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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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)
Now this is a pretty office! Ez was out there reading decor8 yesterday and after seeing my yellow living room/reading nook, she decided to create an office in our virtual house. Any other bloggers want to get involved and create a kitchen, bathroom, master bedroom, guest bedroom, or an entryway off of the same theme – yellow and pretty pastels? Here’s the house we’re building so far. :)
Anyone want to try a room? Maybe we can pull together an entire house like this, one blogger at a time. I’ve been looking for some creative online exercises to do lately with my fellow bloggers and this would be a fun project to collaborate on. Perhaps I should just nominate others or else some may feel to shy to get involved? Okay then, I challenge Joy to pull together the bedroom, Irene — a kid’s room, Susan — the kitchen, and Victoria to design a bathroom complete with a vintage clawfoot tub. Can Danielle pull together a guest bedroom? And I’d like to see Nicole put together a fancy patio space. Wouldn’t this be a fun project to do once a month in blogland? Hmmm….
[update: I just emailed my blogger friends so let’s see if they have the time to do this. For fun, I sent them a little bio about our virtual client. Home owner: Young single mother (cookbook author) with a son living in a 18th century Georgian townhouse in Savannah Georgia approx. 2000 sq ft., 2 floors, 3 bedrooms (one is an office), and a large patio off of the kitchen. She loves to entertain, enjoys pastels and Swedish decor, decorating on somewhat of a budget but she can splurge on one expensive item per room. Loves pattern and feminine touches but can’t deal with too much clutter.]
(images from ez and holly)
Jen Wallace over at the very sweet online shop Indie Fixx
(image from indie fixx)
Karen at Hammocks & High Tea and Anna of Sub-Studio are looking to share space at the National Stationery Show with other stationery designers. If you are interested in learning more, please contact them directly. I thought I’d post this since some may be looking for an opportunity to team up with others for the show as it provides a more affordable alternative to leasing a space on your own.
Anyone else showing at the National Stationery Show this year? What have your past experiences been? I’ve not attended but may cruise the grounds this year because I’d love to check it out. Booths and booths filled with gorgeous stationery? I mean, what’s not to love!
(images from sub studio and hammocks & high tea)