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Zona

zonaSophie and Franci Sagar envision their store as “a community center where you can buy things,” reports Penelope Green in The New York Times (12/6/12). The mother-daughter team see a store that offers “not just physical wares but experiential ones: field trips to the studios of artists like Jessica Wickham … or a night at Rock Hall, an inn in Litchfield, County, Conn., with readings (“story time”) and a movie.” The concept is somewhat like that of “art dealers who help collectors forge a connection with artists whose work they might eventually buy.”

The store, which will launch as a pop-up before settling into a permanent location next year, is called Zona — same as the store Franci and her then-husband, Lou, operated in SoHo in the ’80s. Zona “was one of a clutch of experiential retail environments that grew organically downtown at the time … There were no multinationals on the cobblestone streets then, just a few creative partnerships that were short on business plans but had a strong aesthetic point of view … firmly anti-machine, blending Santa Fe style … with Smith & Hawken tools … It looked and sounded like a spa.”

Zona’s mandate was “to sell objects with a soul,” and in “the late 1980s, on any given Saturday in early December, Zona had a line that stretched around the block, like a disco … By the early ’90s, Zona was beating sales records, with sales of more than $1,000 a square foot at its high point.” But then the marriage collapsed, Franci hooked up with venture capitalists, and 12 years ago Zona closed its doors. But Franci still felt that Zona was her “first child,” and when the trademark on the name expired, she re-claimed it. Now partnered with Sophie, their challenge is “to make a Zona that’s relevant” for a new generation.