What do you get when you combine expertise in the industry with cool-girl San Fran vibes? A modern apothecary dedicated to cleaner, greener options. Veer & Wander, a salon and beauty boutique in San Francisco, wants to be a place customers linger, where they can learn more about beauty and create rituals for themselves. Here, we talk with owner Connie McGrath about Veer & Wander’s origin.
Veer & Wander specializes in finding the undiscovered in beauty and helping its clients discover their most genuine self. Where did the idea and inspiration to start the shop come from? What are its roots?
I have always been attracted to beauty! When I was a little girl in suburban Chicago, I would stop in our town’s local pharmacy and try on all the fragrances and product testers and dream of buying more than a nail polish or lip gloss! As a young adult, I moved into the big city (Chicago) and a really iconic apothecary was in my neighborhood – Merz Apothecary. It was one of those more than 100-year-old European immigrant-founded places that imported potions and lotions from all over the world.?
I fell in love with the old-world cabinetry and apothecary bottles. It was so different than most beauty stores. It was always a place to discover interesting brands I had never seen anywhere else. It also had loads of gorgeous-looking packaging from Europe, which was so different from department stores.
Professionally, I have been a stylist and in the hair industry working in salons and with many different brands throughout my career. I always had a vision of owning a combined space of a salon and an interesting beauty store. That opportunity happened in San Francisco. I was able to secure a perfect space next to an existing salon space and my dream came true!
The space has loads of history and it’s a more than 100-year-old storefront and was perfect for a beauty apothecary. It looks like it’s been in business for a long time and part of the neighborhood landscape. It was important to me to have a very welcoming space and be inclusive and not exclusive. I want encourage people to come in and veer and wander our shelves, and be able to get beautified. I really wanted to create a space that would set us apart from most salons too.
When you think about the vision for Veer & Wander, what gets you excited?
I am thinking about expansion as far as a retail brand and going into different cities and creating that community vibe. I feel like brick and mortar is going to come back around but to a place like the old days where people gave personal service and had a human connection. Also, I want to have stores that are authentic and not all branded exactly the same – each can have its own personality.
Then eventually our own line. I would love to create a beauty brand! That is my ultimate dream!
In addition to the services that you offer, how do you decide which products to stock?
Beauty has such an emotional connection. How it makes you feel. Beauty is a ritual and should be enjoyed from the packaging to the scent. So, I personally try everything before we buy. And I have to connect with it or I could not authentically get behind it to sell to customers.
Also, I pay attention to where brands are stocked. It’s important to see who you are included with, whether it’s an independent store or a department store.
We are focused on high-quality brands that are cleaner and greener. Beauty should be healthy.
As an apothecary and salon, how important are product education, training and support from your brand partners? And is there advice you wish you could share with up and coming brands on this?
Education is key for sales. I know most small brands don’t have the resources to have sales reps to come and do trainings, but if they provide online training to your team, it helps, and if they have brochures with more in-depth product history and info that really helps too. The more support the better the sales. Another great way is providing samples to the store sales team and doing launch events in the store space. And if the brand has really awesome social media images they can share with you, that helps too.
Being so connected to the industry, what important shifts or trends have you seen in the healthy beauty movement over the last few years? And what’s been the most important beauty switch for you?
The all-natural and organic brands are getting better and better! Going more prestige level. I think the movement to simplicity (less is more) is the latest movement. Lines are really simplifying to one to five products in a line for skin and body. I have been really getting into all the herb adaptogens and tinctures. Beauty from within is huge! Ingredients for internal and external: you’re seeing power-packed ones like turmeric, CBD hemp oil, and manuka honey.
And of course, we can’t help but ask what’s next for your shop? What are your future plans for Veer & Wander?
We are in the process of designing our first retail store outside of San Francisco in an East Coast city. We got a great old space and it’s really on brand and surrounded by local small businesses. It’s exciting… stay tuned!