When longtime Brooklyn residents Hannah Dilworth and JD Gluckstern set out in earnest to open their new Williamsburg shop Concrete + Water twelve months ago, it wasn’t exactly a spur of the moment decision – although it was put into motion after a transformative week in the desert.
“We've kind of dreamt of owning a store together for a long time, so in some ways it’s been almost ten years of conceptualizing,” said JD. “It was just a matter of timing. We got back from Burning Man and felt inspired and just felt like the time was right to take the plunge.”
While it’s conceivable to imagine that many post-Burning Man decisions don’t actually come to fruition, Hannah and JD had the added benefit of a wealth of combined experience to give them a bit of a head start. Hannah had logged seven years working as a stylist, including time at Shopbop and Lucky. JD, who comes from a music and nightlife background, had a working knowledge of the logistical aspects of opening a business in New York after a frustrating attempt to open a club in Brooklyn ended in what he calls a “real estate quagmire.”
“New York City certainly doesn't make life easy on small business owners in terms of approvals and support,” he said.
Still, even with those obstacles, Concrete + Water opened its doors for the first time this fall in a newly renovated industrial space in the heart of Williamsburg. Offering both men’s and women’s apparel and accessories from designers like Kaelen, Whit, Sandqvist and Universal Works, along with an assortment of home goods, the shop has all of the makings of a new neighborhood essential.
We spoke with JD about the process of setting up shop, from selecting brands to finding the perfect location.
What is the overall philosophy that was the starting point when you conceived Concrete + Water?
The philosophy behind that shop is that good style should be universal and take you anywhere. We feel like our goods don't just belong in Brooklyn or in New York City, but could be anywhere in the world and still feel like they fit in. That philosophy is also in our name; Concrete to represent the urban, and Water to represent the natural. For us, it’s all about that balance, both in life and in our store.
You occupy some prime real estate on Driggs Ave – how did you find the space?
We've lived out in this part of Brooklyn for a while so we knew very specifically where we wanted to be when we opened. We knew that the flower shop that was previously in this space had gone out of business, so I rode my bike one day to see what was happening and happened to run into the landlord cleaning the space out. One thing led to another and we discovered that there was actually 1000 square feet and a backyard behind the storefront. Needless to say, we were very excited at the prospect of a spacious store with a backyard so we pursued it, and were lucky enough to get it.
What condition was it in when you first moved in?
The space was broken in to two separate units. The front, which was an existing 700 square foot storefront housing a flower shop, and then a rather sketchy apartment behind it. It needed a complete gut renovation, so we tore down the walls and went to town. Once we started, the renovation took around 12 weeks to complete.
Your brand roster is varied and pretty deep. What was buying for your first season like?
Buying for our first season was a fun challenge. Since we've lived in the area for a while we felt like we knew our customer, but it was still a totally new experience filling out a collection we felt represented our labels correctly, as well as the story we wanted to tell about Concrete + Water. Because of Hannah's background in styling, we already had a solid list of designers we knew we wanted to pursue, and then through tradeshows and showroom appointments we were able to fill in the blanks. We wanted to make sure the assortment was accessible, fun, and high quality. Neither of us wanted a store that would feel intimidating or overwhelmingly "fashion." This is a store where everyone should feel welcome and be able to find something that makes them happy.
Did you encounter any brands who were hesitant to sell to a brand new retailer?
We did see a few brands who were hesitant, or wanted to more assurances in terms of other confirmed labels, but at the end of the day we were able to get most of the labels we sought out. The ones we weren't able to were mostly because of distribution issues, not because of our status as a new store.
What else should we know about Concrete + Water?
We're just so excited to be open and out in the world! It's been great meeting our customers and getting such positive feedback. We hope to see you all soon!
Concrete + Water is located at 485 Driggs Avenue in Brooklyn, NY.Open Monday – Friday from 12pm – 8pm; Saturday from 11am – 8pm; and Sunday from 12pm – 7pm.