Flexibility: Olivia Wolfe

Artist, entrepreneur and fashionista Olivia Wolfe credits her Miami roots for the inspiration to open NYC hotspot American Two Shot, and highlights the store’s spatial flexibility as a tool to create an inviting and eclectic environment.

Artist, entrepreneur and fashionista Olivia Wolfe credits her Miami roots for the inspiration to open NYC hotspot American Two Shot, and highlights the store’s spatial flexibility as a tool to create an inviting and eclectic environment.

ARQ: Can you talk about how your store is different than most stores, and how you came up with the concept?

Olivia: Well, my background is in the arts. Stephanie, who’s my partner, did financial planning for five years so she’s definitely the numbers. Creatively, we really do everything together in a lot of ways. The idea came to us seemingly out of nowhere. I’m sure there were a lot of things pointing us in this direction. A lot of people we knew and friends we had were starting these creative ventures, whether it was in fashion, in film, in art, whatever it was. So we had the idea to open a shop and have a little bit of all these things we love in it. We don’t specialize in any one thing, which was scary in the beginning, because when we tried to describe it to people before we opened, it was like we have books and clothes and art and coffee, and we didn’t want to open a store full of racks. We wanted it to be more of the experience that you have to come and dedicate a little bit of time to this place and sort of figure out what it is for yourself. We’re not fully able to describe it, really, so it’s sort of up for anyone to come in and figure out what they think. 

As far as the things that go on in here, aside from the coffee shop, which seems to draw a lot of people into the store, we do all sorts of events. We’ll have shopping events that highlight different designers, so we’ll bring in a designer—we have a lot of local designers. We’ve had a reading for Valentine’s Day, we had almost like an open mic thing, we’ve had a book fair, we had a flower shop, we are starting a music series—we had one so far, because everything is so flexible we cleared out the entire space. We’ve also had a nine-piece band perform.

ARQ: That’s incredible.

Olivia: You name it: If we’re into it, we’ll bring it in. The space is transformative in a sense because it doesn’t have tons of racks in the middle.

ARQ: Is that a stage in the middle? Does that move?

Olivia: Everything is on wheels other than the coffee bar and shelves. Everything moves around or is very easy to move. We wanted flexibility, and that was the idea behind the stages. There are two of them and they can move around. When you get to step up just four inches into a different space, even a rug can make it look different. We call it the men’s shop because right now we have all the men’s clothing on it, but it’s useful to just be able to play with space.

ARQ: Who designed your space?

Olivia: We worked with an architectural team called Site, and they were great because they just listened to us talk and talk and talk about our intention and what we wanted. We knew that we wanted it to be very clean and very warm at the same time. The exposed brick wall, the painted white brick—this was the first space we saw and we fell in love with it. They were in the process of covering up the walls, drywalling it, and we were like, “Please stop!” We wanted it to look as much like the original space; they just ground down the space and this is what was underneath, this cool terrazzo concrete. It was great. It worked out really well.

ARQ: Tell us more about your collaborative process with Site.

Olivia: They listened. They understood that we wanted to bring a lot of ideas into the space and they were trying to figure out the best way for it to be transformative. The stages were one thing they really executed well for us. I think the shop feels so different. We had them clear out the dressing room floors. We made one long, sort of catwalk thing.

ARQ: You feature a lot of local designers. Can you tell us a little about how you find them? You generally have just one of every piece, which makes it more of an exhibit-type space than a space for shopping.

Olivia: We would hope that you will come here to find something special, always. It was a ripple effect with whom we work with because it started with a very small group, we had maybe 10 friends. We had personal relationships with all of them, and in New York, very quickly, it’s “You should meet this friend of mine,” “You should meet this person.” People approach us, we work with a couple of small showrooms, we have two different people who source our vintage for us. It’s a smaller part of the store because we have mostly new designers. We only put one of each piece on the floor because I don’t like the experience of shoving through a rack and seeing all the same thing; it doesn’t feel special. We put on different little art shows every three months and there’s some designers who are also artists, and David Kitz, he makes these things called L-Lamps that we carry in the store also. It’s become a very fun grey area for us.

ARQ: Your space is really key to how you operate. Have you come across any customers that have found a distinct connection with the space?

Olivia: My favorite customers at this point are a mother-daughter duo, because the daughter could be 16 and she really loves what she’s getting, and the mom can be in her 60s and really love what she’s getting. My grandmother shops here. I think it’s cool, and you see the open minds who get what we’re doing here and have a sense of humor.