Thursday, August 14, 2008

Retail Therapy: Jan & Äya

# of employees: 1
Did you write a business plan (y/n)? Currently working on it
Day your doors opened: March 14, 2008
Owners: Carolyn Veith Krienke and Kai Krienke

>> Think you're ready to open up 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 Jan & Äya - something that neither biz how-to books or any "SCORE" workshop prepared you for.

My store started getting press even before the doors opened. I discovered that Greenpoint was full of writers, bloggers and journalist who couldn't wait to write about the shop. All the attention was fantastic, but I wasn't ready on a business level.

2. Buying initial inventory is probably one of the most daunting tasks during the start-up phase. Do you have a magical "buying" formula? Can you please share 5 things you've learned about buying and deciding how much inventory to purchase with first-time buyers getting ready to make their first batch of wholesale orders?

This is something I'm learning about everyday. Since most of my products are handmade and when I need to place an order by how things are selling.

Also since some of my items are every designer has a different process it can get quite complicated. I am starting to anticipate limited editions and are curated to fit a particular theme, it is a one time purchase. I am very sensitive to what people like and what stimulates the emotion of attraction to an object. I really love my customers and listen closely to their reactions to what I have in the store.
(See side bar for tips)

>> click here to continue reading about Jan & Äya

3. I know that you were the art director for REAL SIMPLE. Why the change from publishing to retail and what compelled you to go into retail? I read that it was more of a lifestyle decision. Most people assume that you end up working more hours as a shop owner and have less of a "life", what has your personal experience been?

Well, I'm currently working full-time as an art director (for another company) as well as the shop and have two little children so it can't get any crazier than it already is! I plan to start freelancing in September so that I can focus more on the store and take on design and styling projects when I can. That would be a luxury! Design, art, the shop, my family and friends are all part of my world and I want to celebrate that through my work. Somehow my husband and I still find time to go out with friends and eat waffles in bed with our little ones on Sunday morning. Perhaps I'm a dreamer, but I think you can create the lifestyle you want.

4. They say location is everything - how did you decide on your neighborhood and what was your commercial-space shopping experience like?

We were really lucky with the location. I knew I wanted to open in Greenpoint since that is where we live and found that our neighborhood was really lacking a gift/home type of store. Then one day the perfect stop opened up and my husband and I just knew we had to have the store there. The space is probably the biggest asset to the store. It is on an up and coming street, just next to the park and other stores and cafes. The full glass front, exposed brick and white washed floors give it a dreamy raw sophistication. And the garden out back inspires future projects and a place for my little ones to play while I'm at the store.

Äya, (5 years old) who just set up our "holztiger" animals

>> So you think your goods are perfect for Jan & Äya?

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

1. Refinement in their craft: This is so important to me. It doesn't matter if they are making chocolate or toothbrushes, but when you can feel the love and attention to the construction, the time and care taken to the design, the story and the thought into the process… it is something you either have or don't.
2. Beautiful and simple presentation with all the information clearly stated.
3. A smile.

6. Owning a shop means constantly wearing different hats. Here's how Carolyn ends up spending her time:

25% Buying
10% Marketing & Promo
10% Production & Operations (photos for site, hang-tags, display)
30% Customer Service
10% Fulfillment/Shipping
15% Accounting/Finances

7. Some say that the best business partners complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. Can you illustrate this balance using 3 points.

e.g. Partner A: Allergic to numbers Partner B: Loves spreadsheets and is in charge of end-of-month financials.

I'm definitely more like Partner A... still hoping to find that perfect B as a future manager... for now it is me.

8. We all have days when we throw up our hands and say "I can't do this anymore!" - what 3 things do you say to yourself or do in order to snap out of it and persevere?

9. 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?

Buy merchandise and get my online site up and running.

10. I once heard someone say "A business that doesn't grow eventually dies..." I notice a coming soon "flowers and cakes" link on your site and talk of you hosting events. Sounds like you guys are busy evolving - can you tell us a little bit more about these two future initiatives?

My husband and I have always seen the space as more than just a store. We want it to be a space that reflects the talent in the community from poetry readings to art/design openings to using the space for photo shoots and private parties. I love the idea of a living space.

The cakes are a collaboration between my baker friend Sarah Magid and I. There are also a few more friends interested in selling their confections at the store including the Mast Brothers for example. I would love to have Sunday tea and Friday night socials.

I also plan to use the back space as my own design studio and will offer my creative and styling services.

As for the flowers, we will see... I've already sold lily of the valley on Mother's Day and a collection of plants this summer.

1. Sara Paloma's Droplet Vases $25-50
2. Zid Zid Kid Horse $38
3. Lisa Levine's New Spirit Collection $180-365
4. Yellow Owl Workshop's Landscape Journal $20
5. Esther Derks' Wine Glasses $12 each

>> VISIT Jan & Äya
99 Franklin Street, between Greenpoint Avenue and Milton Street, Greenpoint (718-609-1404 or h: thursday-friday 2-7pm, saturday 12-7pm, sunday 12-5pm


Photo credit:
Shop photos taken by Elaine Perlov + check out Elaine's blog over at for additional photos of Jan & Äya.

Thanks Carolyn!!


Melissa de la Fuente said...

Gorgeous! What a beautiful store...I can't wait to visit, Marichelle? :) Let's go!

Vanessa @ See Vanessa Craft said...

Great feature! I love your banner by the way!

Bonbon Oiseau said...

oh! so nice! i love carolyn and i'm really proud that she carries my designs at her shop, especially after reading this!

ana dane said...

thanks for this interview- very informative and inspirational. best of luck to carolyn with the shop. i can't wait to come visit next time i'm in greenpoint.

Botany's Desire said...

Hello there,
I just found your site because of bonbon oiseau. Your shop sounds so very lovely. I grew up in Brooklyn and I love it everything I hear that another great place has opened up. I will for sure visit next month while in New York.

P.S. I hope you do get the sweets in by then, that is one of my favorite things to do while in New York.