American Two Shot: Art, Clothes, & Coffee
An airy boutique-slash-gallery-slash-clubhouse straddling the border of SoHo and Chinatown in New York, American Two Shot is a Venn diagram of fashion, art, entertainment, and some very strong coffee. At the center is the “City of Friends,” a casual ATS-curated collective of young creators who orbit and collaborate with the shop.
Owners Stephanie Krasnoff and Olivia Wolfe, Miami natives who have been friends since childhood, joined forces in 2011 after clocking up several years in the fashion and art worlds. The store is a Russian doll of retail: inside the boutique is an art gallery; inside the art gallery is a coffee bar. Said bar — formally known as Café Integral — is owned by César Vega, a photographer with a passion for Nicaraguan coffee who previously delivered beans across New York on a bicycle.
American Two Shot’s spirit is playful and knowing, clever without being pretentious. The shop is rife with sly cultural references (a recent display of elegant maxidresses was labeled “Insane Gown Posse”), and the racks showcase local designers alongside quirky vintage finds. American Two Shot’s employees are chatty and welcoming, effervescent without being pushy. With Drake and Stankonia-era Outkast on the stereo, the smell of freshly ground coffee floating over some colorful, killer pieces, and a revolving roster of friends popping in to say hi, it’s a struggle not to kick up your feet and stay for a while.
What is American Two Shot, and how did it come to be?
Stephanie Krasnoff: We have a lot of friends who are young artists and creators — young designers — and we noticed a gap in the marketplace for a creative space that was also an enjoyable shopping experience. One day we were like, “this is what we should be doing,” and the next day we started doing it. We call it a lifestyle store. We want it to be like going into someone’s apartment, not just their closet.
Olivia Wolfe: It’s a tough question to answer, and I think the answer changes. Our intentions are the same: We want to give new talent a place to be seen, whether this is with art, clothing, or César’s coffee business. There’s so much creation all the time in New York. We think of new things every day, so it’s bound to keep changing.
SK: It snowballed. Like the coffee bar … that was something that happened a little bit later. César, who owns Café Integral, is a good friend of ours. We weren’t looking for him, he wasn’t looking for us — it just worked out.
What were some of the other things that snowballed?
SK: We knew that we wanted to have some sort of gallery aspect to the store. At the beginning it was only women’s clothing and a gallery space, and then on a whim, almost at the last minute, we decided to bring in some men’s products. Men started shopping a lot, so we chased after that business. We needed flowers for the store, so a friend introduced me to Taylor Patterson, who just started her own company, Fox Fodder Farm. Now every Friday we do a residency with her called Fox Fodder Fridays. So we’ve made a new friend, customer, and business partner. It’s a tumbleweed effect. Snowballs, tumbleweeds …
SK: Same thing! We keep meeting new people who we enjoy working with, but we don’t just want to work with them once. We want them to bring in their networks, their ideas.
ATS is designed to accommodate a good party. What kinds of events have you thrown here?
OW: We’ve had shopping events … we have our third art opening coming up, we had a book fair, the flower shop, a fun Fashion’s Night Out party. We’re going to bring music into the mix soon, too.
SK: It’s not necessary that people are shopping at the event — they’re getting a sense of the lifestyle. We want people to have a good time, and we want them to bring their friends to the next event. When we have our friends at the bar and our friends DJing, it’s nice.
This is your first business. What were some of the things that surprised or challenged you?
SK: Everything surprised us. The most challenging thing was the construction, the build-out.
OW: It’s one thing to figure out daily operations, but trying to be the site managers on a build-out is something very, very foreign. We redid the space top to bottom. We wanted to keep as much of the integrity of the space as possible, but we still wanted it to feel warm.
Where, or to whom, do you look for inspiration?
OW: Really, everywhere. We watched A League of Their Own the other night, and I was super inspired for a couple weeks after watching that. But also walking down the street, meeting someone new, hearing a song, seeing some art … all of it. It all produces the same reaction in me.
SK: Olivia inspires me too.
OW: [Happy-embarrassed noise.]
SK: It’s true! She’ll get her roll of film back, she’ll put it on Tumblr, and there will be like, a photograph of a trash bag on the ground. And I’ll think, “oh yeah, that actually looks kinda cool.” She will walk down the street and I cant keep up, because she’ll be pointing at things on the ground and pointing at things in buildings, and it’s like, where am I supposed to look? I’m just watching people walk down the street.
How do your personalities and backgrounds play off each other?
SK: We say that Olivia is the balloon that floats around, and I just hold onto the string and walk it down the street.
OW: I think that’s why this is working really well — the balance. We both do a lot of things in the business, but we fall into our roles.
What are your ideas for the future of ATS?
SK: We’re always working on so many projects at once, it’s hard to say … our ideas evolve a lot. We want to continue to brand American Two Shot. We’ll be making our own line, maybe another store. I don’t think we really have a concrete answer, but every day we’re working on projects that will hopefully take us there.
OW: I think it’s finding that weird balance between wanting to grow and get really big but also wanting to feel like a neighborhood spot — while continuing to actually be a neighborhood spot that people can always go back to.
How does ATS use Tumblr?
OW: We started using Tumblr in December 2011, just to document the beginning of ATS. I don’t even know if anyone was looking at it yet. Maybe our moms, and our friend Sabrina. But we’d take pictures of everything — like driving out to Trenton, NJ, to look at mannequins. It allowed us to leave a footprint of what the process was like for us. We’re still nuts about it, and we try to post every day. Every Monday we put up a City of Friends postcard of someone we’ve met or worked with, and every Friday we’ll let the world know it’s Friday.
SK: Olivia is very good at managing that and keeping it almost entirely original content. It’s all her film photos. She keeps it real. I love it. It’s a journal of what we’re doing and where we’ve been.
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