Curio by Fifth & Main highlights life’s little joys
Life can take you on some interesting journeys. However, in Heather Shaw Menis’ case, all roads seem to lead back to one passion.
With a bent towards environmentalism, Menis attended college to explore environmental studies and journalism. Graduating in 2001, her first job was in public relations, focused on environmental affairs. It seemed like a good fit, but she soon realized there was very little advocacy in what she was doing. It didn’t suit her picture of idealism, so she left there to work for Joan Hisaoka, the grand dame of fine dining PR in Washington, D.C. through Hisaoka Public Relations.
“I worked on public relations for restaurants and hotels, and since Joan knew I was interested in fashion, she allowed me to bring on local boutiques as well. She encouraged me to work on things that I had a passion for.” Joan Hisaoka passed away in 2008, and Menis took other public relations positions for a hotel company and Chef Art Smith before landing in an executive marketing position at Saks 5th Avenue, where she spent five years learning about luxury lifestyle brands.
Fifth & Main PR
Getting married and having a baby spurred her to leave that job, with its long hours, holiday and weekend work, to open her own luxury goods public relations agency in 2014 she named Fifth & Main PR. “When naming the company, I wanted to take that 5th Avenue mindset and attention to detail that luxury offers, and bring that to the mom-and-pop businesses locally. These small business owners tend to spark the most creativity in the world. They have an idea and are trying to make it work, which I find inspiring,” she said. She began to build her PR business with local hotel, restaurant and spa clients.
Then the pandemic hit. “Overnight, I had no clients. Everybody went on pause, and even though I understand the reasoning, it felt like a blow to the ego.”
Opening Curio by Fifth & Main
“I had always wanted to open my own online boutique, but working for Saks 5th Avenue made me a little gun shy because I saw luxury retail competing with the Amazons of the world. But it was a passion project and it pulled at me. When the world changed in March of 2020, it felt like the right time to get it off the ground. I had the time and the inspiration.” She named it Curio by Fifth & Main, and launched in December 2020.
Menis and her husband Dennis had been making custom wallpaper, using their own equipment, so it seemed like a natural transition to sell this as their first product line, F&M Wall Coverings, as a peel and stick textured wallpaper printed with No-HAPS (hazardous air pollutants) Latex Ink that is safe for nurseries, hospitals, or anyone with conditions like asthma. The small-batch, high-quality wallpapers are non-flammable, non-combustible and are nickel-free. The product lines expanded from there.
“Everything is ethically sourced, environmentally friendly and sustainable,” Menis said. “Most is made in the U.S., and much is created by women. We have a wide array of products, which is why I called the company Curio. It’s a lot of different little things that make me happy that I think others would also find joy in.” Her tag line is ‘Little Luxuries and Everyday Delights.’
“As I find vendors who inspire me, I add new product lines. I make limited buys because right now, my basement is our warehouse.” This enables her to provide one-day local delivery!
Curio by Fifth & Main is a curated collection of ethically-sourced everyday delights. Its wide array of mindfully-curated products include décor, gifts, accessories and wellness products to invite warmth and peace of mind into your home and soul—your sanctuary. Products include fair-trade Oeko-tex linens, hand-poured/dipped candles, health-boosting elixirs, silk initial scarves and ingenious greeting cards. “I have an intense yearning to support the little guys—the makers, shops and service providers that are the heartbeat of communities, and from which creativity abounds. Nothing is mass produced,” she said.
“I find that these offerings are far superior to mass-marketed alternatives, and we should vote with our dollars to preserve artisanal practices, and choose handmade objects of art over mass-produced goods. Our products are carefully curated to embrace these ideals. We believe you should give gifts rich with emotional value and treat yourself to these little luxuries!”
Some of her favorite products include, on the wellness side, tonics and herbal remedies, like her Happiness Tonic that promotes a sense of well-being and boost serotonin, and Ashwagandha. Other favorites include the silk initial scarves from a British designer, loom.ist Turkish towels, and Towl brand towels made from organic cotton and bamboo that never mildew. “I’m also really into our Gluggle Jugs and our candles that contain no scary chemicals.”
Learning to Appreciate
“I like the Danish philosophy of hygge, their art of cozy living that engenders a feeling of contentment and well-being. You can light a bunch of candles, get your coziest blanket, make cookies from scratch, and curl up and read a good book.”
“The good thing about being forced to slow down during the pandemic is that you learn to appreciate more. There are so many everyday delights we didn’t pay attention to.” She gets to work from home, which enables her to spend more time with her husband and 8-year-old Maxwell. She also runs every day—her form of meditation.
Her advice? “We live in a world where we have so many options, and too often we choose the one forced in front of us without it being what we really want. Hold back until you feel really good about what you’re buying. Choose that little luxury, and outfit your life with the things you can feel good about.”