Thursday, May 15, 2008

Retail Therapy: treehouse

>> Thinking about opening a shop? Read on and find out what really goes on behind the register...

1. Name one thing that completely took you by surprise when you first started treehouse - something that neither biz how-to books or any "SCORE" workshop prepared you for.

The floor! (and the amount of time we spent on refinishing it). Really...the floor. We rented our space as is and after hearing from our landlady's son that it used to be a speakeasy back in the day with a beautiful mosaic tiled floor, we couldn't resist checking it out. Long story short, 4 layers of linoleum, a heavy layer of black tar and 45 days later, we had revealed a gorgeous piece of history! It was the first of many surprises along the way that led us to our treehouse. Lesson learned: take it as it comes and look for the beauty underneath!

>> continue reading Retail Therapy: treehouse

2. Owning a shop means constantly wearing different hats. Here's how Rebecca and Siri spend their time:

- 15% Buying
- 15% Marketing & Promo
- 20% Production & Operations:website, hang-tags, display
- 20% Customer Service: including emails and communication
- 5% Fulfillment/Shipping
- 20% Accounting, billing & finances
- 5% Other- everything else that falls into our lap

3. What keeps you up at night?

Everything! treehouse is a full time, 24 hour occupation. It's our life, so we're working on it 24/7. Whatever the tasks of the day (or the next day) are, whether it's a craft fair, or remerchandising the shop, or new designers for the rack. It's not worrying so much as it is planning. Oh, and Rebecca's 7 month old.... he keeps her up quite a lot!

4. I once heard someone say "A business that doesn't grow eventually dies..." How has treehouse evolved since you first opened your doors back in 2006?

Our designers have grown from 15 to almost 50. We've expanded our presence in the neighborhood- more craft fairs, participation in community events, raffles, etc. We offer more products and types of things to buy (we're expanding our home goods and paper goods section as we speak...) We now offer an ever changing variety of craft classes... And constantly brainstorming how to make treehouse better...

5. If Oprah decided to give you $10,000 tax free for your business, but you had to spend it in one week, what would you do with it?

Donate $ to our designers so they can make more amazing things for treehouse, travel near and far seeking treasures for treehouse, buy a new computer (it's our command center!), more books for the reference library, sewing machines for classes, of course stock the shelves and racks with new goodies, oh and spruce up the actual shelves and upgrade our fixtures, buy our landlady Mary something amazing for her 80th birthday, expand the store to include a workshop (there's a back room that needs a lot of fixin' someday)....but most of all continue to make our treehouse a bigger and better tree-home for all to enjoy!

>> A rock solid partnership

6. Some say that the best business partners complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. Let's see how these gals balance each other out...

1. Siri is a social butterfly-loves to be out, can talk to anyone about anything and is always on top of the latest going ons and neighborhood gossip.Rebecca prefers the quiet side, loves people, but likes to be home doing 50's housewife kind of things like baking and making babyfood...
2. Siri excels in finding her center within the chaos. Even if it looks like a little tornado, she knows exactly where everything is. It's like a secret kind of organization only she knows;)Rebecca loves the organization of numbers and spreadsheets. Putting things in a row and making sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed makes her happy.
3. Siri prefers yellowtail.Rebecca prefers salmon...
... and they both like eel and avocado...this is in reference to their sushi lunch special, ordered every other day at treehouse. It's the perfect combination so we can share each other's order. It kind of reflects everything we do - a little of this and a little of that make the perfect combination for both of us.

>> Do you think your goods are perfect for treehouse Brooklyn?...

7. Do most of the other designers you carry approach you, or do you actively seek out new designers/crafters? If so, where?

We started with a core group of designers , maybe 15 and have grown to more than 40. It's about 60/40. 60% approach us, 40% we find. We encourage new designers to contact us with their creations. Just please email with lo-res images or call first 718.482.TREE (8733) for an appointment.

8. What is your process in choosing merchandise and what 3 things can artists do to stand out in your mind?

We choose pieces that fit into the treehouse aesthetic. It has to be either handmade, one of a kind, or few of a kind - no mass production please. Organic & sustainable materials, recycled materials, great craftsmanship, creativity and unique-ness all stand out.

>> Rebecca and Siri are both designers and have been successfully setting themselves apart at craft fairs. Lots of you are preparing for your very first Craft Renegade fair - here are some tips from the pros...

1. DO: have enough change to make change for the customers. At least $50, but preferably $100. The more change you have the more money you make somehow.

2. DO: have levels in your display. If everything is on the same flat level people can't see the product. Lots of height and interesting display make your creations look 100 times better.

3. DO: promote at your table. Bring business cards, flyers, candies, free things for special people, a mailing list....get the word out that you are people remember you after they go home.

4. DO: make as much as you can and prepare early! The more pieces you have to sell, the more you will sell. You want everyone to see you at your best, so take the time to prepare..way ahead of time. Months even (not that we don't excel in procrastination, but we always dream of having more time to do more so...).
5. DO: team up with designers and friends who complement you and your work. It's great to have a buddy sharing your space. It makes your table look interesting and lets you take a bathroom break and breeze around the fair once in a while.
6. DON'T: wait until the last minute to organize. (see #4.)
7. DON'T: forget sunscreen (if you are outside ), water, pens, a calculator and receipt books.
8. DON'T ignore anyone! Say hi to everybody who steps into your space. It makes them feel wanted and happy.
9. DON'T: get there too late! Allow plenty of time to set up your booth because you'll probably be doing it right up until the opening bell.
10. DON'T: limit your creativity. If you want to try out new products, a craft fair is a great place to test the waters. Have fun making lots of things and see what sells. Represent yourself!

1. Elyse Allen lace cashmere fingerless gloves in olive with sapphire blue swarovski crystals..$134
2. Sirius Zodiac necklaces...$36 (Scorpio available on Etsy)
3. Becky Lee butterfly and gemstone earrings...$25
4. Wolf-e jaguar tee for tots...$28
5. Screech Owl animal postcard box set...$14

6. Los Monitos "love from brooklyn" handmade card...$6
7. Sirius bamboo jersey coral kimono tie dress...$138
8. Bells one of a kind handmade tie top...$78
9. treehouse* pin pack...$4
10. Feral Childe polka dot tulle empanada skirt...$143


In the area? or coming for a visit?
Stop by and say hello to Rebecca and Siri:
430 Graham Avenue, Williamsburg Brooklyn, NY
Open Wednesday - Sunday 1pm - 8pm (and sometimes later!)
(take the L train to the graham ave stop. walk 5 blocks towards the BQE.
treehouse is on the right hand side between Frost and Withers.)

Thanks Rebecca & Siri!!


Melissa de la Fuente said...

Love, Love,Love! This is so fantastic for those folks who have thought about opening up a shop and awesome info for the Renegade folks. I cannot wait to visit....Marichelle? Want to join me? :) They seem absolutely lovely and what a lovely interview.

Marichelle said...

Yes! Yes! I'm in! Maybe after the stationery show?

Ces said...

You are Amazing, sis! I'd say..i don't know how you do all the things that you do but i ofcourse know the answer...PASSION. Something you definitely can't do without. Keep it going..

Marichelle said...

Thanks Ces, means a lot coming from a workaholic like yourself! Too bad I didn't develop a Passion for Finance or Banking ;)

Melissa de la Fuente said...

Okey doke Marichelle! Sounds good to me! :)

littlebyrd said...

Love this post - Thanks for the interview!