Shop Talk: Nochi, Nochi

After occupying the same cozy corner for more than fourteen seasons, Vineyard Haven women’s boutique Nochi has expanded. Co-owned since 2003 by friends Sofya Nadelstein and Molly Finkelstein, the shop recently has grown into the space next door, formerly home to Sioux Eagle Designs. While customers can expect roomier digs and a wider selection of stylish-yet-wearable clothing, they may also be surprised to find that not much has changed. The new shop, though doubled in size, feels just as it always has: warm and thoughtfully curated, more like a friend’s well-appointed living room than a retail shop.

“We’ve never set up the store like a store,” Nadelstein said, as we sat in comfortable upholstered chairs in front of the shop’s new custom-built register. Between us, until very recently, there had been a wall, and though the original space at times felt small and crowded, the women found a way to make things work.

“Everything in here is for sale,” Finkelstein added, pointing out the long farm tables, now distributed between the two rooms and used to display stacks of folded soft sweaters and elegant bundles of muted scarves. “Whenever somebody buys something, the space gets reworked.”

Since the beginning, the pair has approached retail with an unconventional style, one that is more responsive than prescriptive, relying first and foremost on the strong foundation of their partnership.

When Nadelstein and her husband, dentist Sanford “Sandy” Nadelstein, moved to the Island in 1993, they became fast friends with Finkelstein and her husband, David, an optometrist. “I always admired their home,” Nadelstein remembered of the early days in their friendship. “Neutral in color. Warm in texture. User-friendly….”

“Quiet,” Finkelstein added in a whisper. The women are often finishing each other’s sentences in this way, revealing much about their working relationship. While Nadelstein, a self-proclaimed “Soviet immigrant,” is chatty and no-nonsense, Finkelstein, a “midwestern transplant,” is soft-spoken and reserved. They credit their long-lasting partnership to their ability to divide tasks according to their strengths.

“It’s more intense than a marriage,” Nadelstein said. “We spend so much time together. But we’ve never had a fight.”

“Sofya does all the stuff I don’t like doing,” Finkelstein added of her partner, who takes on more of the operational responsibilities. “I’m never on hold. I never have to call anybody about a computer glitch.”

“And Molly does all the stuff I don’t know how to do,” Nadelstein laughed. “She’s the creative director, but she also moves all of the furniture, hangs mirrors, climbs up on ladders.”

It’s this give-and-take dynamic that has held the pair together more than a commitment to any one creative vision or business model. When Nadelstein first approached Finkelstein about opening a shop together, neither woman had a strong sense of what kind of shop it would be. Finkelstein had recently closed her Edgartown sunglasses shop, Squints, and was ready for something new. Nadelstein was a mother of two young children and looking for an outlet.

“We traveled around, looking at things and thinking about what was missing on the Island,” Finkelstein remembered. When Nochi first opened, it was a hybrid florist–home goods shop with coolers of fresh-cut flowers along one wall, an array of home accents, and a few choice pieces of women’s clothes. “We had one T-shirt, one bathrobe, and one leather jacket.”

The women loved the creative aspect of working with flowers, but as they expanded their clothing offerings it became impractical to cut, rinse, and arrange bouquets among the racks. “We had to commit to one or the other,” Finkelstein said. “You can’t sell a wet cashmere sweater.”

Staying true to her beloved palette of beiges, taupes, grays, and whites, Finkelstein began selecting designers that she felt spoke to the lifestyles of their now-loyal customer base. “We’re dependable,” she said. “People know they can come to us for nice-quality, casual clothes. Everything works for the Vineyard and the lifestyle many people lead here.”

The packable nature of their styles is also attractive to Vineyard clients, added Nadelstein. “A lot of our clients are travelers. They’ve aged with us and they’re traveling a lot now. They want to have clothes that travel well.”

Aside from a dependable aesthetic, Nochi has garnered a reputation for its friendly and knowledgeable staff. “We have the absolute best sales people,” Finkelstein said. Nadelstein agreed. “It’s very social in here,” she added. “In a time when everyone is always looking at their phones, people really like that.”

“But if you want to look at your phone, you can,” Finkelstein interjected, pointing to the expanded cluster of “husband chairs,” comfortable armchairs stationed near the new dressing room. 

In addition to expanded offerings of the classic clothing lines they’ve long carried, more space means that the shop can also venture into new territory: shoes.

“We’re going to give it a try,” Nadelstein said, sounding cautiously optimistic. (Shoes are a major space hog: each style comes in a variety of sizes and colors, all of which need to be boxed and stored…somewhere.) For now, customers can expect to find stylish, comfortable footwear to complement the shop’s clothing, by brands such as Eileen Fisher and the Italian line The Flexx.

Otherwise, the pair is committed to sticking to a formula that has served them well, seeing them through the rise of online shopping and the fall of many brick-and-mortar boutiques. It’s all about the relationships, Finkelstein insisted, and creating a comfortable environment.

“It’s like therapy,” she said. “Women can be so hard on themselves. There’s not a body part we haven’t heard that women don’t like: elbows to earlobes.”

Nadelstein agreed, adding that the warm, welcoming atmosphere was what kept the two of them coming back, as well – day after day, year after year. “It never feels like work,” she said. “I get to come in to a pretty space and see all my friends. And it’s really satisfying when somebody says, ‘I love the way I look.’”

Comments (1)

Lori Austin-Hansberry
Ellicott City, MD
I absolutely loved this shop and all of the beautiful clothing! I purchased some really nice items...can't wait to return next summer! And Sofya was so wonderful! Great shopping experience!
August 22, 2019 - 11:10pm