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Inside Think Big—Shop Small

Highlighting the value of social contact and personal experiences, independent shops bring quality, aesthetic, design, atmosphere - and passion for service.

Inside Think Big—Shop Small

design & fashion

Think Big—Shop Small  looks at stores with unique retail concepts that offer products and immersive interiors, introducing a new culture of customer experiences. We spoke with the book’s co-editor, Janna Strauss, about the ways in which the high-street has adapted over time, her experiences in creating her fourth book with gestalten - and much more. 

Q. Hi Janna, could you introduce yourself to those who may not know you?

A. I write about the good things in life, covering love, books, motorcycles and everything in between. It was around 2010 when I started my job as a travel journalist and lived abroad for some years in France, Namibia and Indonesia. I started visiting indie stores in every city I went to, creating my first book out of that ten years later. Do You Read Me? is about indie bookstores around the world, published by gestalten, in 2020. 

For me, one of the best parts about travelling is the precious conversations with people who keep their world, communities and themselves alive and inspired. From designers, to artists, architects, and indie store owners: all are such independent, creative and courageous human beings! Think Big - Shop Small is my next homage to them.

(Superette Annex, Cannabis products, Toronto, Canada. Photo: Courtesy of Alex Lysakowski, Think Big - Shop Small)

Q. What makes the subject of Think Big - Shop Small unique in your eyes?

A. We are experiencing an evolution of the retail shop. Think Big - Shop Small celebrates this shift, and showcases how stores are outgrowing themselves and breaking new ground in order to thrive in times of online retail. 

Today, successful stores are personal, haptic and richly layered. They are places where like minded - and unlike minded - people meet, talk and inspire each other. Store owners have started offering workshops, wine nights, podium talks or concerts. You can experience exciting art nights in the fabulous Sorgenfri in Oslo, Norway or relax at the Turkish tea bar of Sabah House New York! And this is something that big chains and online retail cannot compete with. Think Big - Shop Small is a stage for the independent stores doing their best to inspire, open minds, and diversify cultures. 

Q. Can you give an example of how some of the stores featured within Think Big - Shop Small are diversifying their customer experience?

A. Many shops featured in the book are designing entire worlds of experiences around their product ranges. In New York City, for example, the sports equipment brand Bala has designed its store as a pastel-coloured playground, where popular influencers offer regular fitness and meditation classes. Also in NYC, Big Night, the one stop-shop for beautiful dinner parties, provides its customers with practical tips from the dedicated owner who was a celebrated gastronomic journalist in her previous life. In Mykonos, Greece, jewellery shop Gavello nel Blu, has designed its salesroom as a pool where customers can literally dive in and try on handmade necklaces, rings and bangles. 

(Gavello Nel Blu, Jewelry, Mykonos, Greece. Photo: Courtesy of Gavriil Papadiotis, Think Big - Shop Small)

Q. How do the stores featured within Think Big - Shop Small navigate the relationship with their customers, online and in-store?

A. The best stores are truly available to their customers on all channels, and customers today want a seamless shopping experience. For example, those who research the store’s social media accounts want to go directly from there to the website, perhaps test the sofa on offer in their own living room via augmented reality, and have various options for online purchasing and shipping. These have now become the basic requirements. 

Some stores in the book have also found exciting ways to engage with these two worlds - offline and online. As a playful counter to the immersive experience of augmented reality, the interior store Merchant in Los Angeles has set up an entire holiday home with its couches, curtains and accessories. Guests can try out the entire range, feel the materials, fall in love with products and then buy them in the shop. On the other hand, Mango Teen in Barcelona has taken the digital Metaverse as its style model and created a futuristic boutique for teenagers. The store is a digital world you can touch, an actual walk-in metaverse with fashion to try on, perfect social media backgrounds, a click- and-collect to pick up favourite pieces ordered online, bright colours and a thousand analogue and virtual corners to discover. The teenagers - the customers of tomorrow - love it.

Q. Do you have a favourite store featured in the book - and if so, what makes it stand out to you?

A. It would have to be Officine Universelle Buly in Tokyo. I’m an interior addict - and in my mind, I am still standing in awe in front of this exciting store. It’s divided into two parts, one historical, with lovely details from the typical French pharmacies of the 19th century, and one modern, that cites forms and ideas of its counterpart in a futuristic, yet respectful, way. A golden line, referring to the Japanese ceramic repairing tradition of Kintsugi, unites both parts. Fabulous!

(Officine Universelle Buly, Cosmetics and accessories, Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Courtesy of Art Recherche Industrie, Think Big - Shop Small)

Q. This will be your fourth book with gestalten after Do you Read Me?, Temples of Books, and What a Wedding. How was your experience in creating your latest title with the team? 

A. gestalten has been my partner of choice from the first book on! For Think Big - Shop Small, I was so lucky to work with my favourite project manager Lars again, who deserves a golden medal for always perfectly juggling ideas, contributors, deadlines and - hard to believe for me at first - other projects next to my book. I was also able to work with my favourite graphic designer, Stefan, whose intuition for style I admire so much! And I’m very thankful that Robert is trusting me again with this fourth book. 

I love the fact that everybody at gestalten is so driven by the inner desire to create something really inspiring, valuable and beautiful. That’s what makes working on books with gestalten so rewarding: it’s all about sharing the same vision! 

Think Big—Shop Small showcases highly unique concept stores, beautifully designed flagship stores, as well as independently run shops that have found new ways to broaden the scope of their offerings and interaction with customers. Take a peek today.