Olivia is a woman who, admittedly, likes to take risks. Fresh out of school where she studied to become a dentist, she instead felt called to selling tea. At the time, there wasn’t a great market for tea in China; when Olivia approached her neighbor - the only person she knew involved in the tea business - for advice, she was met with warnings rather than information. However, Olivia is also a persistent woman, and with some “nagging” her neighbor finally agreed to teach her about tea manufacturing. Additionally, Olivia spent time in the mountains where tea is grown, observing farmers and enriching her tea education. After spending a month tediously picking a storefront, she opened her first store in her hometown of Fuzhou in 1995, and found herself an "immediate success." Just three months later, she was able to open her second storefront in Shanghai, and then finally a third in Guangzhou. Olivia describes this twenty-year journey, and her subsequent move to America, as a “strange kind of fate.”
Jin Yun Fu represents gold, tea’s aroma, and fortune. Her logo captures a red circle representative of the sun and a swirl representing a cloud. This swirl’s open endedness will keep fortune coming to the shop forever as the cloud will continually rise. And though her move to New York was not entirely smooth, she feels strongly about her choice of location and fortunate in the continued success of her Chinese shop. In New York, Olivia wanted a location that was central, which would allow her to interact with people of all denominations, and she feels she found that on West 25th where she is located upstairs in the Showplace Antiques Center. A large percent of her customers are Americans, as she has discovered a budding interest in tea culture of younger generations of Americans. She boasts that she has never encountered a rude customer, though she was unsure whether to ascribe this to either the culture of tea itself or the calming properties of drinking tea.
Olivia’s passion for her work shines through, continually emphasizing the importance that her customers learn the mental and physical healing benefits of drinking tea. She feels that despite tea’s Chinese origins, it is a “worldly gift from nature.” Though she endorses the benefits and specialities of each type of tea, when pushed for her favorite she lists Wuyi Yan tea - a type of Oolong tea - for its texture and special “mouth feel.” Every thing she does in her shop is infused with a care for disseminating the knowledge she has amassed in the years since opening her first shop in the 1990s. When you step into Jin Yun Fu, Olivia’s claim that she’s never encountered a rude customer becomes less shocking. It’s organized atmosphere, equipped with mini statuettes, beautiful tea kettles, and, of course, lines of loose-leaf tea bags would calm even the busiest of New Yorkers.
With all the centers we have discovered dedicated to children, pets, students, and shoppers, it was refreshing and intriguing to come upon Senior Planet – “the country’s first technology themed center for over-60s. ” The center offers courses, skill-shares, workshops, special events and lecture series that help senior citizens deal with the ever-changing technological world. 22 computers, 3 Skype stations, a gaming area, a projector, mobile devices and a lounge create a space that one might think is fit for a youngster, but is, in fact, the perfect space for the senior folks. “Aging with attitude” is their motto. Computer basics, advanced computing, introduction to the iPad, digital photography, social networking and more are all taught in a welcoming environment. What a brilliant concept!
A favorite of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Sarah Jessica Parker, New York Vintage is what co-founder Shannon Hoey describes as “a leader in fashion. ” Shannon has spent the past twenty-three years amassing an extensive collection of vintage clothing, which includes a downstairs retail space open to the public and an upstairs industry archive open by appointment only. Over the years, Shannon has dressed red carpet actresses and world-famous singers, and has worked closely with costume designers on a range of films and TV series, including Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men. In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama made a historic appearance in a New York Vintage Norman Norell dress, and since then, Shannon has dressed her on many occasions. When I first visited New York Vintage, I could not believe my eyes. The window display was stunning, as was the old-fashioned décor, complete with richly upholstered chairs, gilded mirrors, and ornate chandeliers. I was captivated by the wall of Vogue photographs, each one featuring a piece from Shannon’s collection, and of course, by the true treasure of New York Vintage: high-heeled shoes, flamboyant hats, and endless racks of beautiful dresses from designers around the world. Upstairs, the industry archive upstairs was filled with even more outrageous items, from a dress owned by Ulysses Grant’s wife to intricate McQueen headpieces. “Every piece here has historical significance, ” Shannon told me. “We’re an institution, a working museum archive. ” In fact, she added, many of the items at New York Vintage have been purchased from museums, and each piece is meticulously documented and entered into a database. Today, Shannon is one of New York’s foremost experts on fashion as an art form, so I was surprised to learn that she never set out to work with vintage clothing. “Fashion discovered me, ” she told me, explaining how her husband’s career in antiques first sparked her interest in vintage. It quickly became her passion, and within a few years, she and her husband co-founded New York Vintage. “He handles the business side of things, and I’m the creative director, ” Shannon explained. “So I get to do the fun part. ”But the vintage business can be difficult, too, and it took years of hard work for Shannon to build her collection. “The kind of fashion we seek is not easily found, ” she said. “It takes patience and capital, and you need to know what you’re looking for. ” In the early days, Shannon spent a lot of time searching for new pieces in Europe, but nowadays, with three young daughters, she travels much less. When I asked about her children, she said with a smile, “They spend a lot of time here with me, and they love playing dress-up. ”Shannon, unsurprisingly, also loves dressing up, and she told me that she has a lot of opportunities to wear items from her collection. “Halloween is my favorite holiday, ” she explained, “And last year I went to Allison Sarofim’s Italian futurism-themed party in a pink Mohawk and mod clothing. ” But Shannon’s favorite era is the 1920s. “I’m obsessed with all of it, ” she said. “The mindset, the freedom, the departure from women being bound and put in corsets. ”Still marveling over Shannon’s list of celebrity clients, which includes Julia Roberts and Beyonce, I asked if she ever gets starstruck. When celebrities first started flocking to the store, she told me, it was totally overwhelming, “like running from a tidal wave. ” But since then, the only time she has really been starstruck was her visit to the White House with the First Lady. “Some celebrities still catch me off-guard, ” she said, “Like the time Nicole Kidman showed up unannounced. But otherwise, I’m used to it. ”When I asked Shannon about the future of New York Vintage, she told me that they are hoping to expand overseas. “We want to open our doors to global clients, ” she told me, “maybe by opening an outpost in Europe. ” But until then, she told me, she will continue to do what she loves here in New York, working with designers, inspiring them and feeling inspired. For Shannon, the truly fulfilling part of her job is working with designers and models, creating with them and helping to communicate their vision. “I’m always inspired, ” she said with a smile. “I have the best job in the world. ”