Lonely Ghost is one of the hottest new brands of streetwear today. Founded in 2019 by influencers Indy Blue (Severe) and Bronson Christensen, it quickly trended on social media with fans including Addison Rae, Hannah Meloche, Pyper America, and Summer Mckeen.
Blue and Christensen saw the potential of Lonely Ghost and planned to launch a retail location in 2020. However, the pandemic put that idea on hold for most of the year. Still, the influencers turned entrepreneurs were determined not to let the situation derail their plans. They opened Lonely Ghost’s retail pop-up on December 1st, at The Shops at Riverwoods, in Provo, Utah.
But in typical influencer fashion, they didn’t do anything typically. Christensen and the rest of the team did the build-out themselves, transforming a white-walled store with wood floors into an Instagramable grocery-themed clothing boutique complete with freezers converted into displays, shelves stocked with cereal boxes of t-shirts, and even a “secret room.” There’s also a large statement installation featuring the brand’s signature slogan, “I love you. Say it back.”
On the opening day, lines began to form as early as 3:00am with a crowd estimated to be between 100-150 people. This is a large number, especially in the time of COVID-19. The reception truly surpassed Blue and Christensen’s expectations with people driving in from hours or even days away to see the store.
I recently sat down with the founders of Lonely Ghost to discuss taking their unique idea from concept to reality, the challenges of opening a retail location during a pandemic, and how creating an in-person experience can elevate an Internet brand.
With so many stores closing up shop right now, why did you decide to open during the pandemic?
We started 2020 with big plans. Our biggest goal of the year? A retail spot. While our online presence and community is the “secret ingredient” to our magic formula, we also wanted a physical manifestation of what we’ve created over the last few years. It was a big step for our small team, but we were ready.
Unfortunately, the pandemic hit and changed all of those plans. We faced the stress and anxious uncertainty that all other small business owners have felt. We decided to carry on with the store as a “quarantine” project that could open once “this was all over.” We rolled with the punches and after nearly a year of setbacks and adjustments, we are now open.
How did you come up with a grocery-theme idea?
We knew our shop needed to stand out. Something our team takes great pride in is how little we feel the need to make any bit of sense. Modeling our first store after a classic supermarket might not make sense to most people, but our followers and customers would probably just say, “of course they did.”
We were inspired by the timeless feeling of a grocery store. The checkerboard flooring, the rainbow of fruit and vegetables in the produce section, begging your mom to buy some sugar cereal. Everyone can remember that feeling. That nostalgia was the perfect starting point for us.
Once we had the idea, the place pretty much designed itself. That was probably the most enjoyable aspect of the whole process. Finding a good foundation and then letting our ideas go wild.
What’s inside the freezers?
We installed five full Costco size glass front freezer doors along the backside of the store to house all our hanging apparel. But little do most know that the middle freezer is a secret door to the “Room That Lasts Forever” in the back.
What is “The Room That Lasts Forever?”
We call this hidden, secret space “The Room That Lasts Forever” because it is covered 360 degrees in mirrors. Whenever you look directly in front of yourself, you see [your body] repeating [infinitely behind you]. There is no end and no beginning. It is the room that simply lasts forever.
To add a little bit of spice, we filled each seam with LED lights that flicker precisely to the beat of our in-store playlist and then suspended additional LED light balls from the ceiling.
We believe it’s the subtle design aspects that we don’t advertise (like this room) that draws people in from all over the country to drive themselves and their friends to our little shop.
People want an experience, not just a T-shirt. We understand this deeply about our community. So, we get hyped when a group of people walks in and searches for the entrance to the hidden room. It is our favorite part of the day.
What specific design aspects were created expressly for the purpose of social media photos?
The whole wall we designed to look like a grocery store aisle really pops off for photos. The rows of custom cereal boxes is a popular photo opp, as well as my favorite, the “always fresh” neon sign over our fake fruit stand. Since day one, we wanted our clothes, our products, and our brand to be cool enough that you’ll post it on your Instagram.
We realized that by creating a “post-able” brand, we’d never need to spend a penny on [influencer marketing], which we haven’t. Our customers are our influencers. Natural, authentic, influencers. So we wanted our store to be the same way. We give our customers an experience that they want to tell their friends about. Especially their internet friends.