Retail Spotlight: Azaleas
Above: Cindy Hahn, owner of Azaleas NYC.
“Azaleas — an East Village staple since 2002.”
by Jaya Z.
Jaya Z. is a freelance writer and blogger who spends way too much money on books. Visit her blog at www.jayawrotethis.com to learn more about her journey on the path to the writing life.
When asked why she decided to open a lingerie shop, Cindy Hahn cites her girlfriends as the source of her inspiration. “Personally, I always loved gifting lingerie to my girlfriends,” she says. “It’s always the fun of the shock value from its unexpectedness. And the naughtier items always make friends giggle, even though they may not have bought it for themselves.”
Taking the spirit of gifting a step further, in 2002 Cindy opened Azaleas, a lingerie boutique that offers a selection of over 80 brands catering to anyone from shy friends to fashion-forward professionals.
Azaleas has been regularly spotlighted in New York Magazine, InStyle, Time Out, Lucky Magazine, Daily Candy, Racked, and even an episode of Tim Gunn’s Guide To Style.
These women comprise the shop’s target demographic: a community store first and foremost, Azaleas is geared towards the tastes of East Village, a young, vibrant neighborhood in the borough of Manhattan. Standing at 750 sq ft., the store carries such popular brands as Stella McCartney, Skivvies by Love & Lemons and Maison Close.
In addition to lingerie, the boutique is expanding to include ready-to-wear, swimwear, and sunglasses. This expansion was helped by the store’s move to its current location on Second Avenue in 2012.
Cindy says that the move to the bigger space was definitely a step in the right direction for Azaleas. “Just the fact that we get so much light is wonderful!” Still, many women may not be so comfortable shopping for lingerie in such a brightly exposed area. Thankfully, the store is a few paces back from the street so that women can have some privacy while they shop. “People instantly forget that they are so close to the street and regularly come out of the dressing room in nothing but a bra to pick out other items.”
“The most unique element is perhaps the giant peg wall that sits at the front of the store and is visible from the street.”
This urge to wander about the store may not be so strange: Azaleas – which prides itself on being modern and clean – has a very welcoming interior. “Lots of lingerie boutiques have a boudoir-feel, but we wanted something that felt more natural and understated,” Cindy explains. “We also had a botanist come in to spruce up the space with some beautiful plants!”
“We also buy with some tongue-in-cheek humor,” says Cindy. “If you’re going to buy a crotchless underwear, shouldn’t it have some cute bows on it?”
Built from the ground-up, all parts of the store’s interior are custom made. Starting out with only major fixtures and display racks, the boutique has slowly added new elements over the years, including modular fixtures that can be changed according to store needs, a dowel wall that showcases best sellers, and removable shelves used during sales season. The most unique element is perhaps the giant peg wall that sits at the front of the store and is visible from the street. Cindy says that this is a great way to showcase their latest arrivals.
Each of these new arrivals was personally chosen for display in the store. “Everything is hand-selected, literally,” Cindy says. She insists on seeing each piece in person so as not to choose items that are not soft to the touch. “If it’s uncomfortable, who’s going to want it?” This personal touch doesn’t stop at texture, though. “We also buy with some tongue-in-cheek humor,” she continues. “If you’re going to buy a crotchless underwear, shouldn’t it have some cute bows on it?” This sense of humor carries all the way through checkout, where the customer can choose between stickers that say “Naughty” and “Nice” to close up their purchase. Cindy says it’s a great way to interact with her patrons.
There are other ways to interact with Azaleas if you can’t make it out to the brick-and-mortar store. Follow them on Instagram at #azaleasnyc, and Twitter and Facebook at @azaleasnyc. The store is also starting to have more trunk shows during the week for the local brands that they carry, so head out into East Village and see if you can’t find them setting up shop on a corner of this lively neighborhood.