Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
In 2005, Morgan Yakus and Karin Bereson opened No.6 on tiny Centre Market Place in Nolita. Seven years is practically a lifetime in the accelerated world of New York retail, but the duo's sophisticated, laid-back merchandise—a mix of vintage, new designers, and locally produced in-house pieces—feels as fresh now as it did in the Bush administration. Below, Morgan and Karin talk about longevity, what makes a good salesperson, and why they decided to start selling their now-ubiquitous clog boots.
Have you always dreamed of opening a store?
Morgan: No, I dreamed of being a famous fashion designer. I worked for a lot of other designers and did vintage inspiration and design inspiration for them. Karin and I had known each other for years. I had a vintage clothing business, and she really loved all the clothing that I had. She had the idea to open a store, and we just kind of decided to go with it.
Karin: I'm a stylist, so finding clothes for people, putting outfits together for people, working with clothing—working with finished products—was always a really interesting process for me. I've probably always dreamed of opening a store, but I'm surprised it all worked out.
How do you split up the work?
Morgan: We overlap. I work on the clothing, Karin works on the shoes. I do vintage and merchandising; she's in the store. It's very evenly divided down the middle. We took our strengths and went with that.
Why did you choose this neighborhood?
Morgan: Actually, it was an accident. This place was a six-month sublet. It was our landlord's art gallery. She goes away in the summer, and she rented it out to us. We were going to use it as a showroom, and then we turned it into the store. We had a lot of customers very quickly and our landlord let us stay. At first people couldn't find the street since it's only one street long, but now they know it. I remember the day I opened the space, I was like "Where am I?" Now there are so many people opening up stores over there.
What's made it work over the past seven years?
Morgan: Hard work and passion. We try to do everything with love. We put our heart and soul into everything. We also really respect our customers. We try to make them happy, and I think that's a part of it.
Karin: One of the things that has allowed us to last for so long is that we're very honest retailers. When our customers come in, they can tell that we're actually interested in finding fun things for them to wear, as opposed to just "Sell sell sell." I spend as much time telling customers that I don't love something as I do telling them that I love something. I'm always telling women, "If you're not sure, don't get it." It feels more like helping rather than selling.
Do you have a mental image of your typical customer?
Morgan: No, because we have so many different products—the clogs, the new designers, the vintage. We have a huge age range. Often someone will come in to buy one thing, and then get something else. So that's really nice. We sort of have something for different kinds of people. I do think it's a fashion-savvy customer for sure.
Karin: It really ranges. We have 18-year-old girls coming in for clogs and vintage, we have high-end fashion customers, we have a lot of models, we have a lot of celebrities, and then we have a lot of women from outside of New York that have read about us and are not necessarily fashion women.
What made you start doing clogs?
Morgan: It was something that we liked and felt could become very popular, because they're functional and also comfortable. We started with the boots because we felt like they were great for the snow and rain and also for everyday wearing. And it just evolved from there.
Karin: What I hear most from everybody is how comfortable they are. They're kind of the perfect boot because they're comfortable, they're stylish, and they're very old-school at the same time. Things like Worishofers, Clarks, Wallabees, they're in that range—not dorky, but old-school, not flashy.
What's your favorite item in the store right now?
Morgan: I'm excited about the clogs and clothing for fall. We're doing an archive collection, so we've resurrected a lot of old prints and old styles. I think it will be a really good thing for new customers, to kind of turn them on to some of the old styles we've done. And the clogs—we have some great new styles.
When will those come in?
Morgan: That will hit the store in late August.
Karin: Our clothing collection has been so amazing this summer. It's one of our best collections. People have been going crazy for it. I also love the wedge bases for our clogs. People have responded to them really well, and now we're going to be doing those with boots.
Are you here every day? If not, how often do you come in?
Morgan: No. I work in our office. I kind of run around.
Karin: I'm here pretty much every day.
What do you look for in a salesperson?
Karin: I look, first and foremost, for girls who have their own individual style. Then I look for someone who has a really good understanding of fashion but is in no way whatsoever a slave to trends. Almost anti-trend. But I feel like the individual style is the thing. I'm a stylist; I like people who take clothing and do interesting things with it. The other thing I look for is that our salesgirls have to be nice and friendly.
Is there a "Holy Grail" item that you haven't been able to stock, but that you'd carry if you could? If so, what is it?
Morgan: I don't know that there's one thing. It's really exciting when you find new designers that aren't anywhere else. We have a lot of regular customers who come in all the time, so when we have something new, people get really excited.
Karin: That is a very interesting question. There are some Holy Grail items that I'm working on making for this coming winter, which are outerwear pieces. The one item that has eluded me and my sister: we call it TPB, the perfect bag. But it's very hard to find the perfect bag that's not too expensive. I think it's really hard for a woman to plop down $800, $900, $1000 on a bag, even if it's something she carries every day.
How do you find new designers?
Morgan: Karin goes to Paris twice a year, but a lot of time it's word-of-mouth and friends of friends. Like, "Oh, this person is doing something great, can I put them in touch with you?"
Let's talk about pricing. What's the thinking behind the store's general price point?
Morgan: Having pieces that are worth their value, and not overpricing things, so that somebody can get something that they love and not feel like their pocket has been gouged. But there's standard pricing that happens in the industry, and you have to follow that.
Karin: We generally take a slightly lower mark-up. We look at what other people do that are similar to us, and we try to stay within those boundaries. We want people to buy this stuff, you know. When we come across designers that aren't very expensive, we're not often like, "Oh great, we can take a really high mark-up." It's fun to have stuff that's really affordable. There's a lot of brands we don't carry because they're very expensive. I'm not saying the designer should make the prices lower, I just want people to buy things.
OK, it's time for the lightning round. Tumblr or Pinterest?
Morgan: Pinterest. Definitely. I'm obsessed. I have a Pinterest page and it's so much fun.
1960s, 1970s, or 1980s?
Morgan: That's a hard one. I think '70s, but English '70s, London '70s.
Karin: Oh, '70s.
Jay-Z or Kanye?
Morgan: I don't know. For me, it's more like "Devendra Banhart or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros?" I guess Jay-Z. Or I guess the real question is "De La Soul or A Tribe Called Quest?"
So if you had to choose?
Morgan: A Tribe Called Quest.
Karin: Jay-Z. Not that I'm sitting at home listening to either.
Beach or mountains?
Morgan: Beach, but I currently have a cabin in the woods, so that's been really fun. I'm coming around to the mountains. No pun intended.
Karin: That's a hard one. I used to surf, and I'm a skier. I'm going to have to say both.