oo35mm: Through the "oo"s
Like many of our team members, I originally started out as a customer at oo35mm. Once onboarded, I got to see the behind the scenes of how the store operates. As an Asian women owned establishment in Chinatown I was curious about my managers – I wanted to know the history and intent behind this beloved store. What better way to find out then to ask those questions myself and then share it with those who are curious as well?
Q: Our shoppers come in and ask this, so let's set the record straight: how do you pronounce ‘oo35mm’ and what was your inspiration behind the name?
A: When we first started the brand it was approximately 14 years ago, we didn’t really know much about branding or the “proper way” to name a company so we just combined two of our favorite things together: discovering and seeing new things while traveling and photography. The “oo” (pronounced oh-oh) represents eyes and “35mm” represents film. The idea that film could take you to places you’ve never been before resonated with us. We wanted to bring that experience into our store.
Q: What inspired you to open up a skincare boutique shop in Chinatown?
A: We lived in Chinatown for many years and considered Chinatown our home. We knew exactly that we wanted to open our first brick and mortar here.
Q: I see that oo35mm did not just sell skin care when it first opened up. What influenced the focus on mainly Asian skincare?
A: oo35mm started as a store that sold gifts that were designed by new artists/designers and household goods imported from Japan. We also had a small selection of Asian skincare. We were obsessed with Taiwanese skincare and makeup brands like Beautymaker, @Nature, and Naruko. During that time, it was really hard to find Asian skincare in the states, so as skincare enthusiasts ourselves we knew we wanted to make that accessible to everyone.
Q: The pandemic took a toll on businesses in Chinatown — what would you say contributed to oo35mm’s success throughout the pandemic?
A: Like many of the small businesses, we were scared and quickly had to find a way to operate our business while still keeping everyone safe. We struggled to make sales and definitely consider this to be the hardest time in our lives. We have been on a recovery budget for the past few years in order to pay off the business expenses. Thankfully we had an amazing community and received much support during and after our closure. Our customers even made trips to Chinatown during the height of the pandemic just to purchase from us. Everyday we received so much kind words from our customers that kept us motivated throughout this hardship. We’re super thankful for our customers!
Q: As the owners of oo35mm, what is your favorite skincare product in the store?
Q: This past year oo35mm expanded to Discord & oo35mm blog posts. Are there other facets you want to expand to?
A: We hope to further expand to a second location and improve our e-Commerce website to better serve our customers.
Q: This past year oo35mm also went viral on TikTok which brought in a flux of new customers. How has it been handling the traffic? In what ways did you need to adapt to handle the mass traffic of people coming in?
A: It has been an overwhelming yet exciting experience for the whole team and has brought us many opportunities that we never knew were possible. Ever since going viral on TikTok, our skincare community continues to expand and grow. There are many newcomers that come to our store looking for Asian beauty products they've seen recommended on TikTok or even Instagram. We hope to use this support to further grow with the team and create new experiences that will help with the customer flow. With the help of our growing team it has been easier to handle the amount of support we’ve been getting.
@oo35mm *clocks in* At your service! #fyp #skincare #kbeauty #tiktok #retail #shopping #nyc #bts #bt21 #bangtan #army #beauty #acne ♬ original sound - Julian Hagins
Q: Tell us a memorable moment at oo35mm whether that be a client interaction, a milestone you hit, or something really funny that stays on your mind.
A: One time a customer called us and asked us if a specific product was in stock. I told them yes, and shockingly with a pause they said “Interesting, you’re the only store in NYC is product in-stock” and confidently I replied “Of course, we’re oo35mm”. Our team works really hard to stock and restock the store and we’re very proud of what we do here.
Q: Mott Street is filled with mom and pop shops and great restaurants to dine. Where else would you recommend visitors to check out after making a stop at oo35mm?
A: I personally really like going to Bangkok Center Grocery, they have fresh kaffir lime leaves! I also recommend Sofie Pavitt Skincare Studio. Sofie have always been bringing her clients to our store and we’re forever grateful for her support.
Q: This past January marked the 14th anniversary of oo35mm! How do you feel? Is there a tote bag coming in the new year?
A: Honestly, it feels like it's only been a few years! We’ve accomplished a lot throughout the years and are grateful our team supports the seamlessness of the day to day. We’re just glad to still be here and hope to continue our mission to make great and budget friendly skin care accessible. And yes, there’s a new tote bag out! There’s a day and night view of Mott Street printed on the bag, and ode to our Chinatown roots. The proceeds of every tote bag purchase will be shared with our team members, a win win all around!