In Their Shop series highlights inspiring and successful members of the Retailer Inner Circle in their beautiful shops!
Here we find out how they work, some behind the scenes, and they’ll share some of their secrets and best tips with us.
Tell us about your business – How did you become a shop owner and what type of products/services do you offer?
Louisville Mercantile is a Home Decor, Vintage, Gift, and DIY product and classes shop. We refer to ourselves as “A Modern Day General Store“. We have two brick-and-mortar locations approximately 20 minutes apart. Louisville TN, which is our original location and located in a lake community; and Maryville TN, which has a vintage vibe. It was formerly an Antique shop and we wanted to market to those customers. It is also on the way to the Great Smoky Mountains. Thus we have different feels in both locations with gifts, food products, home decor, and DIY being the common elements. We have customers visit both locations, typically local, but also a fair amount of visitors on their way to the mountains in our Maryville location. We also sell online via our website and use Comment Sold for online sales through Facebook and the Louisville Mercantile App.Becoming a shop owner was something that basically happened within one hour. I was in a shop in a strip center not far from our home for the first time, and the owner said the space to her was becoming vacant as part of a general conversation. My awesome hubby was waiting for me in the car and I shared, but she had told me and asked if he knew who owned the building. He did and called the owner right then and asked if the space was vacant and if we could rent it. The owner said yes! That was 5 years ago and the rest is history, although I did surprise my hubby who thought I would open a quilt store. We never came close.
Three years ago, the second location came about when one of my friends who had painted items in our Louisville location bought a building and asked if I was interested in leasing it. She made me a deal I couldn’t refuse. We have since expanded the Louisville location into three connecting units, one which we use for our DIY classes, Live Sales, Shipping, and consignment intake, with the other two units being retail space.
Share a bit of your business journey! What did you do before you opened a shop and why did you open your business?
I had zilch retail experience and was working full-time when the Louisville location opened. My “8-5” job was approximately 1 hour away from the shop, so I relied heavily on friends and family to stay open during the week. I had no social media experience – didn’t even have a personal Facebook page. So we truly started from ground zero in a location that really is a destination place. We’re between the Barber Shop and the Bait Shop. The local Chamber of Commerce was very helpful in providing information and making connections.
The one thing in my favor is having a business background. I was previously a VP for a large university system and blessed to be able to retire at a very young age. I could then take on a new opportunity as a business operations strategist for a large national laboratory. I worked with great people and had great experiences in my “8-5” life, but building a business from the ground up is challenging for sure.
But it is also so rewarding in seeing what you can accomplish. I couldn’t do it without the awesome folks I work with every day. I have an awesome team!
Any struggles or lessons learned along the way? How do you overcome them?
Technology and how to use it is a big challenge. I know I will never master it but I will continue to kick the tires. We had multiple starts/stops with our website/social media support and the best guidance there is to cut your losses when it turns out not to be a good fit and move on.
Brag a little about your business, what are you most proud of?
Honestly, it’s our team. Each person brings something different to the table, all provide great customer service, and no one is afraid to take on new challenges or provide ideas to grow the business. There’s always something new going on that makes each day different and exciting… so they tell me!
Can you tell us what your thoughts are on being a member of the Retailer’s Inner Circle?
Wendy’s an awesome leader and has been very supportive in my business journey, so I’ll start there as she’s always there for her Inner Circle folks just like me.
Even though there are a fair number in the Circle, it has always felt like a small circle of friends who are willing to answer questions, share info, and be part of a business-minded community. I haven’t found another group that has been as helpful as the Inner Circle. It has available resources for our type of retail business, especially for us smaller businesses. I’m also a member of Wendy’s Level Up Mastermind group.
What are you most excited about coming up for you and your business?
We have several things on the horizon:
We’ve started offering DIY classes again, so we are very excited about that! Coupled with the plan to offer DIY kits and potentially online classes.
We also just got an app for Louisville Mercantile and are working hard to grow it to boost online sales. We are also working on a seasonal subscription box.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I really love being a member of the Retailer’s Inner Circle! My business has skyrocketed in the last year and the community has truly helped me.
Top 10 Favorite Shop Tools/Resources:
1.) Canva for Graphic Design
2.) Rollo Printer for shipping labels
3.) Nashville Wraps for printed shopping bags
4.) Google Drive for sharing info among staff. Including office procedures and desk handouts
5.) Louisville Mercantile website for class registration
6.) My Biz Buddies for new product ideas, business brainstorming, and learning new ways to grow my business
7.) Comment Sold for online sales
8.) Dymo for barcoding
9.) Standardized Templates for office procedures, in-shop signage, etc. This is so we build brand awareness and eliminate duplication of effort.
10.) The most important – a fabulous team! My team works as hard as I do to help make Louisville Mercantile a thriving business!
A favorite quote of Sylvia’s:
Wendy would love to thank Sylvia for her involvement in this blog post! To learn more about Sylvia and her beautiful shop, please visit the following:
To join Sylvia and other profitable and awesome shop owners, join the Retailer’s Inner Circle here.
Foot Traffic Made Simple
My most popular mini-training!
In this 90-minute training and walk away with a simple way to complete a full month of marketing planned out and a repeatable, easy marketing framework to follow.
Then sit back and watch your customers walk in your door smiling!