ADDRESS: 448 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024
STORY + VIDEO EDITING BY RACHEL SCHWARTZMANN – SHOP THE SILL – PHOTOS + FOOTAGE BY BRIDGET BADORE FOR THE STYLE LINE
The Sill has planted itself as a coveted New York City
staple. With its downtown roots and global mission of bringing the outdoors in, the tiny but mighty shop has accomplished so much since we first met the team back in 2015. Fast forward to present day, where we recently had the opportunity to catch up with The Sill’s inimitable Founder and CEO, Eliza Blank, at their newly-opened shop on the Upper West Side.
As you would imagine, city dwellers have already deemed The Sill’s new outpost as a go-to garden oasis in the middle of the (sometimes unforgiving) concrete jungle. Plants, succulents, and leafy greens of all kinds adorn every corner of the sun-washed shop. With its exposed white brick, marble counter-tops, and wood flooring the space itself also serves as a minimal canvas for shoppers to have a focused experience as they peruse the shelves and pick out the plant of their dreams. In fact, this streamlined method was anything but accidental, as Eliza contends that her refined approach extends from her sartorial style to her business style – she even mentioned in our interview, “Even though we’ve been met with great success since 2015, we still tend to be prudent with our investments. That’s probably a reflection of my personal style and approach. I’m officially that friend who boasts about wearing clothes that are ten plus years old. A new-found, annoying thing I can do now that I’m in my ’30s. So with the shop, we took a similar approach. We installed only what we needed, nothing more. We kept it simple and a little undressed to let our products stand out.”
With her intentional approach and unwavering commitment to her business, we’re constantly in awe of Eliza’s trailblazing efforts. Today, we’re thrilled to share more from our time with Eliza who kindly gave us a tour of the store and shared more on The Sill’s evolution, thoughts on creativity, and what every modern woman should have on her sill. Discover our full conversation below and also enjoy exclusive photos (and footage!) captured by Bridget Badore for The Style Line.
Hi! My name is Eliza Blank. I am the Founder and CEO of
The Sill — an online, offline garden center with a mission to connect people with plants. The Sill launched in 2012, so I’m turning the corner on my sixth year in business. I first introduced myself in 2015 to announce The Sill’s first shop opening at 84 Hester Street in Chinatown. Two years later and here we are a team of 25 passionate plant people, a second store on the Upper West Side, and a beautiful new website (just launched Nov 30th).
In some ways so much has changed – and yet, in many ways, I am still the same person I was two years ago: passionate about our mission, focused on our customer, impressed by my team, optimistic about the future. Similarly, I’m still struggling to create space for myself – but I still love long dinners with my husband, time with family and friends, and weekends upstate.
Congratulations on a beautiful store opening! Walk us through the thought process of deciding to open uptown. Why do you think this neighborhood is best suited for a business like The Sill?
As a young company, it made all the sense in the world to situate ourselves in the Lower East Side – amongst a similarly young and vibrant community. Our brand DNA is really infused with our Chinatown upbringing. That said, as the brand has evolved it was important that we extended beyond our comfort zone and bring our physical presence elsewhere. I love the Upper West Side. It’s full of young families. A different vibe, but still a very good one.
In a way, it allows us to work with a relatively different demographic without having to leave our own backyard. When we found 448 Amsterdam, we knew it was the right space for us. It’s right next to a New York City Public Library. We ultimately want to be here to foster community and we think the placement just felt right.
Walk us through the space itself. What do you hope visitors engage with the most when they first enter?
This space is palatial compared to 84 Hester Street (which boasts about 200 square feet of total merchandised floor space). 448 Amsterdam is nearly 700 square feet. With that, we are most excited to continue to offer our weekly workshops. In this footprint, we can comfortably sit 12 people around our countertop which is set back from the shop floor. While we continue to host workshops downtown – it’s generally for ten people – standing room only.
The educational component to The Sill is incredibly important. We are able to add value to the relationship between plants and people that other retailers can’t (or won’t) through our customer service, plant expertise, and our ability to combine the two. We hope the larger footprint encourages customers to linger longer and engage with our incredibly knowledgeable staff.
“We installed only what we needed, nothing more. We kept it simple and a little undressed to let our products stand out.”
– ELIZA BLANK
“Every day the world we face is entirely new. The Sill is just a small example of a creative solution for today.”
– ELIZA BLANK
We often use personal style as the lens to tell our stories. With that said, how do you think The Sill’s shops best represent your personal style (or approach) when it comes to fashion, work, and life?
Even though we’ve been met with great success since 2015, we still tend to be prudent with our investments. That’s probably a reflection of my personal style and approach. I’m officially that friend who boasts about wearing clothes that are ten plus years old. A new-found, annoying thing I can do now that I’m in my ’30s.
So with the shop, we took a similar approach. We installed only what we needed, nothing more. We kept it simple and a little undressed to let our products stand out. It was also important that we lived with the shop for some time before committing to too many major investments. It’s important to act on your learnings – and not just your assumptions.
(At this point in time) what is one question you wish people asked you more often?
At this point in time, I’m more interested in listening than talking.
I love being in my ’30s and finally being comfortable that I don’t know everything. In your ’20s this made me uncomfortable and defensive. The question I wish people asked me more often: How can I help you? Because let’s be honest, we all need all the help we can get.
Based on your experience, what should every New York woman have on their sill and why?
Right now, a humidifier! What is it with New York City apartments!? I’m so dehydrated all the time. By the way, so are your plants. Sometimes it’s the little things we do for ourselves that make a difference in our day-to-day. Now that it’s officially winter (first snow!), treat yourself to an air-purifying plant and a well-designed humidifier. Did I mention I’m in my ’30s?
How do you think creativity contributes to some of the world’s bigger conversations, and what role do you hope The Sill plays in this?
Creativity is problem-solving. Creativity is a key ingredient to contributing to the world’s bigger conversations because what worked in the past doesn’t necessarily work now.
Every day the world we face is entirely new. The Sill is just a small example of a creative solution for today. In the past, traditional garden centers were once the solution. However, they’re becoming less and less relevant as our lifestyle and expectations shift dramatically as we adopt new habits, new technologies, and new value systems.
How would you advise the next generation of small business owners to leave an imprint in the world, simply by doing what they love?
Well, that’s a very tall order! My only advice is to choose something mission driven. It will make the hard work feel that much more worthwhile when the going gets tough, or you’re simply faced with failure (which we all are as small business owners and entrepreneurs). Having a clear mission will also help you focus when you find yourself getting caught up in the grind of the day-to-day. It’s something to return to time and time again.