This Duo Is Highlighting Makers in Their Local Stores

The co-owners of Stay Forever have expanded their business with children’s store Forever Young.

Lisa Jee and Michelle Delgado began their careers in corporate retail, with Jee working as creative director for The Strand and Delgado as a product manager at Etsy Wholesale. But they felt their community in Queens, NY, was missing a place to highlight local artists and craftspeople. So in 2018, they opened Stay Forever.


“One really awesome thing about having products that are made locally is that the customers can come in and shop with us and know that they're not just supporting our shop, but they're supporting their neighbors who are artists and makers, as well,” Jee told NowThis.


Jee and Delgado say they find local artists both through Instagram and through word-of-mouth recommendations. For Jee, one of the best parts about owning the store is that the two have complete creative control over what type of products they sell, she says.


 

Credit: NowThis

However, during the pandemic, supply chain issues affected the business. They were able to survive by staying connected to their community. “If we can support our community, then our community will support us,” Jee said. “It's really great when a customer can come in and they're shopping and you can introduce them to the candle maker, who's also in the shop shopping. So it just makes more of a connection with the product and with the neighborhood, as well.”

When Stay Forever first opened, both Jee and Delgado had babies. Just a few years later, the duo has four children under five. So when the opportunity came to expand their children’s product offerings, it was a no-brainer. They opened Forever Young across the street from their original store in 2021.

“Even taking that leap of faith was a huge risk,” Jee said. “We got such positive feedback because there really isn't anything in the neighborhood like it right now. I'll see the women when they're pregnant, and then all of a sudden, the baby's here, and then they're attending our Jazz Baby music classes.”


 

Credit: Stay Forever

Jee and Delgado are proud of their businesses’ commitment to their community, especially as the Stay Forever brand grows with their families. “We're really blessed that we had this opportunity to follow our passion and also have our kids literally on our hips as we were building the store,” Jee said. “I think our kids are super excited to have these stores. I don't think they quite understand what it is yet. Right now, it's kind of their own personal toy store or shop.”

Jee said their success stems from being a part of a community and selling items that the community can’t get anywhere else. “The more you support your community, the more that they're gonna support you back,” she said.