Jao Social Club
Brooklyn Store 357 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217, USA
- The full range of Jao Brand products.
- A mix of clothing, homeware, and apothecary items.
- Meet Gertie, the resident white dove.
357 Atlantic Avenue
WHAT WE LOVE
Home to Jao Brand’s chemical-free and ethically made in the U.S. skincare products, Jao Social Club also offers an eclectic assortment of art, home goods, clothing and accessories, all offered in two adjoining shops. Established in 2019 the shops are an interesting mix of vintage fixtures, patterned floors and tiled walls on a lovely stretch of Atlantic Avenue replete with wonderful independent shops. Proprietor Gale Mayron founded Jao Brand with her chemist father in 1997. The brand launched with a hand sanitizer and has since expanded to include a line of fourteen products sold around the globe.
"I always wanted to have a store it just took me forever to have the balls to do it!"
What makes Jao Social Club so unique? Everything in the store is something I personally use and fell in love with. Odd things that you didn’t know you needed that are not quite easy to find. And my wonderful husband of 25 years, Seth’s fantastic paintings and drawings.
Is there a story behind the shop name, Jao Social Club? I wanted the shop to be like a social club. A place to hang out, have a drink or an espresso, and get into a good conversation.
What are Jao Social Club’s “must-have” products? Well, before Covid it would have been any of our Jao Brand products, such as our Goe Oil. But once the pandemic hit it’s been Jao Hand Refresher/Sanitizer, the first product we made in 1997.
Where do you make and source products for Jao Social Club? Everything we sell is small batch from our Jao Brand product line which we produce in Pennsylvania, to the types of accessories we find. Small leather good companies, a line of eco-cert linen clothing that we are making with friends in Sweden. Producers we find in France. Soap made in Pennsylvania. Leather from Columbia, a backpack we designed. Or small bags from Argentina. Flooring we designed and had printed in the USA. My friend Heather’s ceramics made in Brooklyn. It’s a total grab bag.
Who are Jao Social Club’s customers? Our customers are definitely cool and fabulous. They are locals from Brooklyn and also quite a few Manhattanites making the trek into our neighborhood. There used to be tourists, but now it is mostly Europeans who have made Brooklyn their home.
How has the internet impacted your business? I had set up a Jao Brand website about 8 years ago before I had the shop. It was important that I do it as I couldn’t just rely on the wholesale accounts that I had. I decided to open the store after my web shop was firmly established. Having said that…Amazon sucks and I do wish the consumer understood what a detriment it has been to the natural shopping ecosystem, and the small business owner. After the pandemic, I have noticed customers telling me how they want to support small local businesses, so I think they are finally understanding that where they spend their money is their power, and if they want small stores to continue to exist they must support them.
Have you adapted your business to the coronavirus pandemic? We have made the shop safe with airflow, sanitizer, we keep the door open in winter. We don’t talk as much to customers as we are not sure they want to be bothered or engage, however sometimes I just can’t help myself and people do get into masked conversations and they are usually thankful for it. People have just been so lonely and bored!
Gale Mayron, shopkeeper at Jao Social Club
Who inspires you? My Father and my Mother. My mother was an entrepreneur back in the 1970’s with her company Mayron Imports. And my Father who started a small R&D laboratory where we worked out our incredible formulas.
What inspires you? I will look at old vintage photos of stores, or I’ll go down the Biba hole and just groove on those old English stores, the Chelsea Drugstore, Vivienne Westwood. Or I’ll start looking for photos of the old boutiques from the NYC heyday of the 1970’s or the old stores I remember from the 1980s, Flip, Unique Boutique, Ad Hoc housewares in Soho, Fiorucci, Reminiscence and Patricia Field’s when they were on 8th street. All the old little stores from the East Village in the 1980s there were just so many amazing personal stores with vision, it seemed endless the amount of creativity back then. Those small clothing boutiques on 9th street and 7th street…just dreaming about the way things used to be. I am a nostalgia-est for sure.
Before I was a shopkeeper … I went to film school, waited tables, did voiceovers, met my husband and started a very small production company, developed Jao Brand products with my father, then really focused on building the brand for 20 years. I always wanted to have a store it just took me forever to have the balls to do it! Brooklyn was my home and was also our largest customer base. It was a great leap into the unknown.
Did you have prior retail experience? My first job in high school was at the Gap.
Your favorite thing about owning an independent shop? Well, of course it’s fun to be the boss and stock the store with all of the odd things I love. I have great employees and when they move things around and display them they always look better than I could ever make them look.
Your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? Do it. Your neighborhood needs you!
What are your favorite local independent businesses? All the stores on Atlantic Avenue between Hoyt and Bond! We have turned the block into a destination and it is very exciting to be a part of it. Also, Front General Store . This is my idea of a perfect store. It’s in Dumbo.
ON THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
"The future of retail will be small independent stores that have a distinct point of view about them, and offer products that the customer has not seen on an algorithm. So, the focus has to be really highly curated. The space should give them a transportive feeling. Shopping will become like an excursion, like going to a museum. It will be something to do and enjoy, a treat. Customers will buy what they need from Amazon or wherever, but they will become inspired and challenged by what they see in the small stores from the type of clothing offered to the odd housewares. It has to be a different activity; shopping as an immersive experience, a place to sit for a second, have a coffee or a glass of wine, take in the atmosphere, have a conversation. After the pandemic, I think people will want to really enjoy life and hopefully treat themselves well. The stores that succeed will offer them that and more."