This was not a typical store party.
Twenty-something shoppers in beanie caps sat cross-legged on a bubble-gum-pink floor, filling out postcards of behalf of reproductive rights. Others browsed tote bags that read, “The Future is Female,” and sniffed car air fresheners labeled “Nasty Woman.”
The scene was unfolding at Bulletin Broads, a new 450-square-foot store at 27 Prince Street in the NoLIta neighborhood of Manhattan that is trying to invert both the concept and economics of what a store is.
Rather than merchandise its own goods, Bulletin Broads functions more like a mini-flea market, renting its shelf space to emerging brands seeking a brick-and-mortar presence. And it does so with a political bent.
“We think of Broads as both a store and feminist brand collective,” said Ali Kriegsman, 26, one of its founders. “Its where like-minded women can meet and create a small hub of resistance.”
CreditJackie Molloy for The New York Times
The NoLIta store, as well as its predecessor in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, is stocked exclusively with feminist-minded merchandise created by small brands run by women. Ten percent of all proceeds go to Planned Parenthood of New York City. The stores have raised more than $43,000.
But Bulletin Broads did not start out as a store. Its first iteration was a “shop-able” magazine that featured designer profiles alongside merchandise. “We wanted to take what was happening at the Brooklyn Flea with all these cool, underground brands, pluck the best ones and give them a digital home,” Ms. Kriegsman said.
The result was a highly curated version of Etsy. Indeed, Ms. Kriegsman and her business partner Alana Branston would comb Etsy and Instagram to pick their vendors.
“We realized there was really no place for these exceptional artisans to shine.” Ms. Kriegsman said. “These designers spend hours making one item, and you’re buying it for 50 bucks with no back story. It’s like, this isn’t just some dude cranking out product for Alibaba.”
They sent out their first newsletter (or bulletin) in 2015. It featured an architectural rocking chair, a cheeky ashtray and locally made soaps.
Three months into their endeavor, they applied to Y Combinator, the tech incubator program that counts Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit among its alumni. Upon acceptance, Ms. Branston and Ms. Kriegsman quit their day jobs as sales executives at Contently, which creates branded content, to work on Bulletin Broads full-time.
The program paired them with Kevin Hale, a founder of Wufoo, which creates online forms, as their mentor. “He said, Day 1, ‘This isn’t viable,’” Ms. Kriegsman said. “He looked at our numbers and said, ‘You’re not growing. This isn’t working.’”
Sales had stalled. “We interviewed all the brands and figured out they didn’t really want another online sales channel,” Ms. Kriegsman said. “They wanted a physical presence.”
So Bulletin began hosting a weekend flea market, renting an 18,000-square-foot parking lot in Williamsburg and offering stalls for a fee. The women began to bring in a healthy income but realized the weekly schlep wasn’t sustainable. “Every weekend we would wake up at 7 a.m. to set up,” Ms. Branston, 30, said. Last year, they set up a 450-square-foot shop at 145 Wythe Avenue in Brooklyn.
Borrowing a page from the sharing economy, they rented out shelf space to emerging brands that can’t afford their own stores. Brands are either invited to sell in their stores or can apply online. Brands get 70 percent of sales, Bulletin keeps 20, and 10 goes to charity.
“We help digital brands sell in physical stores,” as the website puts it.
The formula seems to be working. A third store, Bulletin Mini Mall, devoted to 1990s nostalgia, recently opened at 926 Broadway in the Flatiron district.
“Sustainable activism is key to Broads,” Ms. Kriegsman said. “We all have jobs, emails to answer. We want to make it easy for women to support women in a way that doesn’t disrupt their daily lives.”
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