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Simon Doonan Revamps Merz Apothecary

 Photo: AP IMAGES FOR American Express OPEN
Photo: AP IMAGES FOR American Express OPEN

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The one-and-only Simon Doonan recently stopped by Merz Apothecary to help the Lincoln Square store transform its storefront for Small Business Saturday. Sponsored by American Express OPEN, the revamp was part of LXTV's three-city shoot, which will air over the holiday season.

Merz owner Anthony Qaiyum was a fan of Doonan before this all began—and is a bigger fan now. (Plus, he knows what kind of hand cream the style savant uses.) Read on to hear Qaiyum's account of the experience, and stop by the store on Saturday if you want to check out the Doonan-spruced storefront in person. Hint: there are sea sponges involved.

How did you get hooked up with Simon in the first place?
We got a call from a producer at NBC saying that we were on the American Express shortlist for their Small Business Saturday| Shop Small campaign. At Merz Apothecary, we had already been promoting Small Business Saturday to our customers for the past few years—it is such a great program. So, I said we were interested. The producer said a famous designer named Simon Doonan would come in and do your windows as part of a segment, but that he got to choose the store from the shortlist. I know who Simon is, and I'm a big fan of his writing and his design. So I told her: "Please tell Simon that we are huge fans of his here at Merz Apothecary, and we would love to have visit us. And how many times has he been able to design the windows of a 138-year-old apothecary?" Two days later I got the call from the producer saying that Simon loved the idea and had picked us.

What were you hoping to accomplish with Simon, and how was the store revamped?
I don't know that we had any major goal for the display-window-revamp other than doing something different than our normal holiday routine. We change our windows every year, but we were looking for something that was a bit unusual by our standards. The cornerstone of Simon's window concept is the trees made out of organic elements, including some of our sea sponges. I think the trees are gorgeous and we never would have thought to do something like that, much less attempted constructing them. I couldn't be happier with the way they turned out.

Can you share some memorable anecdotes from the day?
Simon is a seriously funny guy. So the day itself was filled with a lot of wisecracks and hilarious asides. The weather was not cooperating with the shoot, so we spent a good amount of time waiting for breaks in the rain. That can be sort of painful if you're not having fun. But it wasn't painful at all. Simon has a way with words and everyone around him was laughing throughout the day. A very fun moment for me was when we took a break and Simon came up to my office and we shot an episode of SmallflowerTV, the video blog that my brother and I do. Simon likes very peculiar scents, he told us, so we got together a collection of unusual items and sniffed and discussed them on camera. It was a blast. It's our first celebrity episode! We also got a very kind thank you message from Simon the next day. He is a cool and courteous dude. I'm so glad we met him.

Did Simon leave with any products?
Yes. He loved many of the items that we discussed on SmallflowerTV, so I gave him a bag of his favorites.

Don't hold out on us!
· Pity's Pine Tar Soap
· Royal Apothic Scent No. 1 Candle
· Olivina Classic Olive Hand Cream
· Burning Barbershop Eau de Cologne

· Small Business Saturday| Shop Small—American Express Open [Official Site]
· Merz Apothecary [Official Site]
· Smallflower TV [Official Site]
· Anna Wintour is the Sanest Person in Fashion, Says Simon Doonan [Racked Chicago]

Merz Apothecary

4716 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60625 Visit Website