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The air buzzed at the innovative Chelsea shop Story on a chilly fall night, as local artisans gathered for the most recent iteration of Pitch Night. During the event, people making everything from jewelry to beer kits had the opportunity to meet with store owner Rachel Shechtman, along with Karen Day and Evan Orensten of Cool Hunting, to convince her that their product should be sold at Story. And with nearly 50 pitches scheduled to take place, the jury certainly had their pick of products.
"I've always had a passion and a love for finding and discovering emerging talent, small businesses, new products," said Shechtman. "In the same way people pitch magazines to write stories, people can come pitch their products. It's something that just kind of has grown organically and is now a part of every Story."
This time around, on the evening of October 22nd, Story put out a call for gift products to be pitched for the upcoming holiday season. "We're coming up on our gift issue and Cool Hunting has their coveted gift guide," Shechtman explained of her panel members.
Story is also partnering with American Express's Shop Small initiative. "The Shop Small movement is all about supporting small local businesses and connecting neighborhoods. You know, a dollar spent in your neighborhood stays in your neighborhood. So much about Pitch Night is about creating that support for the community."
At this Pitch Night, jewelry designer Marla Aaron was among the first to present her wares. She makes bracelets, necklaces, and more than feature chain link elements. "I'm not sure how it went," she admitted shortly after her presentation. "It was my first time [pitching] and I was pretty nervous!"
The jury sat at a table toward the back of the store, cloaked behind a rack of clothing from the Made in America theme, with a camera crew filming each pitch. Throughout the night, Shectman tweeted some of the products she saw. Though each pitch was supposed to last "three-ish minutes" to keep in time with the event's two-hour window, according to a store employee, only a dozen pitches had been made after the first hour.
"This is the most people we've ever had," he continued, adding that the last Pitch Night had 36 artisans and lasted between three and four hours, "though we've probably already shaved off a few through the waiting process." He assured that the jury would hear all pitches.
"I'm number 40, so I have a little bit of time!" a patient crafter joked. But those who were waiting kept busy chatting with each other and sipping on complimentary PBRs, their order determined by numbered cards handed out at arrival along with name tags that had "I Make ________" written on the bottom.
In fact, many used that waiting time pretty wisely—they practiced their pitches on each other. "Just try to speak normally" instead of reading off of notes, one artisan told another. "It's not so formal." In another part of the store, a woman takes off her bracelets and places them on a countertop to be photographed. Another girl touched up with a powder compact just before seeing the jury.
Greeting card creator Jen Lau of j dawg, dressed in a bright yellow cardigan and red lipstick, heard about Pitch Night through a friend. She came from Brooklyn to show off cards featuring phrases of "what the kids are saying these days" cut into a script font from vintage book paper
"I would grab a PBR, but I'm pretty nervous right now!" Lau said before her pitch. But perhaps she didn't need to be—Shectman Instagrammed a card of hers that said "dope."
Douglas Amport of Bitter and Esters, however, wasn't nervous at all. "Well, it's just a pitch," he rationed. Along with his business partner, Amport was waiting to pitch "a kit that has everything you need—ingredients, equipment, instructions—to make beer at home." Though Bitter and Esters has a space in Prospect Heights where they teach classes, the brewing kit is not yet sold anywhere else. "This is our thing that we can send out into the universe," Amport said.
"When summing up who comes to Pitch Night, it can be a 16-year-old or a 60-year-old, and we've had both," said Shechtman, "and it could be someone pitching soap or $600 jewelry."
The designers selected from the Pitch Night now have their merchandise set up inside the store's latest story: "Home for the Holidays." One of the vendors selected includes a "Pitch Night alum," Beth Macri. Story will also celebrate Small Business Saturday on November 30th with Milk Truck grilled cheese, cookies from Sweet Loren's, and special personalized presents from Macri.
· Shop Made In America At Story Through The End Of October [Racked NY]
· Story's Latest Incarnation Is An All-American Road Trip [Racked NY]
·Where To Beef Up Your Art Collection: Story On Tenth Avenue [Racked NY]