A Note From Jess On The Future Of Shen

To our amazing Shen customers,

I’ve always been the type of person that believes in getting personal, and, on the eve that was supposed to be the grand opening of the evolution of Shen in a new, amazing space, I’m feeling a bit emotional. So, I thought it was important to share a bit with those of you who have supported us through the years about what has been happening behind the scenes. Get ready, because things are about to get REAL.


I read a quote recently that rung so true to me: “It is in times of change that we build ourselves.” Well, these are definitely times of change. And, while it’s not quite the same, I’ve been in this upside-down time before. When I opened Shen on October 2, 2010, we were still in the midst of the financial crisis. No banks were loaning, retail stores were shuttering, and everyone looked at me like I was absolutely out of my mind when I spoke about my business plan of importing European clean beauty products that had a cult following with editors, but were unknown to the general public. But, I believed in my vision of organic beauty and that people needed a place to shop for beautiful products that were good for them and good for the environment, despite everyone telling me I was setting myself up to fail.


When I opened, people still shopped those big name brands that dominated magazines with their advertising. I knew I didn’t want Shen to be a place crowded with these generic luxury products with questionable benefits — I wanted something curated and with items that I myself would use on a daily basis. Clean, high quality, under-the-radar brands founded by experts that were passionate and educated about beauty. It was a challenge and everyone thought I wouldn’t make it, but here we are, 10 years later — and facing a somewhat different kind of cultural meltdown.


Ten years ago, I was lucky enough to be in a situation where I had the financial support to create something as out-of-the-box as Shen. I had a boyfriend and child, but our livelihood didn’t depend on my salary. I was lucky enough to go to work everyday and not worry about paying myself — I just had to keep my business afloat. This allowed me to be more malleable and figure it out along the way.  


Things are a little different now. I’ve faced some tough times, including a near-death experience for my mother, the birth of my second son, a break-up with my now-ex, buying out my business partner, Hurricane Sandy, staff drama, and having to take on a second job to help make ends meet. But, all of those things that I thought would break me, or be the end of Shen, only helped me to grow stronger and learn one very important lesson: I’m a fighter.


Last year was one of the toughest of my life with both personal and professional struggles, but it also brought me back to Shen and let me focus on this piece of my heart full time. Every day, I got to see the local community that I had built along the way, but had lost touch with. I got to speak to the vendors that I loved so dearly and have become such great friends with. I found a new, incredible, genuine team that understood exactly what Shen was meant to be about — community, honesty, transparency, a collective understanding of each other, a place to come and explore, a place to sit down in the makeup chair and share your triumphs and tribulations. To talk about the best mascara, the collapse of a marriage, the right way to apply concealer, sick family members, or a new life chapter like an engagement or baby.  Whatever it is, Shen has been there with our customers to witness it for 10 years. It is my home, yes, but Shen is the home away from home  for all of you to come by and say hello, to have a glass of wine (because you know come 5 p.m., at least one of us is having a drink), and to re-stock on your favorite face cream that you discovered here. Friendships have been formed, but most importantly a community inside an otherwise chaotic life has been created as a place of reprieve.

Shen New Store Construction

As most of you know, we have been under construction at the new store at 138 Court Street to better fit what Shen has evolved into over the years. I wanted to create a newer, larger, more convenient store to give our customers that experience that you all deserve. Today was supposed to be the day that the new Shen opened its doors. It was the day that we were finally going to have a waiting area for all of you to sit while waiting for your facial with Lara, Pedro or Josh; a place where you would not be crammed in the corner getting your brows done next to four other people because we didn't have enough space; a place where I would actually have an  office and not be sitting in a closet. But, most importantly, it was a place for us to connect with you...our Brooklyn family, our community we all love. Samson would be burning sage and Josh would be dancing to Madonna while getting ready for a microblade or brow. Lara and Pedro would be greeting all their customers as they took them back to our gorgeous new treatment rooms and explaining about all the fancy new gadgets we got for you to try.


Sadly, COVID-19 has put that dream on hold for us. Construction has been delayed, finances are tight,  I’m shuttling to the old shop to fill orders (THANK YOU to everyone who continues to visit and shop online — you are literally the lifeblood of Shen right now), and the future feels so uncertain to us all. When we finally emerge on the other side of this quarantine, I promise you Shen will be back, better than ever — but not without a few big changes. 


First, we will not be re-opening the current location — once we are allowed to, we’ll be finishing construction at the new shop and will open our doors in that beautiful, bright, airy new space. It will take a little longer, but I promise that it will be worth it. I’ve also had to think long and hard about how the in-store experience is going to have to change to fit the post-coronavirus world. While there aren’t currently any reliable federal or state guidelines in place for beauty retail and services, I plan on going above and beyond to keep our customers and staff safe.


Until there is a vaccine, all employees will wear face masks at all times in the store. I have decided to install a sink on the sales floor so that you can wash your hands and we can wash ours without having to go to the restroom. We will have hand sanitizer galore, but it will be 75% alcohol, the scientifically confirmed percentage that actually kills the virus. I am also working on new ideas for how to safely test makeup so that there is no contamination from multiple people touching a product. This is not going to be easy (or, as my accountant likes to continuously remind me, cheap), but I think it is crucial. I want you to feel safe visiting Shen, but I don’t want you to miss out on that experience of closeness and transparency that makes us who we are.


I started this business as a 24-year-old, idealistic girl who had just moved to Brooklyn and I’ve lovingly watched it grow. Now, I’m a mother of two who has weathered her own personal and professional storms and come out on the other side a survivor. While we can’t predict how and when this is going to end, I can promise you that the Shen you know and love will be there for you to shop. And visit, and chat, and browse, and drink.


The team and I are all so grateful for your support  and love these past 10 years. Thank you for helping me bring this dream to life — I can’t wait for you to see it for yourself.


Stay safe and healthy,  Shen family.


Love to you all,

Jess

Leave a comment

Shop ASHLEY's REGIMEN

"Beauty is self care. And self care makes us feel beautiful."

-Athena Calderone