There has been an explosion of young entrepreneurs that are not in dot-com or finance. These new waves of young business owners are embracing more traditional job paths that forgo IPOs and embracing alternative careers. They are artisans, crafts persons, shop owners and skilled collectors who are keeping time-honored traditions alive. ”Talking Out Loud” is a chronicle of the conversations with these people about their work, life and inspirations……
You just never know. My clients-turned-dear-friends invited The Partner and myself to go to Palm Springs with them a few months ago along with a few of their other friends. One of the other people on the trip happened to be my client’s best friend from college, Ali. What struck me immediately about Ali was his almost encyclopedic knowledge about furniture. While law may be Ali’s profession, design is his passion, so much so that last month he took a leap of faith. teamed up with a business partner and opened up a fantastic retail store in Brooklyn called BEAM. As Ali puts it, the store’s style” is a bit mid-century, and a bit rock and roll with a healthy dose of humor.”
Sounds like a place I could quickly fall in love with. It’s also why I cornered Ali and forced him to this interview……
Finish this sentence…. “A lawyer and an antiques dealer open a home décor store and…..”
… both Elle Woods and Hanna Horvath shop there and love it!
The trend over the last few years has been to open an online store, so why did you decide to open up a physical storefront?
Personally I love the experience of shopping in a physical store — all of your senses are engaged, you can touch and feel the product, there’s a social aspect if you are shopping with a friend or interacting with the store’s staff, there’s the thrill of discovering something really special that you fall in love with. Online stores are convenient, but I don’t think they will ever be able to re-create that experience. That said, we are planning to launch an online store soon, to complement our physical location. You almost have to have an e-commerce presence these days, because even if people love and visit your brick-and-mortar store, they want the option of being able to shop from home as well.
The store has an emphasis on nurturing emerging talent. Who are some of the new designers and their products in the store?
We are lucky to have so many talented artists and designers in our backyard! Right now, we’re showcasing Deborah Shavlik’s wool and cashmere pillows and bags with pills, lips, and starburst designs on them, which Deborah makes using a felting technique not unlike tattooing; byAMT’s leather strap baskets, which make handsome storage for your magazines; and Colin Adrian’s stained glass feathers, which create a great visual when hung up in a window and the light reflects off the different colored glass.
What are the hot sellers in the store right now? Are you noticing a trend in what people are buying for Fall?
Anything in a warm metallic, like copper or brass, has been big. Japanese shibori tie-dyed textiles have been popular. People also love this very unique Seletti dinnerware set we found, which melds traditional Eastern patterns with Western designs to create “hybrid” pieces.
As Christmas draws, what 2-3 things do you think would make a perfect holiday present that you currently have in the store?
Everyone on my holiday list is getting a “Brooklynese” coffee set, which comes packed with two “Cawfee” cups, a “Shuguh” bowl, and a “Creamah” pitcher – great for anyone with a special place in their heart for New York. Alexandra Ferguson’s bold typography pillows have fun sayings on them like “Let’s Make Out,” “Be Nice or Leave,” “Go to the Gym,” “Call Your Mother,” and so on. There’s a saying for everyone, so you can get through you holiday shopping list pretty quickly. Jon McCoy’s crystal votive holders are really special and make great gifts. They are handmade using crystals like amethyst and quartz, and when you light them up, they literally glow from the inside.
Having spent time on both coasts, have you noticed any major differences in how people decorate their homes in NYC versus Los Angeles?
One of the things I love about LA is that the weather allows you to create these great indoor-outdoor living spaces, which isn’t as easy in New York. Folks in LA aren’t afraid of color, and the style is more casual. New Yorkers like things a bit more polished, architectural, with clean lines. Most New Yorkers also have space issues, so finding furniture and accessories that serve multiple purposes is more important.
Being in the home décor business you are exposed to a multitude of “lust worthy” items. What are 3 things that make your heart go “pitter patter” that you would love to own?
It’s hard to pick just three, but right now I’m lusting after Tom Dixon’s black velvet mohair highback chair, Bocci’s globe pendant chandeliers, and Brian Gennett’s line of trays and side tables made from vintage leather book covers and antique brass (which we will be carrying in the store soon!).
As a small business owner, what two pieces of advice would you give to someone planning on opening his or her own store?
First, have a concept. The most successful small retailers have a unique perspective or point of view, and their customers return to them again and again because of that. Second, do your research. The technical details can be boring, but you have to know the demographics of your market, who your competitors are, where you are going to source your product, how much it is going to cost, how long it takes to make. As a small business owner, every decision counts, so you have to arm yourself with as much information as possible to make informed decisions.
If you had to describe the ingredients that went into making Beam the strong brand it is today, what would you say they were?
Seeking out good design for our customers is at the core, because we strongly believe that good design makes your life better. A sense of humor is also important, because these days people lead such stressful lives, it’s nice to see someone come into the store, pick something up, and smile.
Thank you Ali and I am so excited to spread the BEAM gospel of good design mixed with a healthy dose of humor. That my friends is a recipe for success in my book!
[pictures courtesy of BEAM, Deborah Shavlik, byAMT, BEAM, Brian Gennett, Tom Dixon & Bocci Lighting]