Love Your Melon, the $40 million brand launched in 2012 as a college project to give hats to kids with cancer, will open its first brick and mortar location this weekend. The shelves are lined in anticipation with just one product: all white beanies.
“It’s a blank white canvas,” says president Zachary Quinn, who is considered the brand visionary while co-founder/CEO Brian Keller runs day-to-day operations for the 40-person team.
New location, new concept: Quinn is going out of his way to make sure no one thinks of this space—a former Shinola store on the choice North Loop corner of Third and Washington avenues—as a store.
“We want to create something as exclusive and cool as what we’re doing online,” Quinn says. Currently 90 percent of Love Your Melon’s sales occur on its website with the other 10 percent coming from wholesale retail and custom partners. Once LYM maxed out on hats gifted to pediatric cancer patients throughout the U.S., the company shifted to donating half of its revenue. Since its inception, LYM has given $4.7 million to non-profits, Quinn says, and has donated more than 149,000 beanies to children battling cancer.
The brand built its large and devoted following on social media: 1.1 million Facebook fans; 556,000 Instagram followers. Now Quinn wants to capitalize on that emotional connection from fans—IRL. (That’s “in real life” for social media novices).
“We can’t rely on social forever. It could all fall apart tomorrow,” Quinn says. “We’re diversifying. A physical space feels very legitimizing.”
Love Your Melon’s new executive offices are upstairs.
Outside brands are free to use Love Your Melon's studio for photo and video shoots, so long as LYM merchandise is incorporated. (Photo provided by Love Your Melon)
The Love Your Melon Studio will open to the public only for product launch events. The first, to introduce LYM’s new pom beanies, will happen on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Quinn’s goal: a line down Washington Avenue two hours before opening. Some of the new beanies will only be available at the studio. Quinn expects a sell-out, as often happens when LYM releases new products online.
“Customers get frustrated if we sell out too fast,” he says.
But they’ll also get bored, he believes, if you put the entire collection in front of them every day. So other LYM styles will not be available at the studio launch event this weekend.
“We don’t want to take away from our online business,” Quinn explains.
Of course, with sporadic hours, LYM risks frustrating potential shoppers who happen by the high-traffic location only to find the doors locked. Quinn shrugs. “As a company that’s very seasonal, we want to do this in a controlled way and always keep it busy and exciting.”
Between product launches, which will happen a couple of times a month with increasing frequency around the holidays, the LYM Studio will be used for photo shoots—not just Love Your Melon’s. Any brand is welcome to use the space for photography, videos or events—provided they incorporate LYM products into their content.
“It’s an influencer and retail space,” Quinn says. “We want a very collaborative environment.” He’s modeling the strategy off of Ipsy, a monthly subscription makeup service that runs an influencer studio in L.A. where social media stars are invited to shoot their YouTube videos.
“Content is so important for ads and posts on social,” Quinn says. “We have to keep it fresh and new all the time.”
Love Your Melon Studio, 226 N. Washington Ave., opens Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.