The identity of Schwesterherz is ingrained with femininity. The brand is a means for individuals to give back to the women in their lives, regardless of the relationship
When translated from the German language, the word ‘Schwesterherz’ means ‘Sister Heart’ in English. Situated across two stores in the city of Berlin, Schwesterherz is owned by forty-six-year-old Ellen Teschendorf. «Growing up, my brother and I used this term of endearment to call one another. I called him ‘bruderherz’». A coalition between Schwesterherz is Küchenliebe. With customers inquiring and insisting on purchasing items like pepper and salt mills and screwdrivers, Teschendorf founded Küchenliebe. «We used to carry these items in store, but due to the lack of space in either outlet, we opened a store focused on kitchen goods». They are situated across the city of Berlin with two stores under the Schwesterherz name and three under Küchenliebe.
Schwesterherz – The ideation of the store
Once working and being a part of a German-based film production company, Teschendorf gave up the profession to open a shop that focuses on selling concept-store items of her liking. «I was involved with shooting films over Germany. Prior to that I was in advertising. I came to a point where I did not want to do that». The design and aesthetic of Schwesterherz is borrowed from her time spent working with the advertising firm. «There were ideas that came from magazines and other concept stores at the time». Founding the establishment in Gärtnerstraße of Friedrichshain, fourteen years ago, gave way to the culmination of its sister stores across the city. Friedrichshain was a neighborhood Teschendorf was living in, surrounded by like-minded individuals – university students, creatives and creators. «At the time, when I was living there, the area was a commonplace for the youth. In wanting to open a store, I had to know what could cater to the demographic». The ideation and soul of the store came from when she was travelling between Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte, purchasing greeting cards and wrapping paper. Not intending to travel to make said purchases, Teschendorf formed the primary store of Schwesterherz. Being born in Berlin herself, Teschendorf decided on rooting her establishment there. «I share a proclivity to the city of Berlin. I was born here, when the Wall was in existence, living in the East of the city». While living in Friedrichshain in 2007, the area franchised a stretch of bars, a clothing store outlet and a store catering to children’s toys and clothes. «I was warned against starting such a store in the area where it was populated by students. There was no establishment selling concept items for one’s home and I was clasped into the environs».
Schwesterherz – Friedrichshain
Upon the launch of her first store, Teschendorf founded her second store after re-locating her residence from Friedrichshain to Kreuzberg. «I tend to open stores in places that I am living in. The two areas vary. Friedrichshain has a demographic of inhabitants who are in their youth. Kreuzberg is on the opposite end, where customers are of a certain age and are affluent». The decision to expand her business model came from Teschendorf’s father who was paying attention to the performance of the first outlet. Following the advice to diversify her risk profile and invest earnings back into the business was how the second outlet came about. «My father shared with me a story of a businessman and his sales model prior to the erection of the Berlin wall. The business owner had allocated his earnings into expanding his store. When the wall had come up, small-business owners set up on the side streets had to close, but this businessman kept his store running». This was the tipping point which led to the opening of a chain of stores under the brand name. When moving into the first store, Teschendorf had a fear of disrupting the neighborhood – disparaging customers from coming in due to construction in remodeling. Juggling between the two stores at a time was how she kept the business going. The two areas where either store is, is native in culture and history. Friedrichshain is based in the East of Berlin whereas Kreuzberg is in the West. At eighteen years old, Teschendorf was living in Friedrichshain, where it was once a congregation for the working class and students. «That is not the case today. Companies like Universal Music and TV stations are housed here. It is a hub that holds and grows creatives». Teschendorf describes Kreuzberg as a kaleidoscope, a hub of individuals of races and backgrounds that are settled here. Items sold between the two stores vary – Friedrichshain selling accessible items that are easy to carry and its counterpart selling home and living items. «In the Friedrichshain outlet, items that are sold include jewelry, vases and stationaries. Schwesterherz in Kreuzberg sells lamps, homeware items and stools for instance».
Schwesterherz’s femininity identity
The identity of Schwesterherz is ingrained with femininity. The brand is a means for individuals to give back to the women in their lives, regardless of the relationship. Curating and selling a selection of wrapping papers, stationery and lifestyle items is the thesis of the philosophy of the stores. «The quality, style and relevance of each item is maintained. The items in the categories are chosen by me». When Schwesterherz was formed, Teschendorf did not envisage a goal that confined her to business practices. This was an outlet that allowed for her expression and experimentation and how she could cater this to her customers. The two stores are furnished by an architect with influences across countries. The store in Friedrichshain has endured for a period of time in the locality, imbuing the culture, customers and novices to the store. Collaborating with Pantone, Teschendorf painted the double door based on the color of the year, re-painting it between the seasons. In spring and summer, the doors are painted in a color provided by the color experts of Pantone which change for the autumn and winter months. Living in the store in five by four meters are two rooms, adorned in industrial-lamps in the shape of umbrellas shedding lighting on the items. The second store in Kreuzberg is a dichotomy to its vernacular, where the area is in tuned with its surroundings. The second space posed challenges where the space stretched out across the room but was not as wide in size. Tapestry and wall decoration came in colors that were custom-made for the store. A sign with the name of the store hangs on the wall in neon lighting. Stretching over the space allows customers to traverse the concept store in explorative means.
Inventoried items carried in Schwesterherz and Küchenliebe have amounted to a total of twelve-thousand. Furniture between the stores is used and repurposed as display cases from sites across the globe. Working station tables, glass shelves, tables to host items on sale and wall holders are used to sustain the wrapping paper on sale in an upright position, above ground. Teschendorf sells furniture from designers that are Berlin based and those who are based abroad. Those in the familiarity include Gestalten and Coudre and non-native brands like Serax and Moebe. «Used furniture is scarce in Berlin as prices are expensive. Members of my family are involved in the film industry and they travel to states and the countryside to purchase furniture for set purposes to be used in movies. Once it is done, I acquire them. It is eye opening to see pieces in our stores as they have been in German or Hollywood based production». Schwesterherz carries, in addition to their inventory of items; books, scented candles, towels and wellness drinks made by a couple in the locale. Coffee table books are in focus that surround art and design. Carrying wellness and self-care items, starting in the spring of 2020, before the pandemic took over, it was a means to serve her customers a chance at uplifting their home spaces. «When we started the wellness line, we didn’t foresee the pandemic. The project was set in stone in 2019». In sourcing items for the store, Teschendorf travels to fares and farmers markets across Europe, scouting items that have not been covered in competing stores. «I offered brands to customers before they took off. Schwesterherz is a space for up-and-coming designers and artists to sell their items and grow». On occasion, art and designs are placed in the store regardless if it were to sell or not. Employees are women – refugees, immigrants and individuals from the locale. «Those who have sold items in the store can sustain themselves off their work. Refugee workers come in to learn to speak in German and get working opportunities at the store».
Schwesterherz is expanding their brand through vintage-goods selections that are repurposed and sold at the store. Customers who frequent are women in their twenties to fifties. Before the pandemic, it was split in terms of customers. Fifty percent were local, and the remainder were tourists. «We used to change the layout of the store once a month. It is now changed every two weeks to ensure return customers experience an adventure with each visit».IMAGE GALLERY