Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bare Bones! Raw retail space

Today I'm going to show you the bare bones of my retail space.  These are the original photos I shot on the initial walk through.  I hadn't made my mind up to open an actual store front, but I thought it may be a sign that this space opened up in a location I'd had my eye on for awhile.  
(Please visit prior posts about getting to this walk through here and here).  

I loved the front porch (Can't you just see inviting chairs out there?)
The ceiling of the porch was turquoise...a color I've often adopted with Vivid Hue (a sign?)

The building was slotted for an exterior face lift even before I signed the lease.  The entire exterior was sanded and scrubbed and resurfaced.  

View of the Space from the Back Entrance
And on the interior, there was one large room with two smaller office type rooms behind it.  (Don't you *love* the paneling?  More on this later) 

 So, while there were a handful of "cons" (drop ceiling, fluorescent lighting, outdated wood paneling, small space), I saw tremendous potential.  The space is approximately 500 square feet and I was actually ok with this.  It seemed like a small enough space that I could fill with products and not have it look too bare.  (Ironically enough, I think I may quickly out grow this space as I get more and more inventory in, but this is a good problem to have).

One question I asked right from the beginning was whether or not I could paint or wallpaper over the wood paneling.  The owner was very adamant about NOT disrupting this surface.  He stated that it was part of the charm of this historical building (though the interior wood itself is not historical, he felt that it was part of this cottage's Connecticut charm).  Note, the building itself is located in the historical district in our town and is from 1880.   I asked if he'd consider letting me use a removable wallpaper as long as I left the paneling exactly in this state when I moved out.  (As long as I provided a sample, he'd consider).

Another appealing aspect to me when I looked at this space, was that the lease term was only a year.  To me, unsure of how this venture might turn out, I liked the idea of having the option to shut this down if it ended up being a total and complete flop.  Lastly, I had researched retail space in other areas in Connecticut just down the road from Farmington, and the price of retail space in those areas was literally TEN TIMES more than this space.  So, the lease price wouldn't break my budget, the lease term was only 1 year to start, the location was some place I frequented already and I felt was just BEGGING for a retail gift shop....

I pictured the wood paneled room to be the main selling space.  The below photo is one of the back rooms with a door leading out to the parking lot.  I envisioned this also being a potential selling space with the 3rd small room being used for excess inventory and my office.  Cozy but doable.

In the end, it just seemed too good to be true.  It seemed like an opportunity I just had to act upon.  So  I moved forward with pursuing the space.

That bench out front is just begging for some throw pillows and staging! 

As I was in the lease negotiations, the exterior was undergoing a renovation.  I knew it must be a positive sign when the owner/ landlord let me have input into the color of the door and porch ceiling.  
 Of course, I selected a vivid color!  Benjamin Moore Poolside Blue!  (What better way to let people know where I am...look for that turquoise door)

I had the back entrance door painted the same turquoise.  The side and back have planters that aren't pictured here that I can fill with over flowing flowers in the spring and summer seasons.

Join me in future posts to learn more about the lease negotiations, the creative ways I tried to work around that darned wood paneling without making a permanent change, and see some of my thoughts about inventory to carry in the space.  Also, learn about the review process it takes to get a business sign approved (particularly in an area where the building is located in a town's historical district).

And of course, if you'd like a sneak peek into the most recent developments with this space, follow me on instagram for daily photos.

xoxoxo Heather

Friday, January 30, 2015

Brick and Mortar or Online Retail?

Brick and Mortar or Online.  Where to start?

In the summer of 2014, I decided to think seriously about advancing Vivid Hue Home from a design blog to the "next step."  I wasn't quite sure what the "next step" meant, but I wanted to "act" on my dream of owning a home decor business in some capacity.

It's a scary step to decide to move from the comforts of your own home as a "blogger" out into the real world of business.  My husband and I have owned a successful medical practice for the past 7 years, so I had been through the steps of opening up a start up and managing a family owned business.

But, with "Vivid Hue-the blog"- I had taken the approach of "do what feels comfortable and organic."  Sure, I could have managed the blog as a business (as many do very successfully) but this was initially a passionate hobby for me.  In the beginning, I put pressures on myself that I must publish a daily post.  I would stay up until midnight each day and prepare posts weeks in advance.  Overtime, this experience became less fun and more cumbersome.  I decided to step back, take a different approach and publish a post only when I felt compassionate about something.

In time, the nature of my material focused largely on the projects I was doing around my own house.  I enjoyed sharing my adventures in decorating, DIY, trial and error.  And people begin to ask me where I'd acquired particular items in my house.  Soon, local friends start asking for assistance in decorating their own homes and offices.

Vivid Hue Home Dining Room 

Rather than go the interior designer route, I knew that I wanted to curate unique gifts and small home furnishings.  I wasn't sure if it should be brick and mortar or online (or eventually both) but I wanted to be recognized as a unique home store destination.  The place for the perfect hostess gift, the "statement" coffee table accessory, a location that offered a quality mix of fresh designers that aren't widely featured in Connecticut (yet).

Taylor Burke Home, Cotton and Quill and Dune and Duchess. Photo Courtesy of TBH. 

Cotton and Quill Pillows.  Photo Courtesy of Cotton and Quill 

But brick and mortar or the online shop?

I knew the way in which people retail shop was/is evolving.  My background (before blogging and being office manager for our medical practice) was in e-commerce and advertising.  I'd worked with one of the largest teeny bopper retail brands and project managed the technical team that built the backend website for the company's online retail business.  Our team made sure all of the online orders were captured correctly and swapped out the products as the offerings changed  During peak season, if there was a surge in online orders and the backend started to "act up", it was my team that was in the office until two or three in the morning to make sure we were capturing the thousands or orders in the database.  So I'd experienced first hand how successful the online retail business can be. (This company also had an accompanying community site that engaged teenagers in trendy news articles, games, chat rooms, you name it).
Photo Courtesy of @alloyapparel

But because of this experience with online retail, I also understood that the online shop is open 24/7.  There are no vacations.  No days off.  No "breaks" in when products need to be shipped to the customers.  Which can be a great thing.  But also not.  As a blogger, I understand my following has a reach much farther than my lil ole town of Farmington, Connecticut.  I have followers as far away as Portugal and Italy.  It's pretty cool.  And these could eventually become my customers.  But for now, I determined that is more than I wanted to bite off.

For me, personally, I had to reconcile what my goals of the business would be.   I was also still running the medical practice as office manager (we have since hired my replacement).  I enjoyed my flexibility of being able to take some time to go to one of my kid's school recitals.   And so, I decided to adopt the same philosophy that I had taken when starting the blog.  Start small and with easily digestible decisions.  Do what feels right, not necessarily what everyone else tells you to do.  

I went back and forth for months.  My thought process went something like this:

It seems that there's less financial risk in an online shop... No lease, no huge costs or paying rent for a retail space.  But how do I set myself apart from the other websites that are already selling items?  And yet I could operate the website while sitting on my coach in my comfies.  But how do I make my items be more appealing that the next website?  Would I be willing to put in extra time for graphics and marketing related promotions online?  And what about swapping out the inventory, filling the orders constantly, and keeping the website fresh?  Oh boy, this seems too cumbersome!  I just want to sell stuff...all of these details are so overwhelming!  I can really stage a brick and mortar shop.  Customers will love getting their hands on the actual product. But where do I settle on a location?

Don't get me wrong.  I'm a hard worker and I'm willing to put in the effort.  But I wanted this effort to be fun.  This is my lifelong dream.  I wanted to be true to really giving it a "go."

In the midst of this back and forth with myself, a friend of mine that is a successful residential real estate agent in Farmington happened to mention that there was a commercial space available in our little town "center."
Truffles Bakery, located in the village of Farmington Connecticut . Photo Courtesy of Truffles. 

It seemed almost too good to be true.  Even though I wasn't convinced about taking the brick and mortar route, I scheduled an appointment to see the space.  

Next post:  See a glimpse of the retail space, view the original walk through photos and find out what sealed my decision.    Thank you all for your support and I have loved reading your comments about what you'd like me to share about this venture!  

PS- For additional sneak peak photos of the store progress, follow Vivid Hue Home on Instagram here.  I post daily shots before I blog about them!  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Start of the Retail Journey

Today, I will begin sharing the journey I've gone through the last six months of deciding to open a brick and mortar home decor store in Connecticut.

Back Entrance to Vivid Hue Home

I'm sitting in the future shop as I type this.  As I look around, it's overwhelming the amount of work I still need to accomplish prior to the opening (targeted for April 2015).  But then I have to remind myself how far I've come since making the retail decision in August 2014.

It started with a twinge of desire to decorate.  And that started YEARS ago, that passion and drive to make things pretty in a creative way.  So I started the Vivid Hue Home blog.  Which was enough for awhile.  But then I wanted more.

Original Vivid Hue Home Blog Design 

Current Vivid Hue Home Blog Design

In the last year, I'd started itching to advance to the next step.  There were many directions to consider: Launching an interior design business, starting an on-line home design store, opening a brick and mortar gift boutique, creating a product from the ground up....

Visit Vivid Hue Home projects here.  

Obviously, I am sitting in the middle of my future shop, so you know how I netted out (for now).  I will share the rationale behind that decision in a future post.  I will also share how I settled on my little historical cottage in Farmington, Connecticut.  For those that may be interested in starting a similar business, I will even share the logistics of gaining town approvals for retail signage, setting up an LLC, securing a lease, establishing yourself as "trade" and some of the financial considerations that go into all of this.

Check back soon for my next post in which I will talk about how I landed upon my spot for the retail store.  Here's a glimpse.  We're just getting started and I plan to bring you along every step of the way.

The exterior of Vivid Hue Home "shop"

Until then,

Thank you for continuing to follow and support me along the way!

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