Formenreich in Hannover, Germany leases a space in Galeria Kaufhof, a popular German department store. All three partners (Rike, Mareike, and Anette) are fashion designers and wanted to bring their designs into a retail environment, so they approached the big box retailer about a dead space they noticed adjacent to the music department that appeared to be used only as storage.
To their surprise, the massive retail giant supported their indie store plans and approved their lease for a trial period of one year. Excited, yet no doubt fearful, these ladies jumped in and created Formenreich, a collaborative effort where they, along with other up-and-coming fashion, jewelry, and accessories designers from Germany and other parts of Europe, share this unique space that offers soaring ceilings, tons of natural light, a workspace, and a prime downtown location. They even have access to one display window on street level near the Kaufhof entrance.
I guess their mentality is that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Join ‘em as long as you are still doing your thing that is… And these ladies are. I think it was such a smart move on their part to see an opportunity and then to actually do something with it. That’s an inspiring story, isn’t it?
Formenreich overlooks old Hannover and a beautiful church dating back to the 1100’s. Of course, without the support of other designers who pay a small fee to rent space in the store, it may be difficult to make it work – but with their creative colleagues on board, these ladies found a way to turn their dream into a reality.
I visited them in their store this past November and met with Anette and Mareike, and they told me their story along with some very good news – Galeria Kaufhof extended their lease and they’re now in their 2nd year of business. I can’t wait to visit them again this Fall to see if they’ll be signing on for a 3rd year. Fingers crossed!
Continue this series by clicking here or simply scroll to the next post: The Derby Store (Shop Owner: Get Online!)
Outside of the US, there’s a rising trend in collaborative boutiques, as well as online storefronts for those who rely on internet sales to supplement their income in order to maintain their storefront. In Hannover, Germany there’s a terrific example of a collaborative space that I visited called Frau Zimmer.
Located in Linden, a district known for it’s creative inhabitants, this store stocks gorgeous home accessories, fashion, and jewelry, arranged beautifully in several small rooms – one room a dedicated sewing area.
I had the chance to meet shop keeper Orike Muth, a textile and accessories designer that I wrote about last year, and she told me all about Frau Zimmer with details on each and every artist featured in the store. It was amazing to hear her tell their stories, but what struck me the most is how she knew their stories to begin with. That made shopping there such a unique, and memorable experience for me.
Frau Zimmer is yet another example of a well-organized, collaborative boutique owned by passionate artists. If you can’t go it alone, pull in others that you love and do it together.
Continue reading this series by clicking here, or simply scroll to the next post: Formenreich (Shop Owner: Partner Up + Ask For Help).
While in Berlin in November, I spotted several boutiques that had a similar approach as Frau Zimmer and Formenreich – artists coming together that have a similar aesthetic and opening a store. One that stood out is Derby Store, a graphic design shop that features screen-printed tee shirts and accessories from some of Europe’s best graphics designers.
It was at the Derby Store that I met Mike Friedrich, and the designer behind Bloody Bunny, Britta, both artists that design and sell out of Derby Store. Both were excited and pleased to be working together, along with other creative types, and mentioned that in Berlin, this was becoming more and more popular. On one wall, I spotted Mike’s artwork along with his skateboard art, and in the window, was Bloody Bunny’s crochet and textile accessories. Mike was working the desk and Britta stopped in primarily to meet me and show me her wares since we linked up online via Flickr before I visited Berlin. I’ll be back to visit her in September, a trip I’m very excited about because I think she is a lovely person in all ways – she’s authentic, like all the artists I met in Berlin and Hannover. Their passion for what they created gave them the drive to make it work no matter what.
Both Mike and Britta bubbled over with enthusiasm and the prospects that await them. Through the store, as well as online (Britta has a small etsy store, a blog, and is on flickr and Mike has several websites, including a blog), both are able to make a living doing what they love.
That’s another way to make your storefront work, bring your store online by using the websites that are in place already to offer your products and services. Flickr alone can be an amazing way to connect to others, and of course sites like Etsy and eBay, as well as adding e-commerce to your own website. On days when your store is slow, you can still keep busy by networking online and running your business on the web. You are also able to reach out to a broader customer base.
From my own personal experience as an eBay shop girl for several years while I worked in the corporate world (interestingly enough, it was a business selling home decor), I can’t stress this enough: go international. Often, your best customers live in another country. People want what they can’t find next door, I know I do, so make sure your doors are open to everyone. You can increase your business up to 50% in some cases!
Sharing space and taking your business online, in addition to a storefront, is becoming more and more popular because the dream of sole shop ownership is quickly slipping down the tubes. Passionate business owners are thinking of alternative ways to keep their dreams (and their stores) alive. Many indie shop owners left behind a world where they felt out of control, which is why they elected to go solo and open their own business in the first place. We leave behind fat paychecks and bennies to gain our freedom. But, how much freedom do you have if you’re forced to go in with several others to create your business? I imagine giving up the control you longed to have is a difficult thing to do, so I applaud those who do it, and find success this way.
It almost comes down to survival of the fittest these days, doesn’t it? Are there any decor8 readers that own/rent a storefront, and if so, how hard are you finding it is to survive? Would you consider taking on partners, or leasing spaces in your store to independant artists? What are the challenges you’re faced with on a daily basis?
I’d love to learn more about this so I’m inviting you to comment with your thoughts below with hopes that we can open up a discussion. You can comment by visiting the first part this series by clicking here. It seems that’s where the discussion is going on…
I *heart* Freckle Wonder. You know that one girl from grade school that you thought was the coolest chick alive? Well, she’s back and she has a website.
Freckle Wonder is a girl that we’d all love to have as a friend. Jenny has style, she’s a woman doing it for herself (small business owner along with her life partner Matt, their fur kids, and their son, Henry), with a gorgeous mid-century retroish home, and she’s so pretty – like a grown up doll. Jenny sells everything from home accessories to shoes and clothes on her website, so it’s a fun browse and worth a bookmark so you can keep an eye on things – she’s constantly updating the site with new stuff.
I think it’s great that she models everything and that Matt is the resident photographer, styling to perfection. I don’t know whether he does this already or not, but I’d love to see Matt sell some of his product shots, I think many of them would be great framed or as greeting cards. Anyway, I’m lovin’ Freckle Wonder and I hope you do too. Great girl, great site.
Psst: She’s a blogger, hurray!
(images from freckle wonder)