Cher Lui Pio, Store Manager at Aphro
Is this your first job in retail?
It’s actually my first job ever. I used to blog full time, and then a year and a half ago I decided to take a break. I’m actually Aphro’s first employee—we’re hitting our first year this July.
How would you describe Aphro?
I like to say that Aphro is an art and design lifestyle store. Most of our items are locally made and promote the idea of functional art. The owner, Ms. Tina Fernandez (who also owns the gallery Art Informal), wanted to create a shop that made art accessible for everybody. So instead of waiting for art fairs or Art in the Park, you get to experience art as a retail space. You can come in, look at a painting, and if you like it you can take it home. It’s different from a gallery, where you have to wait until the end of an exhibit night. We want people to start incorporating art in their daily lives, not just through traditional work like sculptures or paintings, but also through more functional art, like pottery.
Did you see yourself working in retail before this?
No—I mean, I’ve done a couple of small businesses in college, so sales was always something that I knew how to do, but when this job came along, I was literally just thrown into the water and had to learn how to do everything. It’s been a test, but I enjoy the challenge. As the store changes, you change with it. I see myself growing with it.
How would you describe your workwear look?
When it comes to style, I’m really moody. I could dress up like this and the next day you might see me in an athleisure outfit. It all depends on my mood, but I usually go for easy-to-wear stuff like dresses, coordinated pieces, rompers… things you don’t really have to think too much about. For me, everything boils down to the details and accessories.
What’s the work culture like at Aphro?
Everybody works together as a team so it isn’t competitive, there’s no politics. We make sure everyone is friends with everyone else, including our clients. Since it’s retail, it shouldn’t be too complicated. There are certain protocols that we need to follow, but we make sure that everyone is having fun when they’re working, but also that they know when to be serious. Everyone knows their boundaries.
What is it like being located in such a unique retail space?
I feel like it’s always been designed to be this way, for some reason. Even though this space used to be a badminton court and even a dance studio (hence the high ceilings), when you enter the alley, for some reason you feel like this has always been here. It’s like home, in a way. It feels like you’re away from the city even though you’re in the middle of it.
How do you feel Aphro fits into the community that’s been built around The Alley at Karrivin?
It’s nice because we’re a really small community, and as much as possible, we try to help each other. So if someone I know is coming over, I give them the whole Karrivin tour so that they get the full experience. Dropping by Drawing Room and Bellas Artes, lunch at Mess Hall or Lanai, coffee at Writer’s Block, and then hanging out at Aphro check out the art and try the slide, then topping it off with dinner at Toyo. It’s a half day experience, really!