Lemon Laine Is Heading To Houston After Proving Its Natural Beauty And Wellness Retail Concept In Nashville
Lemon Laine is planting its first store outside of Nashville at an upscale shopping center in Houston with several first-to-market concepts.
The natural beauty and wellness retailer will open a 1,000-square-foot location during the fall at Heights Mercantile, a 45,000-square-foot complex containing Warby Parker, Will Leather Goods, Marine Layer, Aesop and Lululemon in a historic Heights neighborhood compared to Brooklyn for its foodie fare, historic homes and educated residents on the rise. It’s moving into Houston at a moment when clean beauty stores have yet to proliferate in Texas’s most populous city.
“It’s a super underserved market, and my gut is telling me that, if this is something that was needed in Nashville, it has to be needed in Houston. This isn’t a fad. It’s here to stay, and it’s only going to get larger,” says Laura Lemon, CEO and founder of Lemon Laine. “A market like Houston could have the capacity for 10 clean beauty stores or more, but I like that I’m going to be one of the first.”
Lemon Laine hasn’t taken external investment to fuel expansion, which is being led to a large extent by Lemon’s husband Evan Lenoir, vice president of finance and operations for the retailer, and a former senior director at Restoration Hardware. As Lemon Laine evaluates retail real estate, Lenoir shares he and Lemon gravitate to pockets speaking to their millennial sensibilities (they’re both 32-years-old) and upbringing far from elite coastal enclaves. Lenoir is from Huntsville, Ala., and Lemon is from Tulsa, Okla.
“Our general rule of thumb is we only want to go somewhere where we would want to live and hang out,” says Lenoir. “Laura and I had never been to Houston before, and we were shocked how pleasantly small such a large place can seem. Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, and it’s super diverse, so it has all the big city flair you’d expect, but, if you go there, it feels almost like a town. Everybody says hello and welcomes you with open arms. We loved that.”
“It’s a super underserved market, and my gut is telling me that, if this is something that was needed in Nashville, it has to be needed in Houston. This isn’t a fad. It’s here to stay, and it’s only going to get larger. A market like Houston could have the capacity for 10 clean beauty stores or more, but I like that I’m going to be one of the first.”
Houstonians will soon encounter Lemon Laine’s unique flair. The retailer strays from the stark designs common in beauty brick-and-mortar. The Houston store will mostly mirror the vibrant 750-square-feet Nashville location adorned with patterned wallpaper, plants and a colorful rug. A key component is a six-seat oil bar often bustling with customers concocting personal formulas of seed, nut and plant oils for $65, and asking about ingredients and products. Lemon Laine hosts parties at the oil bar and, in general, the store puts on events weekly.
“It’s really the heart and soul of what we are doing,” says Lemon of the oil bar. “It’s a way for us to sit down and have a conversation with our customers to not only make customized products for their skin, but give them a consultation on other skincare or wellness items that will help them meet their skin goals. We found people really have wanted to hear that. It would be a disservice to them if they leave with just a facial oil.”
Beyond the oil bar, the store setup features a beauty wall with a medicine cabinet evoking a bathroom and items merchandised by type; a wellness area conjuring up a kitchen with a fridge and countertop, and products arranged by categories like stress relief and gut health; and a makeup section due to be expanded in the Houston outpost. At the center of the store is a white table showcasing haircare, bath and gift items.
In its assortment, Lemon Laine has a strong commitment to integrating wellness and beauty offerings. It stocks around 70 brands, including Vital Proteins, Moon Juice, Sun Potion, Cocokind, Osea, Plant Apothecary, Kari Gran, Four Sigmatic, Erbaviva, Suntegrity, Vapour, Kaia Naturals, Ere Perez, Alima Pure, Golde, Innersense and Captain Blankenship, and tends to cherry-pick from brands’ selections rather than carry full lineups. Lemon reveals wellness product sales are “right up there” with beauty product sales.
“It surprises people when they see probiotic yogurt at a beauty store, but my fundamental belief is beauty starts on the inside. If people are having issues, I feel I can’t just offer beauty products for them. I really need to talk to them about wellness and the comprehensive tools they should have in their toolbox to meet their skin needs.”
“It surprises people when they see probiotic yogurt at a beauty store, but my fundamental belief is beauty starts on the inside,” she says. “If people are having issues, I feel I can’t just offer beauty products for them. I really need to talk to them about wellness and the comprehensive tools they should have in their toolbox to meet their skin needs.”
Lemon, who spent over a decade in the retail and beauty sectors at Walmart, Juice Beauty, Yes To and Saks Fifth Avenue prior to introducing Lemon Laine’s debut store in Nashville last year, is now busy hiring staff for the Houston location. Two to three employees have typically manned the Nashville unit depending on the day and hour. Lemon is adamant customers not be overwhelmed by store associates as they peruse products at Lemon Laine.
“In some ways, I’ve been preparing for this my whole life in terms of my interests and background, but, in other ways, I’m doing so many new things I’ve never done,” says Lemon. “I have a tremendous respect for retail staff. It’s a really hard job. You have to be on your feet, and it’s not rosy all the time. We pride ourselves in being friendly and approachable, and giving it 110%. In the beginning, it was just me doing it. I felt strongly that I needed to do that to understand what we need as we grow.”
Feature photo credit: Justin March