The Approach: Create Success Online, Proceed with Caution
The Robicellis and the Chadwells are both involved in the food industry and have faced challenges unique to that field, which is why some people choose retail. It’s significantly easier to sell clothing, jewelry or furniture than it is running a restaurant. The Department of Health rarely gets involved, businesses can easily be supported by internet sales and there are, generally, less hoops to jump through—once you open the store—but what about the before and after?
Cassidy Brush of Urban Chandy is all too familiar with the challenges of getting a product in front of a customer when you don’t have a storefront. In August 2011, Brush was operating a clothing and jewelry store in DUMBO and needed to photograph her products. Annoyed by the harsh fluorescent lighting in the space, she decided to craft a chandelier of her own using salvaged wood and some wiring expertise. The result was a charming urban chandelier that changed the entire feel of her space. It was a hit with everyone who came through the store, so she posted a picture of it on Etsy. Within six months, she had 75 orders for her chandies, each retailing at $595.
These days, Brush is running Urban Chandy out of a mid-sized workshop near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She and two employees fill orders listed on a dry erase board that leans against one wall, grabbing wiring, hardware and antique-style light bulbs from industrial shelves. Piles of wood have been carefully leaned against walls and the floor is forever covered in sawdust. On this Tuesday afternoon, they have nearly a dozen orders to fill.
“It’s really frustrating to have this kind of scenario and not have a storefront per se for customers to come see,” says Brush during a brief respite from her otherwise busy workday. “But at the same time, retail space is damn near impossible. We’re constantly in that battle of how do we showcase product?”
Urban Chandy is going through growing pains. The business is hugely successful, but Brush has had more misses than hits when it comes to putting the product in front of people in Brooklyn. Currently, the only way to see a Chandy in person is by visiting the chaotic workshop or heading to By Brooklyn in Cobble Hill. Otherwise, attempts to sell chandies in person have been short-lived or inconvenient.
“It’s way high maintenance,” Brush says, adding that no one wants a dusty chandelier that’s been sitting in a store window for months. “There’s been a lack of motivation to actually get out there and figure out the brick-and-mortar part.”
Still, she knows that a permanent location is in their future and lately, she’s been entertaining the idea of opening a hybrid store that’s part-workshop, part-retail. Her dream location for the store?
“Downstairs from my house,” she says, laughing.