Text and photos by Stacie Joy
As I walk over to meet Azaleas NYC Lingerie & Swimwear shop owner Cindy Kahng, I remember the last time I saw the woman-owned and -operated boutique lingerie shop during a tense period in NYC’s pandemic history.
It was June 2020 when stores were just reopening during Phase 1 of the PAUSE restrictions.
I’m eager to see how Cindy is doing, how the shop at 140 Second Ave. is holding up, and to hear about the 20th-anniversary plans.
Lingerie boutiques may be a destination store, but we try to cultivate the idea of Azaleas being your neighborhood boutique. Reflecting on the past 20 years, I know that I couldn’t have done it without the support of the community and the neighborhood. I’ve seen customers come in with baby strollers; their babies have grown and are shopping with us!
We wanted to celebrate by celebrating the neighborhood and the community. We will be having an event [on Nov. 17] for this momentous occasion with a party at our neighboring Ukrainian East Village Restaurant. We hope to do more events with other neighborhood businesses or organizations in the upcoming months.
How has it been keeping the shop going in recent pandemic years?
COVID was a huge test for my small business. Unfortunately, I had to shut down my second location in the West Village after four years. It was a difficult decision to make, and whilst that store was dear to me, I knew that the East Village was our home and where we wanted to remain.
It was so nice to see our regulars come in post-vaccine and want to support us. In general, our dressing room serves almost like a therapy session, and it did even more so during the last two-and-a-half years. People needed connection and had lots of changes in their lives during those first two years and would occasionally have their hand held.
There was a shift in customers’ needs during the pandemic; physical changes (covid weight), different work environments (WFH), and a desire for more comfort (loungewear). But this fall, it feels like people are finally returning to their daily lives and need basics for work and school.
What would you tell people who may be intimidated by visiting a boutique lingerie store?
Lingerie boutiques don’t have to be intimidating at all! Sure, we carry your special date-night items, but we also have your everyday cotton bra and undies. We try to make it feel like you’re shopping with your friends because shopping for innerwear is an intimate experience.
Looking good also means feeling good so trust us to help you! If price is ever an issue, just tell your salesperson what your price range is — there’s never any shame in that! The salespeople know the product and can best steer you in the right direction.
Not sure yet, but we are planning on sticking around the neighborhood. Instagram. Azaleas is at 140 Second Ave. between St. Mark's Place and Ninth Street.