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Filtering by Tag: Q&A

Lonesome Pine Mercantile

Ben Ashby

On our recent road trip through the south we went to visit our good friend Samuel Melton at his store Lonesome Pine Mercantile. Nestled in the town square of a small East Texas town Lonesome Pine is a majestic and serine look into vintage design. Samuel is creating not only a place to get local goods but a style that could change a small town into a mecca for the design world. We asked him some personal questions about not only his store but life in general.

Why your small town in Texas?

Well I grew up here, I went to school down the street, I danced at the pickin palace on Saturdays on blues night. However I grew up saying I would never come back to this town. I think I have a essay somewhere from middle school stating I was going to live far far far away from Hemphill. However being far far away for years I missed it. I came back for a visit and couldn't believe what my town was becoming , slowly it was becoming a ghost town. The square that I once spent most afternoons became empty and by passed by new faster highways. So being at the right place in my life I declared that somewhere on this square had to be my store. So I set on my new badge of the "urban exodus". It's also a part of my story my town is a huge pet of who I am so it's only appropriate to open up in this old East Tx town that has its quirky stories.

Starting with a physical store first, was that hard?

The hardest part was finding the location we had few options and each became a challenge. I think we went through the 3 months with 5 different location options. I think in a small town a physical location is smarter rather then online. Most people in this town still don't operate computers. This being ok because we wanted the town fellowship most of all before a online presence. On a the same topic the other hardest part of a physical location is people don't understand why a non married 26 year old man would come and open store so it's mainly breaking down that wall of questions and expectations that seems to be the hardest.

 

What products can we expect online?

Online will be treated as invite to East Texas more than anything. We will sell our local made goods from our friends/southern makers as well vintage textiles. This includes rugs, pillows, blankets and throws. I'm obsessed with the fact that textiles can change a home with a few here and a rug there. So I want to spread my idea of textile living. We will have furniture available however it'll be local pick up , but we actually haven't had a issue with that. People are so supportive that they want to explore Hemphill and East Texas so they are willing to come to the shop and grab their new pieces. I'm also excited to say there will be a blog on the site . We offer styling and home collaborations so we will be able to show our adventures and talk about the rural life more. 

Who inspires your style?

That's a big question. I tend to experiment a lot with style but always circle back to a vintage mix. I guess in stylist or designer I would say Emily Henderson because she really understands that life calls for lives in styles or style that can ware well in better terms. I do have to say my parents are hugely inspirational with encouraging me while younger to explore styles and history of pieces which made me come up with what my style early on. My parents are afraid to put the odd in their home and layer colors which shows up in my styling of homes usually. I share a love for Folk pieces and those odd pieces in the home much like my parents. In places that I draw inspirations from it would be the old old farm homes around my town you walk in and see the simple details that I go crazy for. From the cheap whitewash they used to the slim pine floors; the colors age well and look so amazing whether you add that new West Elm sofa or the found old worn leather chair. 

Did working at West Elm give you an advantage on competition in the area?

Working for WE I would say gave me a advantage but gave me a vision on what potential I see for a home can be. This area is so under served that anything new can be that thing that inspires other to branch out and start thinking design. 

What areas do you want to grow your business (i.e. design, products, etc)?

That changes everyday as of today I would say I would want to be able to bring the shop on the road. I know for sure to help and style homes is our goal. Recently we have become buyers for local designers where they are coming for the unique. I do want our local maker presence to also grow with hopefully collaborating ( being able to collab is a complement like none other to me) . We have such great talent in this small county of mine that it's a shame to not have it showcases in a better setting rather then on the side of the road.  So for our evolution as a store I think it's to style more and find more makers that deserve a chance to be showcased.

Where do you see yourself and your business in the coming years?

Well for Lonesome Pine I just want to become a presence. This meaning for people to see that we are here and we have something special in East Texas. Also I just want the store to survive the first year can be a hard one with learning how your store will work and drawing in customers it can be scary. I do want my business to become that inspiration to others to invest in small town Texas (maybe East Texas) and rally around them as a friend. To see the empty next to me be filled with a coffee bar, eatery, and etc would be my idea of growth.

Tatine

Ben Ashby

Sometimes inspiration is found in unlikely places. Other times it only seems natural. The ladies over at Tatine seem to find things a little more natural and easy to come by than most. Rock n' Roll is their inspiration but instead of that coming at the hands of marketing and polls it happened through passion. 

The company started by inches not leaps and bounds. Margo Breznik first started teaching herself the art of candle making her tiny Chicago apartments kitchen. Soon after that she opened a store that simultaneously fronted as furniture and home decor while she made candles on the premises as well. As more and more interest grew in what she was creating she decided to go into wholesale. 

"I'm a self taught business person. It's a continuous growing process. One that I love. I'm constantly learning and always challenged.I always aspired to do something creative for a living. I worked in the music business for 10 years, then worked at a foreign and independent film company for 8 years."

A move to New York City came next, and landed her a job working for an architecture firm, but it was mostly numbers all the live long day. Moving back to Chicago she began working for a direct marketing company and according to her "paid the bills", but not being able to express herself in design she filled that need by teaching herself how to make candles after work and every weekend. By researching fragrances for hours upon hours she couldn't wait to get out of work to make candles. So she decided to take a huge risk, quit her job, borrowed $10,000 from family and opened a store to showcase the Tatine brand in 2001.

"I was dying to do a build out, create an atmosphere and share my work for people to bring into their homes. The store was well received and I kept it open for 7 years when I decided to flip the coin, take another huge, scary risk and walk away from what I built, and completely rebrand, redesign and go wholesale."

So the first three months after closing she was scared, tearful, and quite worrisome. She went from having this beautiful store with daily sales, to no income as she was rebuilding and redesigning the entire brand, which takes time and patience.

She kept at it, and invested everything she had into it, and low and behold it paid off for her. Anthropologie came calling and she went into production hand crafting approx. 50,000 individual candles for their stores Nationwide. At this point she was the only employee! Her friends & family helped when they could, but it was a labor of love for her to say the least. They hired her to produce two more lines for them and this combined, resulted her working 8 months solid, 10 to 12 hour days without a single day off. So it is only fitting that some tears fell into the wax of some of those candles. That much work would be exhausting and not without a meltdown or three for anyone, but for her it was the most incredible learning experience and so worth it. Now in her 15th year in business those days are what she leans on to realize what has gotten her to this point. 

We decided to ask her some question about how she made it this far!  

Q: Other than rock n' roll what inspires you?

A: I'd definitely have to say the world of design. In particular I'm very influenced by modern British, Industrial and Scandinavian design; in furniture, interiors, and products. Design magazines are sacred for me I'm constantly on the lookout for the latest trends and things that inspire. This does not mean that I disregard tradition. I find a blending of the two elements most interesting.

In addition, traveling is a constant source of inspiration for me. Any chance I get I'm off exploring! The sights and sounds and scents of places I've traveled to inspire many of our fragrances, in both literal and abstract ways.  

Q: Where do you see the company going over the next 5 years?

A: The sky's the limit! We're experiencing a moment of tremendous growth. One I've worked very hard at attaining. And I have hundreds of ideas! And I like to change things up, keep current. Naturally I anticipate continued growth. 

Q: What are your candles made of? How do you pick your scents?

A: Our candles are made of 100% soy wax. And our scents are a product of a lot of thoughtful blending and experimenting until we get just the right fragrance. I pride myself on our fragrances. I won't put just anything out there until I feel it's unique and the best it can possibly be. It's a task I really enjoy.                                                                                                                

Q: How often do you change scents on both of your products? 

A: We have many classic fragrances which people love. And those we tend to keep around. However, I do love change. So I am consistently unveiling new scents in all of our collections. 

Q: Is there anything you guys are developing?

A: We've expanded our company to include apothecary products over the last year or so. And this has been very exciting! We're now producing a pump soap and lotion as well as a line of hand soaps. We're adding new fragrances to those and we also have an exciting plan to introduce another new product. But that's still a secret! As I mentioned before, you can always count on Tatine to have something new and exciting up our silky sleeves.

Q: How long does your development take? Do you fail often? And do we always get to see your successes?

A: Development periods differ. The ideas come relatively easily. But full development can take some time, over the course of several months. This is due to the fact that alongside product creation we also design all of our packaging. There's a lot of back and forth during that process. But I find that process rather thrilling! I must say, we have not experienced any complete failures. Of course some lines or fragrances end up being more popular than others. And we've discontinued fragrances or lines due to lesser sales. But I see this as positive. It allows us to understand and adapt to our market, while still speaking and creating from the soul.

And up until now yes, you have seen all of our successes for the most part. We have done huge jobs for big brands like Anthropologie, Williams & Sonoma, Terrain, and smaller projects for Robert De Niro's Greenwich Hotel, Ian Shrager's Public hotels to name a few. These collaborations are generally custom, so they aren't sold as part of the Tatine brand, but they still represent us. These collabs allow us to learn and grow, and generate the revenue to develop and design for Tatine.

Q: Do you team up with other makers often? 

A: We do collaborations with other brands and build products and fragrances for them from the ground up. We don't do private label though, we are a design studio and we love to create custom, exclusive products for other brands that represent them, and help them tell their stories. We give the same attention to detail, love and care to these collaborations, as we do to developing products for our own brand. We love creating!

Q: Does living in the midwest offer opportunities to partner with both the east and west coast more? 

A: Not necessarily, in this day and age it doesn't really matter where you live, you can develop and design for anyone, anywhere. The joy is when brands reach out to us because they love our work.

Q: Who are your favorite makers?

A: I have so many! I am so inspired by products and brands that live and breathe the hearts of the makers. I have a great deal of adoration for Le Labo and Cire Trudon. Their fragrances are outstanding. I'm also inspired by interior design and design in general. For example, when traveling, I get so inspired, the designs of places like St.John Bread & Wine and Fernandez & Wells in London inspired me a great deal. Their restaurant build outs and aesthetic inspired the gut rehab I did in my own kitchen, and being in their environments highly influenced the style of my brand.  

Q: Was there steady growth or a big boom?

A: Actually, a bit of both. It's been steady all along but there have been a few high profile companies who bought deep and created somewhat of a boom for us.

Q: Where is the end goal to get your products?

A: Right now, we are working to build an international presence. We have some big accounts in Tokyo, Australia, and Korea, and we are currently in production on a big job going off to Switzerland. I'd love representation in England, France, Germany, Sweden, Italy, you name it.

Q: Any crazy stories about how a product came about or anyone who has bought one?

A: Well, if you consider sauntering by certain rock gods' homes in London and being inspired by the escapade and translating that into a fragrance crazy, then yeah! We have indeed also had a few notable musicians purchase our product and some that even visited our production studio. But of course our lips are sealed!

Upstate Stock

Ben Ashby

Starting From Scratch

We just wanted to get the word out on our friends over at Upstate Stock and their amazing new store. So here is a quick Q&A on their new venture.

Q: Why the location?

A: I had been looking for a space for a flagship store for over a year and when my good friend took the space beside this he said I had to see it. It was very raw, but very large, particularly for Williamsburg. 

Q: When did you decide on a brick and mortar store? And why?

A: The wholesale side of the business has been doing very well for a number of years but we wanted to represent the brand properly, so I have been planning the brick and mortar for almost 2 years. 

Q: What brands do you carry? Who are the markers?

A: Apart from our own core line of knits made in upstate NY, we carry our Canadian made cotton flannels, Brooklyn made candles, and even backpacks made by D'emploi here in New York. Also, we a lot of Upstate NY brands for small goods like soaps and foods. For apparel we mostly carry our friends brands, people we travel the world with, doing tradeshows and working together. Friends like Slightly Alabama leather goods, Freenote denim, Knickerbocker MFG Co, and Klaxon Howl.  

Q: What made you carry American Made only?

A: We carry made in North America only. Mainly these are the people we know and love, we see how hard they work at creating a brand and making sure they are putting out quality product.