When one hears the word “apothecary,” up pop images of a cramped, dimply lit room filled with shelves of dark jars and a Nostradamus-looking guy hunched in the corner. Not so with the Malin + Goetz flagship in New York City’s Chelsea hood. “We really wanted to modernize the apothecary,” explains New York native Andrew Goetz, 46, one of the visionaries behind the four-year-old grooming brand. He and professional (and personal) partner Matthew Malin, 41, originally from Detroit, achieved this fresh effect by erecting a gleaming-white store on 7th Avenue with shelves that glow blue at night. By day, customers step over the chubby shop mascot who lazes by the door – a bulldog named Bob – and explore numerous rows of minimalist white bottles and products being held aloft by large Be@rbrick and Labbit sculptures, or nestled between Munny dolls and miniature flat-screen televisions. “The Kidrobot stuff and the dogs, we have because we love them,” explains Goetz. “It doesn’t matter if it makes any sense; it’s just something we enjoy.” But don’t think for a minute that anything about the brand’s success is coincidental. Prior to the launch of the company, Goetz had been honing his top notch taste for 10 years as marketing director at Vitra, the Swiss designed manufacturer that gave the likes of Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid their first commissions. During that time, Malin was logging in experience as a cosmetic buyer for Barneys New York, followed by stints at cult brand Kiehl’s – a forerunner in the now booming men’s grooming market – and Prada’s Parfums division. “We were both working for companies at the forefront of their fields,” says Malin. “A lot of the companies that I was working with were being bought by corporations, and after Kiehl’s was sold to L’Oreal, we thought we’d be wise to start leveraging the relationships and experience we had and do something for ourselves.” Aside from being a valid business plan, Malin also saw a personal need in a unisex grooming line. “I suffer from a host of things from rosacea to eczema and seborrhea, and seborrhea, and I’m allergic to synthetic fragrances,” he says. “We wanted to fill a void for sensitive skin by creating something that’s simple, uncomplicated, modern and forward – and for anyone. We took these ideas and blended modern design within it.” The whole concept of the brand is the idea of taking modern design to re-interpret these old chemist labels in nothing more than what they were meant to be: functional,” says Goetz. “They’re really transparent in the way that all the information is there, and there’s functionality to the way you read the bottles. If you’re looking for directions or ingredients, each one is in a different font weight.” The signature clean product design – with body, hair and face each represented by different colors, and cleansers and moisturizers in different shades – was imagines in a systematic way by 2x4, a company that has also worked with Nike and Rem Koolhaas. “Even when we came up with the name, they sort of made it into a formula,” says Goetz about the vaguely Swiss-looking logo. “We have tons of Europeans coming in here, saying, ‘Oh, we thought you were from Europe.’ But instead it’s two guys sitting in the front with a bulldog.” This down-home simplicity combined with intelligent design has paid off. The privately owned company has been profitable since the first year of business. The second year they were up 250 percent, the third 100 percent, and currently they’re up 35 percent in a tough, recession-laden year. It’s all thanks to a customer – 50 percent of whom are men, on the average 25 to 45 years old – who gets it. “The label ‘metrosexual’ came out because guys caring was so new a few years ago. But then men started to learn the difference between products and they started to see results,” says Goetz, a man who used to lather up with a lone Neutrogena bar head to toe. “Once I started using the crèmes and potions that Matthew brought home, I saw the difference. And while the Neutrogena worked, it’s like you can either drive a Mercedes or a Dodge. Both will bring you from point A to point B, but in a completely different manner.” And for other guys who want to step up from soap on a rope without an overcomplicated, grandmotherly regimen, Malin + Goetz offers it in a straightforward way: effective, nonirritant washed for your face, body and hair, and moisturizers to add afterward. For the advanced, there are naturally scented musks and candles. All with the added bonus of making your bathroom cabinet look MoMA worthy. “We’re not doing this because the market demands it. We do it because we need it or our friends need it,” says Goetz. “And it’s important to control your destiny.” There’s nothing old-fashioned about that.