Closing Shop + Magic.
I don't know if anyone even remembers this because it (seems like it) was eons ago, but in the middle of June last year, two friends and I took on a lease for a small office space that we were planned to use as a studio, with occasional market nights and perhaps a small retail space. And for a variety of reasons - some I understand and some are just unbeknownst to me, it just didn't end up working the way we envisioned. The three of us met this past April and decided that it wasn't in anyone's interest to keep the space open, so we decide to close up shop and we were lucky to tag sale off all of our fixtures almost as easily as we acquired them. One day we were in this space and the next day we weren't. Funny how things can happen.
So what did (or didn't) happen? Here's some things I know for sure:
1. The space we took was not a traditional retail space - we were in an office area down a short hallway - so that made it harder for people to find us by randomly walking by. We had no "curb appeal" so to speak, even with a sign out by our main door. This taught us that if we really want to do retail in the future, a more obvious space would be better. It seems obvious, but you think that if you let people know where you are, they will find you, but it doesn't work that way.
2. For me, for it to really work, I would have had to move my entire operation to that space, or had a completely duplicate setup. I found that I had to plan what I was going to bring and work on each time I went - I couldn't just willy-nilly work on whatever I felt like. I had to make sure I had all the fabric, tools, and right color thread (learned that one the hard way) that I needed for the day's projects. And I didn't want to leave anything there in case I needed it at home (learned that one the hard way, too). It was so much work to get things done.
3. Even with a somewhat steady base of local followers, people did not know what to make of us. When we explained what we were doing, the first thing most people asked were what our hours were. Steady hours were one thing we did not have because it was a working studio and three busy moms do not always have time for crafty work. We'd get, "Oh, so it's a shop?" or "Oh, I can't wait to see?" There wasn't quite an understanding of what the space was.
What I don't understand, and continually do not understand, is what makes one place work and another not. Two things that are so similar and one takes off and one plods along hoping for a break. What is that magic element? Why do some people always seem to be in the right place at the right time, and others don't? Why does one struggle while the other one makes gainful strides? This is probably the most frustrating thing for me since there seemed to be some of that in play. I feel perpetually in the wrong place at the wrong time, even though I know that with a little bit of that magic I could totally rock it.
A few things I think I've come to understand: first is that a lot of people get a shop when they have outgrown their space at home and need a place bigger than what they've got. I didn't have that need, but was hoping that having the space would drive more business to my business and make it bigger. Maybe that's a backwards way to think about it and I should be working on strategies to make my current business in its current state in my current space work better. Second is that a business really needs to fill a need in a niche area where it is lacking. Does what I do fill a hole? Is it important and worthwhile? A little big of research is in order on that one.
All in all it was a good ride and it really gave me some insight into what I'm doing and what I need, and is really making me think about direction, all of which are good things. It's an experience that I'm so glad I had because otherwise I would still have that notion in my head that an external space was the answer and that it would be awesome for business, and it really was a learning experience, as cliche as that sounds. But if anyone out there has a clue on that magic, let me know because I would really like to put some of it to good use.