Adored Vintage / The Lessons I learned in running a brick and mortar

But do you though? Do you really, really want to?

In the 2 years we had a shop in California and 3 years in Portland, I got to meet a lot of people who may or may not have heard about us through Instagram, that would come into the shop and with a dreamy look say:

"I just want to do what you're doing... it's my dream!"

ENTER THE DREAM SQUASHER! (That's me, after 5 years of owning/running a brick and mortar...)

All right, so dream squasher might be a bit harsh, but I have stopped sugarcoating shopkeeping for people because I have learned some really valuable lessons about success and failures of having your own instagram/pinterest ready shop. 

IT. IS. HARD. WORK. and EXPENSIVE.

So, I thought (naive me, 5 years ago) that if I could run an online shop, a physical shop was the next LEGIT step. Not only making me super legit, but now I could make money twice over. 

WRONG. (So wrong...)

So here are some things I've realized. Again, these mostly applied to my experience...not saying the same thing will be true for you or is true for you. Maybe you're awesome at running a brick + mortar, pay dirt cheap rent in a heavy foot traffic area, and live in a city where lots of people have lots of disposable income. (None of these applied to me, haha)

1. OVERHEAD COSTS + TIME COSTS

A physical shop costs so much more money than an online store and also requires a lot more work for pretty little in return. From my experience anyway. I would work a full shift at the shop (11-4) and make $150. If I spent those precious 5 hours working on my online store I might have made $1500 in the same amount of time. The thing is, I was paying retail square footage prices. I was also paying for security and utilities. And if I count paying myself... running a brick + mortar COST ME MONEY every damn day! And then you think "Well, I can run my shop and also work on online stuff" Sure. You could. But someone will come in, chat with you for at least 30 minutes (disrupting your online work flow) and not buy anything. Repeat this x3 a day. And guess what, you can't be mad about it. You're a STORE. It is your JOB to be of service, to make people feel welcome in your shop, to give them a good experience. And I am not even going to get into INVENTORY... all I can say is there is a vast difference between managing/having inventory for an online store and a physical store. If you guessed it....managing/having inventory for a brick mortar costs more TIME!

2. SAY GOODBYE TO YOUR SOCIAL LIFE

You can forget weekend brunches with your pals. People will stop inviting you to stuff because you've always said "I can't, I'm working the shop." or "I would, but I'm so tired after working at the shop all day..."

Of course if you have EMPLOYEES you can brunch it up all you want. But guess what, that brunch is now costing you double/triple because employees are not free. 

Oh, and forget going on vacation. Again...any time off you take costs you money.

3. DO YOU LOVE SOCIALIZING? ARE YOU AN EXTROVERT? DO YOU LOVE BEING A SALES PERSON IN PERSON?

Then yes, running a brick+mortar might be for you. All three of those things do not apply to me... 

BUT, I did meet a lot of awesome new people from running my brick + mortar many of which are now my pals in real life. So THAT is a good thing.

Ok... here's the craziest thing though. I would DO IT AGAIN. I didn't hate running a brick + mortar, I just disliked a lot of things about it because this first go was basically my testing ground so I constantly felt like I was running into brick walls. This was the first store I had done where I had to learn a lot of lessons. And a lot of things about myself. 

I am in absolutely no rush to open up another shop again but when and if I do...here is what I will do differently:

1. Location, location, location! There's a reason you pay higher amount for a a heavy foot traffic area. 

2. Hire someone to run the shop, do the merchandising and styling and I can do the stuff I enjoy. (Buying and marketing)

3. Narrow down the products I offer. Become a niche shop (but not too niche)

4. Have WAY MORE CAPITAL. Have you realized HOW MUCH MONEY a brick and mortar costs yet? I hated that my online shop kept the brick + mortar afloat. Before I opened up the brick + mortar I was use to seeing several 0s in my bank account... having a brick + mortar meant for so many months at a time it was just head barely above water. I hated, HATED that feeling.

Of course I'm not delving into everything here. There was a lot more things that went wrong with the brick + mortar that I won't get into because you know, that chapter is closed now. And really, the lessons learned are the most important.

 If you're someone that has thought about opening your own store, I really hope my post gives you some clarity and perspective. It is important to differentiate expectations from reality. Also, really ask yourself WHY do you want to open up a store. 

I asked myself this several times and my answer was always along the realm of "If I don't try it now, I'll always wonder what if..." 

So, I got it out of my system. Thankfully debt free, but building up my business nest egg is going to take some time. It's nice to see one of the 0s back though and holding steady. One step at a time, one day at a time!

Reviews (8 comments)

  • Katherine On

    Thank you for your honesty. I am a shop owner in New York and I am going through all of this right now. It is good to know that I am not alone. Best of luck on your move to the studio. xx

  • Olga On

    Thanks for hour honesty, Rodelle! I have always thought that running a shop (or a cafe/restaurant…) is so so hard and have infinite respect for those who do it! I am an extreme extravert and even I have to say – communication can be so exhausting! Even if al the conversations you have a lovely and friendly and meaningful. It just drains you. So I’m happy for you for making this decision. I seem to recognise some of my traits in your posts, so I’ll allow myself a guess – I can imagine it’s not easy to “give up” something for you since you seem to be quite a perfectionist and such a hard worker! But it’s so important to let go once it’s time!
    Also, I have a question: what does “sister shop” mean? I’m confused since you’re writing about how you don’t want to run a brick and mortar and then you’re saying you’re opening another…

  • Heidi On

    Thank you for this post! I’ve always wanted to own a shop. I currently have my own clothing line that I design and manufacture myself. The goal is to really pare down the line and open a store that carries other designers as well. I’ve always known that the vacations are nonexistent, they pay is marginal, and I’ll literally always be working. The thing is, I’m used to being broke (you have extra zeros in your bank account!?!), I’m already working constantly and selling on weekends. Bonus: I already own a good chunk of needed store fixtures.
    Thanks for the honesty, it’s good to know I’m prepping myself for the right problems :)

  • Daryn On

    This is so amazing- so insightful !! After running an online shop for years I have been considering opening a brick n mortar ( I actually spoke to agents today) and exactly what you said about your personality and time- I am not sure it is right for me. Do you have any insight for business space ( I currently have a large work room at home)? I might continue online and have a space that offers open studio hours etc. thank you for your post!

  • Sonya Nikc On

    You’re awesome, truly needed to read this. So happy I came by it. Xx

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