AMERICAN EXPRESS IS WELCOMED AT
LOCKWOOD, Astoria NY
I’ve always loved discovering the unique offerings that boutique shops carry. When American Express approached me to choose two of my favorite businesses to highlight for their Amex Welcomed program I could not be more excited to share some real authentic and creative people. There are so many shops in the NYC area that I love. Narrowing it down was quite the task, but I couldn’t be happier to bring you these two gems.
It seemed quite natural that I would pick 2 shops in 2 boroughs I spend a lot of time in – Brooklyn and Queens. I chose to highlight Lockwood, a lifestyle boutique store in Astoria, Queens and Peace & Riot in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Lockwood currently has three stores all within a few yards from each other and all housed under the Lockwood name ( Lockwood, Lockwood Style, & Lockwood Paper). They’re all bright, perfectly curated and have lots of unique selections that include clothing, books, housewares, bags, jewelry, and stationery.
With a background in interior design, Mackenzi Farquer has always had a great eye for it. Lockwood wasn’t her first retail venture. She had already learned some lessons and grown as an entrepreneur after a 6-year stint owning and running a previous shop. In 2013, when her lease was up, she decided it was the perfect opportunity to rebrand, expand on her concept and more importantly to go all in and full time. After looking at a list of old streets in Astoria, she spotted the name Lockwood and, just like that, Lockwood the brand was born.
But nothing amazing comes easy, as every business owner will share. The very first sales at Lockwood were purchases made by friends. Mackenzi recalls the peacock leggings a friend purchased right after they opened the doors and the pictures she still has that her wife took to celebrate the sale. It was a sweet moment, a cherished memory.
While Lockwood is well beyond those first days, they did make some great business decisions at that time such as welcoming American Express. It’s really helped their business through helping new customers discover them. In a city like New York City and with competition from so many national and international retailers, the first thing any small business needs is for potential customers to even know they exist.
That and the fact that their customers love to shop with their American Express card to earn points is why they happily partner with and welcome American Express. In fact, many businesses welcome them for the same reasons. I learned that over 80,000 more places in the New York area started accepting American Express cards in 2016! Sometimes it’s those early decisions that set a business up for a long path of success.
When looking ahead, Mackenzi sees a big future for Lockwood. She intends to continue expanding. She is actively looking for space in Long Island City even though the escalating rents there aren’t making it an easy jump. If there’s anything she would have done differently, it would have been start bigger from the very beginning. Her advice to any aspiring retailer who would listen is to do the research, write that business plan, get trusted folks to read it and start as big as you can afford.
The best people have a way of making really difficult tasks seem effortless; and that’s what Mackenzi and her staff succeed at. They work so incredibly hard to make retail magic happen and they take such pride in everything they do from working with local artists, to selecting the just-right pieces.
When I asked what made her happiest about being a business owner, she replied, “Feeling like I’ve found my place in the world. Seeing my ideas come to life. Working with some seriously rad ladies.” Now isn’t that something worth supporting!
PEACE & RIOT, Brooklyn NY
Peace & Riot is a unique home decor and gift boutique in Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn. With huge windows showcasing everything from home goods, clothing and jewelry, you’d be hard pressed not to make a quick detour for a closer look. Once inside, there’s just so much to love about this space. The textured throw pillows, books, sofa, soaps and candles on display help you envision how they would look in your home.
The store’s co-owner and curator Achuziam Maha-Sanchez had a previous experience owning a retail store called Ibo Landing from 2003-2007 that she had to close because the neighborhood wasn’t quite ready for her concept. Sometimes timing is everything and she knew she had to try again. If at first you don’t succeed, well you all know how that goes. The second time around, the store took it’s name from a musical duo project Achuziam had with her husband. After their son was born; and the music project was put on the back-burner, it just didn’t feel right to let a good name go to waste – much less the domain name which they had already acquired.
Store name in hand, they opened on Black Friday in 2013, after 3 hours of sleep. As you can imagine, Achuziam remembers so little of that day, no fond memories of the first item sold or the first dollar, but instead the deeper feeling of vindication and redemption after a very successful first day of sales. Interestingly enough, because Peace & Riot opened on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday lands on the store’s anniversary weekend. They have happily welcomed American Express from the start and are happy Amex makes it their business to support small businesses like Peace & Riot and other local shops. Did you know if you were looking on Amex’s Shop Small map, you would find Peace & Riot? More places than ever welcome American Express and you can use the Shop Small® Map to find nearby small businesses where you can use your card.
Fast forward to today and Peace & Riot is the neighborhood staple for many, but there still are many challenges along the way. For example, some freelance interior design work, along with renting out a room in their home on Airbnb every so often helped to pay for the store’s Nostrand Avenue location and renovation. Knowing what she knows now, Achuziam says she would have borrowed more money at the beginning; enough money to cover 6 months of rent and salaries. She learned that being undercapitalized has been and can be such a stressor, especially when the customer base is growing faster than you can manage and where the problem is keeping up with inventory and marketing.
Her challenges today are a little different. They are mostly in the form of finding time to take care of herself, as work is an all-day, every day thing. She takes her work home with her, and it wakes her up from sleep, but it is truly a labor of love. It’s is why her advice to aspiring business owners is to sacrifice for a while (even living without a paycheck) because some form of sacrifice will become a regular part of their life once in business. What makes Achuziam happy now is that she has created a real mom and pop shop in BedStuy, Brooklyn where her family has been for 80 years now. She loves her neighborhood and her goal is to cultivate a communal space that everyone can enjoy. She continues to work with several vendors – all carefully scrutinized. She is now designing a small furniture collection that will fill the Peace & Riot showroom with more things that would further the brand.
The next generation of Peace & Riot is not so far away. Her 7-year-old son hangs around the store in his free time and he loves helping out with selling books and toys to other little customers. He even drew floor plans for the kid area when the store was designed. Mom and Dad better watch out!