once: beautiful bouquets and the satisfaction of designing them yourself.
“We’re not priced to sell in retail stores,” said Beth Marci, a former structural engineer and the designer of Mathematics, who recently began using diamonds in her collection. “We want to be affordable. We’re trying to disrupt [the jewelry business] a little like Everlane or Warby Parker. Ever since we started this diamond kick, I’m not very subtle. It’s fun and luxurious.”
Rockets of Awesome, an online subscription service that Shechtman described as Stitch Fix for kids, has a spring assortment full of brights and sequins. “We sold 19 pieces in one day,” she said. “It’s super exciting.”
Love Story has a strong organic streak represented by Loli Beauty, which recently launched online and at Story. It features a core range of food-grade, responsibly-sourced ingredients that can be custom-blended into products that target different skin types. The brand’s 100 percent natural and organic skin-care bases can also be used alone without mix-ins.
Love Story’s store design by Shechtman’s sister Jen, in collaboration with Tini Cochran-led KM Productions New York, features an LED infinity mirror with the neon Story sign, which navigates you through the space with dozens of color-changing fluorescent lights hung vertically from the ceiling. All lights lead to a silver metallic Mylar photo wall. And since self-love often calls for a little self-reflection, Jonathan Rosen’s high-tech mirrors flash more than 500 words — positive affirmations — freezing when a photo is taken.
The store’s concept features the design conceit of posters in the style of old-fashioned pill bottle warning labels. Rx Wellness describes Daily Harvest’s functional superfood lattes, and carries the warning: Caution, May Cause Happiness.
It’s by U’s mini bouquets feature stickers with clever puns such as, “Merci bouquet, I really lilac you” and “You make me thorny.” Customers choose the buds, place them in a paper cone and slap a saying on it for $10. “’I love you bunches’ has been very popular,” said Caroline Strzalka, who started the company with her sister, Christine, an award-winning florist. “We’re bringing back the art of floral design.”
Shechtman is also looking back for inspiration. “Discovery is core to our DNA,” she said. “That word has been lost a bit in traditional retail. It’s back to basics, like customer service and experience.”
Events are part of the Story experience, and the store’s calendar is filled with them. For example, Loli Beauty founder Tina Hedges will demonstrate mixing the products on Feb. 17 and 18; It’s by U on Feb. 28 will host a floral mixology class, and Agapi Stassinopoulos on March 7 will discuss her new book, “Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life.”