Story, the experimental retailer on 10th Avenue in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood changes its theme and physical environment every few months, often opting for popular culture tie-ins and big commercial statements that provide opportunities for selling plenty of merch. Story’s Home for the Holidays installation, for example, created a gift shop inspired by the film “The Greatest Showman” about P.T. Barnum. Everything from the store’s decor to the products had an “under the big top” vibe, including jewelry, festive candles and Edie Parker clutches with affirmations such as Believe and Dream.
Founder Rachel Shechtman’s latest, um, story is Work/Space Story, which is all about finding more human and humane ways of working, and takes a more esoteric approach.
To explore the future of work, Shechtman teamed with Aaron Dignan, an author, thought leader and founder of The Ready. “My team has been searching for a place to play with the concept of Eudaimonia,” Dignan said, explaining, “It’s a Greek word for human flourishing.”
Story’s back wall is covered with phrases inspired by Marcel Proust’s parlor game The Proust Questionnaire. The 19th-century novelist created a list of questions that were intended to reveal a person’s true nature, such as “What is you greatest fear?” “When were you the happiest?” and “How would you like to die?”
Story worked on interiors with Chicago-based architect David Dewane, creator of the Eudaimonia Machine — an original concept for a new kind of work environment featured in Cal Newport’s book, “Deep Work.” “There’s an increasing desire to balance being connected and disconnected,” Dewane said. “There’s an opportunity to transform the workplace from a homogeneous ‘open’ space, to spaces that run along a focus spectrum from highly social to highly focused, which provides the right environment for every worker’s needs.”
Arianna Huffington, who launched Thrive Global to address the escalating stress and burnout epidemics, identified her favorite relaxation-inducing and stress-busting products for Story, including Vitruvi, an aromatherapy diffuser and Pip, a device that captures stress levels and through biofeedback allows you to change them.
“The workplace is one of the primary drivers of stress, but more and more companies are realizing the direct connection between performance and well-being,” said Huffington. “It’s not about balance, but integration. Well-being and productivity aren’t on opposite sides, so they don’t need to be balanced. They rise and fall together. In any workplace it’s important to make time to unplug and recharge, and realize that handling stress at work starts the night before with a good night’s sleep.”
Story is broken into five rooms. The gallery features an exclusive assortment of literature from London School of Life, which teaches people about emotional intelligence. Past the gallery is the salon, a purely social area with a leather sofa and wooden tables containing magazines and games. When workers are hanging out in the salon on break, their ideas compliment, rather than compete with each other, Dewane said.
“This is where the best ideas collide,” Dignan added.
Of course, there’s no talking about work without mentioning coffee. Story is offering a robust exclusive new variety from Starbucks Reserve, Peru Chontali, as well as the Cold Foam Cascara Cold Brew, slightly sweetened with vanilla syrup.
“I like using the store as a lab to see if people are open to working in a store,” said Shechtman, turning the corner to the office with its meeting tables and individual work spaces. “People can book online a cowork station in Story’s ‘office’ free of charge,” Shechtman said.
Technology-driven products include Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket with Jacquard by Google and touch and gesture interactivity woven into one sleeve, $350; Grovemade’s walnut speakers and amp, $799; Look Optic’s reading glasses that lock out blue light, and Everlast’s Rocketbook notebook, which uploads notes to the cloud.
Beyond the office, there’s a library filled with Juniper Books, based in Boulder, Colo., which creates custom covers that change the look and color of any book, enhancing its design quality and aesthetic. Dignan chose the business books.
The chamber consists of two small rooms designed to allow maximum focus on work without interruption. (They look like two small closets.) “You stay for 90 minutes and then come out of the deep work chamber,” Dignan said. “It’s an idea from Aristotle.”
What to wear as you race up the corporate ladder? MM.LaFleur, a wardrobe solution for professional women is comfortable and machine washable. Women can make an in-person appointment with a stylist or order online a bento box with four to six wardrobe staples.
“Our design team is aware of what’s happening on the runway, but we don’t chase trends,” said founder Sarah LaFleur. “Instead, we think in terms of helping our customer build a wardrobe that’s beautiful, functional and enduring. If it’s beautiful but not comfortable, that won’t work for her.”
“The success of our Bento Box service taught us an important lesson,” she added. “Busy women want to minimize decision-making. They don’t want to spend time and energy combing through endless options. Simply filling a space with inventory and then saying ‘Come shop’ is not good service. At our showrooms, the customer doesn’t do any sifting or unnecessary deliberating — we don’t even have merchandise on the floor. She simply shows up, is offered a glass of wine, and from there, her stylist presents her with options to try.”
Jeff Johnson, cofounder of The Arrivals, an outerwear brand, said products are built for a generation, not a season, and come with a lifetime guarantee. Three items on display included a Molar men’s overcoat in a blend of virgin wool and cashmere, $395, Atlas waxed denim unisex jacket lined with Merino lamb shearling, and Milo women’s ponte wool coat with oversize kangaroo pockets, also $395. The brand is moving beyond strictly seasonal fare to handbags, knitwear and collaborated on eyewear with Vuarnet.
After themes dedicated to beauty and love for Valentine’s Day, Shechtman said, “I was ready for some brain food.”