We had the immense pleasure of visiting Concrete + Water, meeting Hannah and JD, and having a personal tour of the store and it’s wonderful selection of menswear, womenswear, housewares, and adorable assortment of jewelry and knick knacks. While both come from interesting and eclectic backgrounds, their combined vision and energy (and chemistry, they’re a couple too!) make this shop truly unique and special. Their menswear buy is one of the most interesting in the neighborhood and the entire shop carries an assortment of local designers. They hinted at parties and musical guests coming in the future in their awesome backyard, stay tuned!
What were you both doing before opening Concrete + Water?
I had been working as a stylist for the last 6 or 7 years, most recently at Shopbop and Lucky Magazine. I worked under Shopbop’s fashion director, Elle Strauss at both places, and without question that experience helped me develop my first collection for Concrete + Water. JD has been working as a DJ and had been trying to open a bar/club with some friends of his, so he was very knowledgeable in Williamsburg commercial real estate, and that helped us find this space.
Hannah, how did working alongside Elle Strauss prepare you for your own shop?
More than anything, Elle showed me how to be a professional in this industry, how to trust your own vision, and how to trust in myself and my sense of style. Having that confidence and support from her when I was starting the store opening process was essential because I was obviously a little nervous doing something I’ve never done before.
The space you’ve chosen on Driggs is quite beautiful, and Williamsburg is brimming with cool shops – how would you differentiate C+W from the other local lifestyle boutiques?
We think that the space itself is a huge part of what differentiates us from other shops in the neighborhood. Very few have as much space as us, and almost none have a backyard, let alone a 600 square foot backyard! We think that will allow us to host totally unique events, and get involved in other aspects of the neighborhood – music, food, culture, etc. – that most retail spaces are not able to. Growing Concrete + Water as a full lifestyle brand is very important to us, and we think our space will allow us to do that.
How did the two of you meet?
JD’s best friend from high school actually happens to be my second cousin. When I moved to NYC in 2004, I was looking to meet some new people and my cousin brought me around his group of friends, and JD and I hit it off from the start. Can’t believe that was 10 years ago!
Has running a shop together always been a goal?
We’ve talked about working together forever. It was never specifically a store, although that had been my dream forever. I think we started talking about actually owning a shop together a couple years ago, and then more seriously at the end of last summer.
What strengths do each of you bring to running a new business?
I think we’re really a great pair in terms of handling our own sides of the business. Obviously, the fashion side of things is definitely my forte. I was familiar with lots of labels, and had great contacts that I could lean on when we were ready to start the buying process. I’m also very detail oriented, and can be a bit of a perfectionist in terms of merchandising and choosing individuals items and labels. JD on the other hand is amazing with numbers, and has always had a good business and marketing mind. He’s really good at seeing the big picture, when I might focus on the little picture too heavily. That makes us perfect partners! When one of us is stressing out, it seems like the other is always able to talk us down. We also really respect and value each other’s opinion and luckily we like each other enough to want to spend most of our time together haha!
What has been the most challenging obstacle so far?
Without question, dealing with the build-out and the time leading up to the opening was the hardest thing. Just feeling like you’re relying on so many other people, and leaving your dream in their hands is incredibly trying and stressful. You’re making all these decisions without seeing anything tangible happening, and it’s just challenging to maintain positivity and belief in the idea. It leaves a lot of opportunities for second guessing and anxiety, but if you just keep trudging along, eventually you get there.
Which designers are you most excited to carry in the shop?
I think on the women’s side of things, I’ve been a huge fan of SEA for a long time and felt like they could really use some smaller boutique representation, so I was thrilled when we picked them up. I’m also really excited to be bringing Beau Coops boots to Brooklyn. I found them when I was in Australia, and knew that I had to bring them to Brooklyn when we opened up. On the men’s side, I’m really excited to be one of the only New York stockists for Velour and Hentsch Man. Both are incredibly solid menswear lines that know how to make classic and wearable pieces, and then throw in a few totally unique and special pieces that separate them from the average designer.
Many of your designers are local – was this deliberate? Will it be something you continue?
Our womenswear definitely leans local and I do think that is really important. I think there’s a ton of talent in New York, and its fun to represent smaller, local labels and have a more personal relationship with our designers. It feels like more of a partnership that way. I certainly intend on always carrying lots of New York designers. The good news is they make it really easy for me because there’s so many great ones out there!
What is the most unique item in your shop?
Wow that’s a tough one. I don’t know if I could pin it down to just one item. What I think is the most unique thing in our shop is that you could come in, buy yourself an incredible dress for a night out, a t-shirt for your boyfriend, a funny card for your best friend’s birthday, and an amazing rug for your home. We are kind of a one stop shop which I really love the idea of, and I don’t think a ton of stores can offer that.