I recently came in contact with a lovely store called Moss located in Savannah, Georgia (and now online). Owned by Colin Brotherton and managed by Ryan Meashaw, the home design store opened in 2007 carrying unique gifts and accessories, “style inspired by nature” as Ryan calls it. The store was opened for the same reason most shop owners agree to take on such a huge responsibility, because he wanted to share his vision of what stylish design with a natural touch looks like. “I love the contrast of a formal Chinoiserie bureau juxtaposed with a rustic driftwood framed mirror or vintage taxidermy,” Colin says. He buys what he likes, putting his heart and soul into Moss with every purchase. I had a chance to ask this creative business owner a few questions about shop ownership for all those out there who have entertained the thought of opening the doors to your very own storefront.
decor8: Hi Colin! My first questions is in regards to your store name. How did you decide upon Moss?
Colin: Moss came about because we wanted a one-word memorable name that was modern yet organic and natural at the same time. Plus it seemed appropriate with the Spanish Moss that can be found all over Savannah.
decor8: Everyone thinks of shop ownership as this magical dream they’d love to be a part of. In reality, it can be much different and often very challenging. What are some of the obstacles you’ve faced and how do you handle them?
Colin: Understanding cash flow can be a big obstacle. It takes being focused to overcome this problem. Figuring out the flow of business is challenging. Our economy is so up and down that it can be difficult to stay on top of this issue. And it can also be a challenge to narrow down all the incredible choice in cool products that flood the market. But of course this is also the fun part!
decor8: What do you love about owning a shop?
Colin: That it allows me to discover new items and share my unique perspective with others. We really strive to make design simple and affordable for everyone. And you know, Mother Nature is one of the most stylish woman around!
decor8: How do you source the products that you carry?
Colin: I travel to NYC twice a year and also the Highpoint furniture market. In addition we are constantly on the lookout for new and innovative products that we may come across – be it online, in magazines, etc. I love searching the shows for cool things. It’s a lot harder then people might think pouring through literally thousands of items, picking out the few jewels that I know will shine bright at Moss. I also scour design blogs for unique and unusual items. I love finding designers and artists out there who are just starting out and have a unique perspective.
decor8: I’m happy to know that design blogs are helpful to you, that’s great. What about the other way around, if someone wants to approach you about carrying their line…
Colin: We love when artists seek us out. We are of course available by email. Including good images of your work is more likely to get you noticed.
decor8: I can’t stress the value of good images, you are so right! Another question about your store, how do you let people know you exist?
Colin: We are fortunate to have some great local magazines to work with as far as marketing goes. Also, the internet is great for us to reach out to new customers and those returning. Savannah is an amazing place with around 7 million tourists a year gracing her moss-draped streets. We find that word of mouth and of course location, location, location! are great tools. I also want to mention that a fair number of our business is from tourists who return home after just a few days in our fair city. These customers began requesting an online storefront where they could buy our items from home. After an overwhelming response we have come to the realization that there is a larger market we can reach through e-commerce so we opened a store online just a few weeks ago on January 30th.
decor8: That’s great, congratulations! Now let’s talk profit. Is it true that as a shop owner you don’t see real earnings until after the first year in business?
Colin: They say it can take a few years before you start earning a profit from most businesses. And I think this can very much be the case. But we have been fortunate in our first year and have really seemed to find our niche because we are already seeing a profit on our hard work.
decor8: You must know your market very well there in Savannah! Can you tell us more about your frequent shoppers and what are some of the most popular lines?
Colin: Our average customer is definitely a woman, between about 20-70 years of age. She is educated, savvy, stylish and sometimes a bit alternative. She appreciates the classics but also loves to discover something that is different. As for lines, it’s hard to pinpoint specific best-selling brands, but we do sell an awful lot of bath and body products. People really seem to like a good bar of soap! We do very well with our French soaps. Another popular type of item are cards and stationery. We carry brands like Jonathan Wright, Cavallini and Saturn Press. The life-like animals of Hansa have proved surprisingly popular.
decor8: Are other small business owners in your area supportive and how so?
Colin: Yes, the local businesses have been very supportive. They have shared information on being successful in Savannah, the flow of tourism, the high season vs. the low season, etc. Savannah takes some adapting to get used to. And we have thankfully had some help with that.
decor8: Thank you Colin for telling us a little about your store, sharing some insight, and of course we appreciate the photos and the mentioning of your new online shop. Thank you again for meeting up with me here on the web today. We wish you tons of continued success!
Readers: If you have any questions to add to this interview please jump in and ask Colin by commenting below.
(images from moss)