We are thrilled to be interviewing Grace Kang, founder and buyer of gift shop Pink Olive, one of our oldest retailers! After years as a successful buyer, Grace opened her first brick and mortar store in the East Village in 2007 and filled it with baby gifts, home decor items, and whimsical treasures that are full of style and charm. Since then, Grace has expanded Pink Olive to include two more locations and an online shop. We were lucky enough to ask Grace a few questions about running her own business, favorite places in NYC, favorite baby gifts, and foul-proof holiday presents. Enjoy!
1. You spent many years working as a buyer in women’s fashion before making the leap to a small business owner. What inspired the change?
I always knew I wanted to have my own business, it was just a matter of when. I told myself that until that day comes, I was determined to be a sponge and learn as much as I could about the retail industry. The truth is, I really loved being in the corporate world as well and never thought I would leave my job as a successful fashion buyer for Bloomingdale’s, Saks and Barney’s. As someone who excelled as a buyer in the fashion industry, it took stepping out of my comfort zone to realize my true passion: inspiring people to give and create a beautiful living. In 2007, I opened a store called Pink Olive. Not only was it the most rewarding risk I have ever taken, but it was also the most unexpected. Pink Olive is more than just an ordinary gift shop. It’s a creative place dedicated to the simple joy of gift giving.
2. What are your most and least favorite parts of being your own boss?
My favorite part of being my own boss is being able to make a difference and inspire people, even in the smallest of ways. As customers often share with us, Pink Olive is their “happy place.” I also love to share my journey on Instagram and give people a glimpse into my world. I wouldn’t say I have a least favorite part of my job; however, the most challenging part is finding the right people for your team. It’s ever-changing, and you have to be constantly looking for those “gems” who truly get what you do :)
3. You have three stores in three very distinct NYC neighborhoods, the East Village, Park Slope, and Williamsburg. Why did you choose these neighborhoods, and what do you love most about each one?
All three neighborhoods fit the clientele of our ideal customer, but in slightly different ways. They’re like having children, all similar but also distinctly different. Our East Village location appeals mostly to creatives, single ladies, aunties/uncles, newly engaged couples and tourists. Our Park Slope location appeals to creatives as well, but also many first-time families and Brooklyn locals. Our newest location in Williamsburg has a similar vibe as our East Village shop, appealing to creatives, single ladies and gents, families and tourists!
4. Pink Olive is full of whimsical items and unexpected finds. Where do discover these brands and products?
We find our products all over! Our team scours creative brands online, on blogs and social media, and through our travel adventures. Many designers approach us, but we also reach out to many brands that appeal to our shop aesthetic!
5. Similarly, are there any places in NYC (stores, restaurants, museums, parks, etc.) that you consider to be hidden gems?
I have a few favorite hidden gems in the East Village, particularly restaurants! I am such a foodie so I visit Northern Spy Food Co., Zucker Bakery and Dirt Candy frequently! So many yummy options, and luckily each restaurant is located super close to our East Village shop – perfect for when I need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up!
6. For customers who stop in looking for a special something for a newborn and toddler, what do you recommend? Does your niece have any favorite items from your store?
There are so many great designers that we work with in finding that perfect baby gift. We have many go-to designers for specific needs. We love Pink Chicken for cute toddler dresses, TANE organics & Oeuf for sophisticated baby gear and Maileg and BlaBla for whimsical baby and toddler gifts. Also, we LOVE suggesting books for any baby gift :) Your taxi and Metrocard rattles have been a huge hit as the perfect NYC baby gift, as well :) For our online customers, they can go here to pick out their perfect baby gift assortment as easy as 1-2-3.
As for my niece, she was obsessed with the bashful beige bunny from Jellycat when she was young. Now, she’s a pre-teen and lovesssss all the fun paper goods and OliveBox!
7. The holiday season is swiftly approaching – are there any new trendy items or foolproof gifts we should keep an eye out for as we begin our holiday shopping?
Our “you are loved” collection has really taken off since last year. The mugs and tote bags are hot sellers, as well as the new pumpkin and hot chocolate scented candles :) We also have curated a wonderful collection of our favorite things in our Pink Olive holiday gift guide seen
Thank you, Grace!
(Images via Julia Cawley)