The Break: Two Words, Eight Letters, Say It and I'm Yours
Interviewed & Photographed by Olivia Kenney
Film by Logan Hursh
Did you know that champagne is imperative to your well-being while shopping? I bet you didn’t. Well, Hannah Richtman can be found serving you just that, as you try on the pant suit you swore you couldn’t rock. We visited Hannah at her inclusive cool girl empire and retail hot spot, The Break, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. These days, thrifting has turned into a complicated game of spending five hours at several Goodwill branches, or paying sixty dollars for a graphic t-shirt (always a hard no). Lucky for us, Hannah, and her growing team of seven, have found a way to completely curate your entire sourcing experience, without slide tackling your bank account. From your new favorite pair of jeans, to your latest spontaneous tattoo, check out how The Break Babes have evolved the idea of shopping, and the importance of the community that comes with it.
POND: Alright SO, give me a little run down.
HANNAH: My name is Hannah Richtman. I’m a Scorpio. My soulmate is my rescue mutt ShiShi (better known as Cheech). I’m 5’2, I wanna dance with you, and I’m sophisticated/fun.
P: The Missy Elliot quote says a lot about you. Where are you from? And how long have you been in New York?
H: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 8 Years.
P: Where did you work before you started your own business?
H: I worked retail, a few show rooms for designers, and in marketing. But the steadiest job was my blog until I started The Break in October of 2014.
P: Did you have a specific item or thrifting experience that made you go, "Wow, I could do this for the rest of my life?"
H: Every single thrift experience reaffirms that I'm doing what I love. I would gladly spend all of my time under that nasty fluorescent lighting, despite The Break. However, I’m reassured that I’m in the right career when I get to meet someone that mentions how much they love our selection. I created this job around my passion, but it’s the community that makes every day truly magical.
P: Between handpicking your inventory and having a team of employees that very accurately represents the brand—did you ever think that opening up a store would turn into more of a curatorial responsibility?
H: I always wanted to create a brand that was bigger than just selling vintage clothes. I planned a business with the hope that I could work with women and men who are creative, excited, independent, funny, kind, and fierce. The clothes start the conversation, but then I end up having so much else in common with everyone who walks in our door, and that’s what makes The Break truly unique.
Opening the store happened really organically when we discovered that a physical space is what our customer wanted. I'm so happy that we were able to establish an online presence and a loyal fan base before we opened the brick-and-mortar. I'm so lucky that I was able to find interns who became my best friends and cherished first employees when we took this huge step. Curating the team has been the easiest process.
P: You have started a little hashtag that has evolved quite literally into a group of girls that are both employees and friends of the break, Is it exciting to see this army of #BreakBabes come to life?
H: Absolutely! I pinch myself everyday thinking about the incredible team that has grown from this brand. I never expected that when I put out an ad for an internship at my lil baby company that I was going to be able to eventually hire such intuitive, stylish, brilliant young women and men. We’ve grown so quickly in the past couple of months and have been able to expand even more! The people who have joined our team were familiar with the company before hand; they are friends, or had followed us, or came to one of our events at our pop-up. The fact that they were so intrigued that they wanted to work for us is so humbling, and the best thing that has happened to this company. I LOVE MY #BREAKBABES!
I’ve also met some of my closest friends in our customers. They’ll come in and shop and we’ll start chatting and next thing you know we’ve finished a bottle of wine and are planning a project or a night out. Again, I pinch myself constantly.
P: Champagne and tattoo artists have been a frequent for your last few shopping parties, What made you decide that it was a game changer to have things go on after hours?
H: We opened a store because of the events we’d thrown in the past. We had a small space in Bushwick that we would open up once every few months to our community for shopping and drinking and dancing. They were so successful and so much fun that we decided to throw more in a better and more appropriate setting. We opened the pop-up shop and hosted several different artists, a tattoo event, illustrators, a zine launch, etc. We wanted to open our doors not only to customers but to people we admire whose work also represents our mission – inclusivity, accessibility, and relevance. After a month, a more permanent space was clearly needed. Now we have 1200 sq ft. to party in!
P: It caught my attention that your Instagram handle doesn't have the word thrift or vintage in it, considering its such a marketable term these days- why did you choose to leave it out?
H: Our original handle was actually @thebreakvintage. I decided to change it when we opened up the store because I don't want the connotations of “vintage” to be the only thing we represent. Sometimes I find that people assume vintage is overpriced or outdated or not their style, which is what we, as a company, want to *break* ;) away from. We love the surprise that people experience when they realize everything is affordable and, most importantly, relevant. We'd also love to start producing our own collection of pieces this year as well as sell other small brands that would fit well with our selection, and build on our consultancy. At the end of the day, I didn't want to pigeonhole ourselves as solely a vintage store, when we plan to be much more than that.
P: I’ve seen graphic tees go for 50-60 dollars, why is affordability so important to you?
H: One of the main reasons why I started this company is because I was so discouraged with the inaccessibility of vintage in New York City. Who wants to go shopping where they can’t afford anything? That’s the worst! I wanted to create a space that was affordable AND curated, where the customer doesn’t feel like they’re being tricked and they can actually enjoy the experience. I’ve always worn my clothes without fear because, honestly, I don’t pay much for them. I want our customers to feel like they can walk out of The Break and have the craziest night of their lives in their new outfit. The Break is meant to be worn and not taken so seriously. With our price point, we take away that risky feeling so you can live your freakin’ life.
Well, you read it here. Buy something funky, don’t take it all too seriously, and go live your freakin’ life.
Visit The Break Babes at 82 Dobbin Street in Brooklyn and follow them on Instagram.