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Rushing down Tenth Avenue in Chelsea last week between dinner and drinks, I couldn’t resist ducking into a charming space simply named STORY.  I was enchanted by what I saw once inside. NYC retail space Story is curated like a magazine, revolves like a gallery, and sells things like a store. That means every four to eight weeks, STORY completely reinvents itself – from merchandise and store design to floor plan and fixtures – to bring to light a new theme, trend, or issue. Rachel Shechtman, the store’s creator, is breaking the retail mold to modernize brick and mortar commerce with her innovative business model.

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As online commerce continues to experience explosive growth, brick-and-mortar stores need to differentiate themselves to attract and retain customers or risk extinction. STORY is unique in that they leverage storytelling to engage visitors and build emotional connections with the physical space as well as the products and those who created them. During my visit, the theme was Made in America. Every product in the store was artfully displayed and supported by art and text, taking visitors on a trip across the country through the journeys of the work of talented makers and crafters. Details and photos of past stories such as Wellness, Love, and Making Things are available on their website.

STORY launched as a “Start-Up Store” AKA a permanent pop-up shop spotlighting emerging digital retail concepts and a 360 degree customer experience.  But if change is at the center of the STORY, so are innovative ideas about creating engaging experiences – from pasta making classes to talks from TED luminaries to yoga, and even brand partnerships with both start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. According to Schechtman in an interview with Protein, “Brands pay us to become part of the experience; their name is on the wall and we activate different opportunities within a STORY that are customized around their objectives.” Multinational conglomerate General Electric, for example, wanted to be at the centre of the Making Things STORY, so most of the store was dedicated to free craft workshops and classes.

STORY is only one example related to the rising trend of pop-up shops but represents a significant shift in the retail industry from the selling of goods and services to the value of experiences and transformations. Sales by square foot is no longer enough to sustain customer relationships- businesses need to build deeper connections with consumers by building communities, telling stories, and curating an interesting and dynamic inventory of products and services.

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