Fans of Bravo and/or shows with the word "girls" in the title may have come across an interesting (and, if you're us, addictive) new series called Gallery Girls this season, the finale of which airs tonight. The
How did End of Century come about and what were you all doing beforehand? Chantal: Lara and I started it two years ago and we ran it for a year and met Claudia and Claudia came in about a year ago. Lara: I was doing a mix between freelance interior design and also wardrobe styling for film. I was all freelance so I sort of had the perfect schedule for when we had the right opportunity to open the store. Chantal: I worked at a gallery in Dumbo and I also worked at Oak. Claudia: I worked at a gallery as well.
Was opening a boutique/gallery space something you wanted to do for a long time or did it sort of just happen? Lara: I studied visual merchandising and retail business so I think I always wanted to have my own space; though I didn’t always know exactly what route, so when the opportunity came and I was able to do it, it just sort of organically happened. Chantal: Yeah it just happened. It was one of those things we thought maybe would be like a pop-up, we didn’t expect it to last as long as it has.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? Chantal: So many. Lara: I think the biggest one is the economy. In 2009, shit hit the fan and we opened this a year later in 2010. People were like, you must be crazy to open this space right now in this economy and I was like, yeah, I am but it’s also one of those things when you have the opportunity and you’re young, you just have to run with it, so I think for me the economical, financial thing has been the toughest. Chantal: It’s a lot for us because we’re super young and don’t have, like savings accounts. We didn’t have careers, whereas a lot of store owners are older and paid their time working their way up in fashion and we just did it. Claudia: And with selling art too I think it was about finding things that were at a price point where they were still special and they were still art pieces, but they weren’t like $10,000 paintings because that wasn’t something we’re used to selling.
How did you pay rent in the beginning? Chantal: I knew the owner and she had a space and she let us sublet it from her so we didn’t have to come up with a ridiculous amount of money.
How do you find the designers and artists you stock in the store? Chantal: Mostly friends and recommendations from friends.
What's the most fun part about running this business? Lara: I think the most fun part is it's very fulfilling to be able to give a chance to young designers or artists to have a space for them to showcase their pieces. We get so many thank-yous for helping them sell their work and get their work out there. So I think that's the most fulfilling aspect is helping people.
So what's next for EOC? Where do you see yourselves in five years? Chantal: I’ll be thirty...It’s hard to say. Claudia: There's no major business plan, we're not like Starbucks. We're not like, global domination in 12 months or less. We're just sort of taking it a day at a time.
So how did you all end up on Gallery Girls?
So how did you all end up on Gallery Girls? Claudia: It was a weird circuitous twist of bizarre fate...It sort of just...I don't think any of us really know, we just did. Chantal: It just happened. Claudia: We didn't audition for it. Chantal: We didn't try! Claudia: It was sort of like, you come across an envelope and decide to pick it up and then all of a sudden you're on a reality show.
Do you watch it? All: No. Chantal: I saw the first two episodes.
What has the response been from friends/family/the general public? Chantal: My friends don't watch it either, but nothing's really changed for me except for I think that we reached a different audience and I can kind of see that reflected in our customer base, which is interesting and good.
Chantal, we're curious about your Japanese modeling career, which was mentioned in one episode. How did that come about? I wouldn't really call it a career, but starting when I was super young like 17. I don't know. I was working at Oak and we had a lot of Japanese bloggers and writers come in. I guess I was discovered probably while working there.
Do you know if there will be a second season that you might be taking part in? Claudia: I don't think we know or really...care. Chantal: I have no idea.
Was it weird being filmed all the time? Chantal: It's not that...fun.
The show made it seem like you were struggling quite a bit with making sales and paying bills... Chantal: I think that's dramatized.
Are you now doing better than you were at that point? Claudia: Absolutely. Lara: Especially online. Since we got that mass attention. People who don't live in New York who watched the show can shop. Claudia: Also, that was like a year ago, so there's been an entire year of people coming in, and events so it's just natural growth as well.
What advice would you give to a young person who might be interested in doing something similar--opening up a gallery or boutique space? Chantal: Don't cause it's already been done. [laughs] I'm joking! I would tell them to explore different ideas. I think that commercial retail is kind of an ancient concept and I would tell them to think outside of the box. Lara: I would tell them you're going to have to work really hard and not make a lot of money for a long time. So just be ready for that. As long as you love it, then it's worth it.