SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESS: Structure Tone Helps Shopify Open SoHo Space
After leveraging a connection from Govan Brown in Toronto and building on a relationship cultivated during preliminary preconstruction efforts for offices on Lafayette Street, Structure Tone New York fit-out Shopify New York’s new location at 131 Greene Street. Shopify, a Canadian commerce company that helps aspiring entrepreneurs go from just an idea to thriving, fully scalable businesses and offers tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business of any size, will use the two-story, 8,200sf space as a merchant networking hub for its expanding clientele.
“Much of the heart and soul of NYC comes from its entrepreneurs,” said Harley Finkelstein, Shopify president. “To keep NYC one of the most entrepreneurial cities in the world, we’re giving New Yorkers the resources and tools they need to build successful businesses. If you’re a Shopify retailer, business owner, or aspiring entrepreneur trying to make it in NYC, make it into Shopify New York.”
Expanding Shopify’s Footprint in the US. Shopify New York is designed to promote ingenuity and champion local retailers. It has the feel of a true SoHo loft, with a balcony and a double-height meeting room for workshops and more. Tiered bleacher-style seating offers a casual way to lounge and work. Exposed brick walls and lush live greenery foster a space that is creative and inviting. Visitors will have opportunity to purchase products in the pop-up shop, sip a latte at the Cha Ching Café, record a podcast or take headshots in professional-grade studios, and meet one-on-one with a business advisor. With amenities such as these, Shopify New York is unlike other tech spaces.
“When I first looked at the drawings, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” describes Joe Shea, superintendent for Structure Tone. “The space was unlike anything I’ve ever built, a combination coffee shop, retail store, and podcast studio. It was incredibly rewarding to see everything come together to fit the different needs of Shopify’s client base.”
That’s not to say it came together without hurdles. Building a unique space like this brings unique challenges, such as what happened when the team opened the ceilings and walls for the construction of the Cha Ching Café. The design of the café’s hanging planters turned out to be inconsistent with the building’s infrastructure, so the team re-engineered the planters and their support system to be able to hold the weight of the plants and hangers. The café’s plumbing also got the team in hot water before devising a solution. “We were supposed to tie into the building’s existing plumbing lines,” explains Shea. “But when we opened the walls, we realized that couldn’t happen. So, we got our plumber on board and redesigned the plumbing system.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Businesses represented by Shopify include Paintbucket, Nguyen Coffee Supply, CeeCee’s Closet NYC, and more. The merchants featured in the retail space will be changed up regularly to feature many different NYC businesses. The uniforms for the café employees were designed and produced by local lifestyle brand, New York or Nowhere.
One aspect of construction specific to New York City is working with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). Shopify wanted to put a small card reader on the building’s exterior façade and needed permission from LPC. But the agency hadn’t met in several months because of COVID-19 and it took eight weeks to issue a permit. Although this delayed the start of construction considerably, the team managed a condensed schedule and readied the space for its grand opening date.
Expanding Shopify’s Footprint during Lockdown (and Beyond). Construction of Shopify New York took place right at the peak of the pandemic. Both the client and design team are based in Canada and it was impossible for them to travel to the U.S. Constant communication and coordination were essential. The NY team held remote meetings until the client could visit the site during the last part of the build. There was also careful coordination when it came to field measurements. The Canadian vendors were specifying fixtures only available in Canada and dimensions would come in metrics. The Structure Tone team worked closely with our subcontractors to ensure that dimensions were properly coordinated with the design team and acceptable alternate fixtures were found that would work within the tight timeframe.
Although most interactions with Shopify was done via remote meetings due to travel restrictions, they did have someone local to provide client context and visit the site. Existing and budding entrepreneurs can now visit the one-stop resource six days a week. In the last year, thousands of New York City entrepreneurs have launched their businesses on Shopify. Now, Shopify New York will serve as a space for the city’s budding and existing entrepreneurs will have a space to call their own. While Shopify’s clients and merchants will probably be the ones using the presentation areas and workshop spaces for the support one-on-ones, all are encouraged to stop by. What sets Shopify New York apart from similar ventures is that anyone can just pop in from the SoHo street to browse local wares or grab a cup of coffee.
“What Shopify is doing in the e-commerce industry is game-changing. It was very exciting to partner with them to build this flagship space,” says Shea.