Working firsthand with beauty industry leader Frederic Fekkai for over a decade gave Illyne Ganley, our NJ Mompreneur of the Week, the experience and idea to open beauty lounge, a beauty-centric store in Summit focusing on niche beauty products and pop-up treatments from guest stylists. But after 15 years, Illyne found herself constantly evolving, and the store was, too, with less beauty focus and more concentration on the things she loved. So recently, she rebranded into the more personalized, My Love Story, an exquisite shop filled with a collection of everything she loves, including original art, loads of indie, antique and vintage jewelry, home accessories, and lifestyle products while still hosting those pop-up appointments for haircuts, color, brows, and makeup that put her on the map. Today, she’s more popular than ever, with new customers discovering her and hosting events where clients can gather to shop for unique jewelry and connect. We caught up with this Summit mom of two to find out where the idea for My Love Story first came to her, what she likes to do in her downtime (hint: it requires a suitcase), and where she goes with her girls when she wants to marvel at amazing art.
An interior view of My Love Story.
Please share a bit about your family and background. I was raised in Queens and lived in Manhattan until I was 31 when I got married and moved to Summit with my now ex-husband. We share two daughters, Bella, 24, and Dylan, 21, and though we’re no longer married, we’re still the best of friends.
Is there anything from your work background that prepared you for owning your own business? Midway through college, I had this real wanderlust and decided to give myself a gap year or two, so I got a job making corporate reservations for Scandinavian Airlines. It allowed me to fulfill my travel dreams, save some money and put myself back in school afterward. I got my degree in marketing with plans to work in advertising after school, but after landing a full-time position at Ogilvy & Mather, I didn’t see myself doing it long-term. My brother’s girlfriend worked at Frederic Fekkai Salon in the city, got me an interview there, and I started as the front desk receptionist and ended up running his salons. I helped him open more and also did the training for his product line. I was a girl from Queens raised by a single mom and didn’t grow up with much, and working there taught me so much about life—it helped me develop cultural awareness and communicate with all types of people. It was also important for me to know about and be able to recommend or discuss the “right” restaurants and the latest exhibits and shows. I learned a lot about people and customer relations working there, and when I started my first business, it was all based on what I learned at Fekkai.
Our NJ Mompreneur of the Week, with her daughters, Dylan (center) and Bella (left), in Yellowstone National Park.
Specifically, why did you decide to rebrand your business? I had been thinking about rebranding beauty lounge for a few years because it had changed tremendously since I first launched it in 2006, when it was very beauty product-heavy. Like me, my business is continually evolving, and over the years, I’ve added art, lots of jewelry at every price point, home accessories, and special events. I felt that the name didn’t accurately represent it anymore and might keep new customers from seeing what My Love Story truly offers. Then on a trip to Zion in 2021, on the top of a mountain, it came to me—My Love Story. It felt like a spiritual awakening, but when I think about my business, it is my love story. To me, it’s another child. I love it, take care of it, and expose it to people I care about, and I fill it up with things I love, and it feels like an extension of me. The truth is that since I’ve changed the name, I’ve gotten a lot of new customers that had never walked in before. It was the right move to make.
You host an interesting mix of events at My Love Story and recently added using it as an event space. How did this come about? I’m all about keeping things fresh and introducing my clients to the jewelry designers and other artists here—I want those relationships to grow and expand. When I added the art gallery wall, I realized how much my space also lends itself to private events. I love when the space is rented and used for birthday parties, showers, girls’ night out, or whatever someone is looking for.
My Love Story is magnificently curated with options galore, but the trunk shows are always a welcome addition. Petite Baleine’s gorgeous pieces are always in high demand.
Do your daughters ever get involved in your business? My girls have spent a lot of time here since they were 5 and 7 when they’d come in, hang out, play with the jewelry, and get their hair done. It’s always been their home away from home, and now that they’re older, Dylan will work here when she’s home from school, and Bella is a great sounding board.
What is your best seller? What about your favorite thing in your shop? Ear piercing and the jewelry that goes along with it is the hottest thing in my shop right now. We have a huge selection of piercing studs that everyone loves. If I have to choose a favorite, I find the original art in vintage frames so inspiring. Every day when I arrive at the shop, it lifts my soul, and I love that it’s constantly changing. Some people will purchase a unique piece they love, and others decide to get a collection of work to create their own small gallery wall.
Illyne’s favorite thing about My Love Story? The constantly evolving original art in vintage frames Gallery Wall.
What’s your favorite thing to do in your downtime? I love rearranging and redecorating my home and thrifting, but my absolute favorite thing to do is travel—I’m always planning my next big adventure. My oldest friend, Nathalie, and I have known each other since we were nine, and most of my big trips have been with her. Some of our favorites include Thailand, Japan, Paris, and Zion in Utah.
Tell us about some of your favorite NJ businesses and NJ spots and why you love them. Zinc Home in Lambertville is very special. The owners are artists, and their shop is curated to perfection. Another favorite spot of mine is Faubourg in Montclair. It’s a modern French brasserie with incredible food, a great bar vibe, and very beautiful. And Grounds for Sculpture is a family favorite— the 42-acre magnificent art sculpture park is the perfect place to have lunch and spend the entire day admiring everything. I also really love to listen to live music and love that PNC isn’t too far. There’s nothing like lawn seats, a glass of wine, and Dave Matthews live.
Our NJ Mompreneur (in white) often travels with her good friend Nathalie–they thoroughly enjoyed their trip to Utah.
Please share your best practical advice for a mompreneur just starting. Doing something that fills your soul with joy is the key to success. I don’t think it’s necessarily about filling a hole in the market—you need to love what you’re doing. Also, stay focused on your own vision. Others will give you their vision and try to sway you or tell you your idea won’t work, but when you love what you’re doing, you find a way to make it work.