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Welcome to Better Know a Store Owner, a new weekly Racked feature focusing on the people who run our favorite boutiques around the city.
- Warm is the only store outside of LA selling Ashley Paige bathing suits. Says Winnie, "They're so little, but they stretch!"
- The store just launched a fragrance designed to smell "like a day at the beach," says Winnie. "Clean skin, with sun and salt and grit mixed in."
Winnie Beattie has somehow managed to live out multiple fashion-girl fantasies at the same time. Not only does she run Siren PR, but for the past three months she's been selling all her favorite designers at Warm, the disarmingly friendly Nolita boutique she opened with her husband Rob Magnotta. The two met while surfing, and the shop is decorated to reflect their casual, beachy style. It even smells like the beach, thanks to a just-launched in-house fragrance. We sat down with the two moonlighters (Rob represents photographers for a living) to find out what married life is like when you're running a store.
Is this the first time you've worked together on a business? How's that going?
Winnie: It's great. It actually made me fall in love with Rob more. I had him order all of the books for the store, totally carte blanche. The books he chose are so special and amazing and hard to find, with subject matter ranging from skateboards to New Order to amazing portrait photographers. So the boxes would arrive, and I'd open them, and he wouldn't necessarily be here, and I'd see what he ordered and I was like, "Oh god, I really do love him!" It was like an insight into his mind.
Working together has been fun. I think being a shop owner is actually really romantic because it's all about fantasy, and the store is so transportive. We'll just be out and see, like, a little flea market stool, and we'll go, "That would be so cool for the store."
Rob: The store is all our ideas and the things that we like, and we're not really putting it together like—obviously, it's a business, but it's not all about selling people. It's everything we personally would want anyway. So it's work, but it's easy and it's fun.
Have you always wanted to own a store?
Rob: I always thought about opening a concept store. But never a clothing store, more home stuff. I always thought it would be cool just to put my favorite things together.
Winnie: I think everyone who works in fashion fantasizes about being a shopgirl in some way. So we decided to do it. There was no resistance on either of our parts. It was kind of like, "Alright, let's go for it, let's open by spring," and that was one day last fall. And then I went to Paris two days later, and he stayed home with the kids, and I bought a bunch of stuff. I came home and was like, "OK, now, we need to find a space." I mean, it was literally that spontaneous.
Ron: She bought half the stuff in the store before we even had the store.
Are you here every day?
Winnie: I definitely am. Rob pops in and out. For me, it's to see who our girl is and to learn what she wants and to see how things fit and what people are gravitating towards. I think the stores that are most successful, the owners are really involved. I'm lucky that I have great girls who work in the store, but because it is so personal and it's all of my dream things put together, I want to nurture them and make sure that they're presented in a very specific way.
When you picture your typical customer, who do you see?
Winnie: This neighborhood is comprised of those—and I mean this as the highest compliment and hope to be included in this—kind of perfectly imperfect messy girls. As much as I love a really chic, put-together woman, that's not the look that I aspire to or think that our girl is. I think that our girl is a little bit more effortless. She grabs a portion of what she had on last night and throws her hair up and down and changes it a million times a day and that really messy, effortless look, when it's done right and styled right, is super super chic and cool.
I've lived in this neighborhood for 18 years, Rob's lived here on and off for that amount of time, and you see those girls everywhere. I'd be in Paris, at a Vanessa Bruno appointment, and I would literally picture the cool girl at the coffee shop and think, "Oh, she'd look great in this." And Rob would say, "Yeah, but we don't know if she's going to spend $1000 on a dress." But so far we've had a lot of those girls come in and really appreciate the store.
In terms of merchandise, is there anything that you're still questing to be able to stock?
Winnie: We want to build out home in a much larger way. We've found in a really short amount of time that people come and say, "Oh, I want to smell like the store," or "I want a piece of the store in my house." The candles and the scents and the wraps have sold really well, and a lot of people have wanted to buy this rug that used to be in our house. So now we're thinking that we'll have Warm Home in the back.
Did you do all the decor yourselves?
Winnie: We are very good friends with a prop stylist who's kind of an urban hippie, and she helped us find a lot of things. Or we would bring things from our house. It was collaborative. We didn't want it to look too decorated; we like that imperfect thing. So we found a lot of these pieces, and Kim helped us tweak them.
Rob: She helped us style them, which is different from an interior decorator.
Winnie: It was like a gigantic magazine shoot.
Rob: We brought in more than we needed, then walked around and saw what worked.
Winnie: Warm has to be a year-round thing, so for fall this is going to be a giant ski house. For us to be cozy in the winter is a whole other thing that being beachy. This will evolve dramatically in the fall.
How do you decide what the price point should be in the store?
Winnie: For me, there was no price point. If we loved something, we bought it. So Vanessa Bruno Runway happens to be really expensive, but it's beautifully made and the fabrics are incredible. But the flip-flops from Hawaii called Locals that you can buy at the hardware store and the grocery store—those we sell for $18. They're a critical part of my wardrobe and my childhood in Hawaii. Rob, as a surfer, has worn them forever. He bought a pair when he was in Hawaii 12 years ago and they broke, so we were like "Let's sell Locals." So that wasn't about hitting a lower price point too.
To me, I'm a girl who wears Vanessa Bruno runway and Locals flip-flops, and there are a lot of those girls. We've had a lot of people, especially the models who travel a lot, who come in and are all, "Oh, you have Locals!" And they're decked out in Balenciaga saying that. So it's been kind of cool to see who it's resonated with.
There wasn't a strategy at all. And it will continue to be that way. Some of the fall pieces are super special coats, shearling and leather and amazingly, beautifully made in Italy, and they're really, really pricey. But I found these insane boots in Spain that are like $80. Whatever fits the vibe of the store, we bought.
It's time for the lightning round. First question: Tumblr or Pinterest?
Winnie: Neither. I'm a dinosaur.
Mayo or mustard?
Kanye or Jay-Z?
Mad Men or Game of Thrones?
Winnie: Mad Men.
Rob: Mad Men.
And lastly, 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s?
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· Rogan's Dynamic Duo on Gentrification, Style, and the Bowery [Racked NY]