The business partners and real-life couple behind New York’s Project No. 8 open up about their pet projects
Story by Meredith Fisher / Photography by Eddie Brannan
While most people are scaling back, Elizabeth Beer and Brian Janusiak, owners of Project No. 8 in New York, are opening two new shops this spring, proving that their “less is more” breed of retailing has staying power.
A lot has changed since the pair opened Project No. 8 two years ago on Division Street in the Chinatown area. For starters, they’ve added another member to their family, a baby girl named Ona. They are also on the verge of opening two new projects in the next few months: a men’s-oriented version of Project No. 8 at Hester and Orchard streets and another space at the Ace Hotel on 29th Street and Broadway. And that doesn’t even include the relocation of the gallery they are partners in, ARRATIA, BEER, in Berlin.
But when they have a moment to breathe, the couple, who met in 2004 and started working together in 2005, can be found somewhere between their home in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, their studio and shop in Chinatown, and the myriad of European cities they travel to for both the gallery and the store. “We are always on opposite schedules,” says Brian. “We were in Madrid at an art show during New York Fashion Week, and we’ll be in Berlin during Paris Fashion Week. We’ll get to Paris in time to do some buying, but we’ll miss some of the fun.”
With travel playing such a huge role in their lives, it seems natural that their next project will live just off the lobby of the Ace Hotel. The highly anticipated hotel (with locations in Portland, Seattle, and Palm Springs) has been garnering attention for luring restaurateur Ken Friedman (of The Spotted Pig fame) to north Madison Square Park, but Brian and Elizabeth didn’t need much convincing. “It is definitely an odd location — but that is exactly what interests us,” says Elizabeth. “When we signed on for the store, we started running into all these people that live and work in the neighborhood that we never knew about because it’s kind of hidden…just like the store.” Similar in size and feel to the original Project No. 8, the new space will have a different name and a different experience, another element that appealed to the couple. “How do you solve the problem of travel and how do you appeal to an entirely different audience?” questions Brian. Their solution was to curate a selection of objects that they have discovered over the years, in addition to creating new items. They are already in the process of collaborating with Kiosk to re-interpret the concept of souvenirs. “It can be something that is designed, not necessarily just something you take home from a trip.”
The small space required an extremely concise edit of inventory, a common thread through all of their projects. But it is their specific breed of “less is more” retailing that has the couple expanding at a time when most people are shrinking. “We had been going back and forth with Ace for almost a year, so by the time it came through we were already in the process of developing the Hester Street shop,” says Brian, “and now they are both happening.” They admit that the prospect of two new shops is definitely a little scary, but they also have found that their business at Project No. 8 hasn’t really dropped off. “People are still buying, they are just being more careful,” says Elizabeth. “They want things that are well made and more specific, and they also want a social experience.” Their shop has created just that — a place where people can be social, come to shop, see things they never have before, and either leave with a pair of Martin Margiela sneakers or a $5 set of “thank you” cards.
However, the limited surface area of Project No. 8 does have its drawbacks. “We are constantly meeting people who are doing interesting things,” says Brian, “so we needed more space to include them.” Those people include Luca Gnecchi-Ruscone of Rome, whose sunglasses line L.G.R is modeled after a style that was created by his grandfather in the 1930s, and Patrick Long of Portland, whose Chester Wallace bag was created to perfectly fit a six pack or be the ideal tote for a man (or woman) around town. The Hester Street space will be focused on men’s clothing, but will also carry more objects and books, while also serving as their office and showroom for e15, the German furniture line they are now representing.
And if two stores, three children, and a partnership in a gallery aren’t enough, an e-commerce site is set to launch any day now to make their hard-to-find items easier to find. With all this going on, it would seem that the term “less is more” might need some revision for the duo, but they see their new projects not as an expansion but as a consolidation. “It’s about being more centered and concise,” says Brian, and New York is about to see a whole lot more of their less.