Coastal Kits – A New Business on Martha’s Vineyard
Tom O'Hanlon, REALTOR®
Anne-Marie Eddy of ReFabulous Decor and Kate Salop of the Vineyard Toy Box have joined forces to create curated gifts with many special items. You can work with them to customize or simply pick from the lovely selection they have ready to go.
Okay, we’re live. Hey everyone. I’m Jen O’Hanlon with Wallace & Co. Sotheby’s International Realty. And I am here with Anne-Marie Eddy of Refabulous Decor. You may know her from there. And Kate Salop of Tisbury Toy Box. So they have started a new venture called Coastal Kits and they’re gonna tell everybody about that. But first, if each could tell everyone about your current business, and a little bit about yourselves and how you started those businesses.
Okay, this is Anne-Marie, I guess I’ll go first, but I’ve owned Refabulous Decor here on the vineyard for about seven years. My husband and I moved to the island like 24 years ago and we left corporate jobs and decided to start a Tent and Party Rental business. So after working with him for a few years, I realized I wanted to start my own thing. So I found this wonderful paint called Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I found a tiny little studio down by the harbor. And I opened this sweetest little shop and I was painting furniture for people. And then I started to sell a few more items and candles and lotions. And a couple years ago, I moved to my current location and it’s pretty big, it’s on the corner of Union and Main Street. And it’s been a blast here. It’s been great. And right near the ferry. So a lot of people are just getting off the ferry, wandering into the store. But I also have a lot of local people coming in. We have some great sales and I do sell a lot of nautical items. It’s like when in Rome. So I have and anchors and coastal paintings and I have a lot of local artists that I support as well. So it’s been great. So Kate.
Yeah. So I’m relative Anne-Marie. I’m a real newcomer to the Island. My family moved here about five years ago. And I’m not really sure how I ended up with a Toy Store. So I worked in Higher Ed. And when we first moved here, I was commuting off Island five days a week, actually off Island Monday through Friday, while my family got sort of set up here, and it was not really a great setup. We wanted to establish roots on the Island really wanted to get to know members of the, people in the community. And when the toy store, the Toy Box became up for sale, we sort of my husband and I said, “Oh, what a great store?” Our kids love it. And they always got presents from their grandfather with the iconic red Christmas wrapping paper. And so it was near and dear to our hearts as it is to many, many Islanders and summer visitors. And so seemed like a little bit of a whim. And then as these things happen. The star sort of aligned and we took the plunge. And so I transitioned to living full-time on the Island which has been just a real joy. And took over this store, which unlike Anne-Marie, who has really sort of grown and established. I took on an established business, which, for me without a background in retail was really important cause had a long history and sort of a real, loyal following of people who were really concerned about whether the Toy Box would continue, or whether it would go away. And so it’s been just such a pleasure to sort of take over the store and all that came with it. I got so much more than just a physical space. And I’m not on Main Street, which has its advantages and disadvantages. I’m over in this Tisbury marketplace. But right next to the Net Result, so people love to come in and browse and we see a lot of traffic from… As Anne-Marie said. Really, we support the Island. Community all year round birthday parties on Saturdays, always keep us busy. And then of course the summer traffic is fantastic.
Great, yeah. I remember a little bit of a panic setting in when the rumors were flying that the Toy Box is closing, the Toy Box is closing . So that is really great that you have kept it alive and I’m sure having new ideas too and many ways to continue on improvements. So. Great. So for both of you another question, just if you could tell everybody when you were mandated to close your stores? How that impacted your business and kind of your emotional thoughts and then how you proceeded to come up with ways to provide your products if you could at all.
Yeah, I can start with that. Honestly, initially, I thought it would only be mandated and closed for a few weeks. I’m in year-round business so I have a fully stocked store. And I knew this wouldn’t be good for me financially. I think that we were all in kind of fear and shock and everybody pretty much listened to the mandate shut down. We were shut down for a good two and a half months and I think for that first month I was just in like disbelief and doing everything everybody said, just staying home, taking care of ourselves. I honestly thought about closing my business for good because I heard of other people doing that. And I said, “Yeah, we don’t know how long “is the Coronavirus gonna last. “What should I be doing financially?” Then I started thinking about how I could sell my products online. And the online environment is very competitive. But like a lot of other people, I just started hammering away at my website. Kate did a great job of that too. And well, by the way, we’ve been friends for a couple years now and we just automatically kind of click. So as I was taking pictures of all of my items and uploading them to the website I said, there’s gotta be a better way that we can get these out to people and they can send it to people who they’re thinking about, who they’re worried about and that’s where the Coastal Kit idea came up from. From yeah. So we started making these baskets and these boxes, and trying to put in a lot of nautical ideas. And, I was doing some research on it. And I found that Etsy was probably the best platform to sell it on. And now I’ve added it to my website. And that’s been, it’s been great. I don’t, not sure if you want me to show a couple more, but something like this is… Just I’m thinking about you Kate. It has a candle, it has a little plant. Just things that are nice that you can send to someone and let them know you’re thinking about them no matter where they are. They could be in a nursing home, they could be in an apartment stuck. And Kate, do you wanna talk about how we joined together on this?
Yeah, absolutely. So, we really were all devastated in those first days and as Anne-Marie said, “Struggling to figure out what to do with our businesses.” And I knew because I was getting all kinds of inqueries that people wanted the stuff in the store. They were frustrated that they couldn’t access it. It was almost Easter. And so we were all trying so hard to think about how can we make our inventory available to people in new ways. And when Anne-Marie and I were speaking and one of the silver linings of all of this has been really the degree to which shop owners. We’ve been supporting one another, just not Anne-Marie and I of course, but like a number of us. And so it’s really brought us close together as we’ve tried to navigate this. And we all wanted to find different ways to work together because we are invested in this Island and the Island economy, and we wanted to make sure that we’re able to continue supporting it in all sorts of ways. And so when Anne-Marie we’re on a morning walk and she was telling me about the Coastal Kits, it just felt like such a great opportunity. And, my product is not always as unique as Anne-Marie’s but it’s fun, and it’s things that especially now when kids were so cooped up and everything about their lives has changed. It was nice to think of a way that treats could reach them, and things that would be fun for them. And . The best present for parents is something that would keep kids happy and entertained, when so much around them was so hard. So we looked for fun activities, we looked for things that are evocative of the vineyard like the merry-go-round, the ocean themed ideas, lots of DIY arts and crafts, those are really, really popular. So those are sort of the ideas that we had for fulfilling the boxes and baskets.
Well, it’s great.
I’m selling them as we’re talking and so a little bit of some of the ideas that I’ve had and then Kate’s toys as well. Like this one is kind of for a tween and it’s got a little a bracelet, it’s got a little pouch, it’s got to soap, and then some of Kate’s things that are the DIY making the bracelets. We’ve done some of the kids are like a mom-daughter theme that they can do things together and with a father-son thing as well. So that’s been really fun.
And of course when Anne-Marie you and I were talking and you were telling me about this of course I all of a sudden thought, “Oh a real estate closing gift.” We have so many people who buy property here and don’t even come to the closing. So you’ll end up having something to their home off-Island and I was thinking this would be a really great thing for that.
Yeah, we have some really nice ones. I’m like, this is just an example of one with, this is for graduation. But you can see the coastal-like, pottery coasters. Really nice. And so what we’re doing is offering free shipping if it’s over $35 and most of them are.
Yes, so we’re taking the really finely curated kits. We have different price levels, but I have had a couple realtors asking me for some of the kits. We have some that have artwork in it, this one is for a Father’s Day, best dad ever. And what we’re doing is we’re taking a theme basically, and packing and curating the kit around that like this is for Father’s Day. The top of the box has our logo. And they’ve been really fun. I had a woman yesterday, just the kits are in my front window right now. They’re labeled with how much they are, what’s in it. And again, a woman yesterday just stopped and came inside and said, “I need that one. “And are you sure you can send it for me?” I said, Absolutely. She gave me the address. And she was someone that didn’t have a high comfort level with shopping right now, which is totally okay. And she said, I don’t wanna touch anything. I just want you to send it to that, I wrote down the address. She put her credit card in the machine. I don’t have to touch it. And she was so relieved that she could do this and send a little kit to someone without going on Amazon. And she was supporting us the local vendor. So it was just great. It was a win-win for both of us. So yeah.
Great. And as you were speaking of that, where if people don’t wanna go into the shop, where should they go to find them?
So yeah, as I said. Kate and I were both working on our websites pretty religiously. I did set up an Etsy page, because I found that it’s super easy to add products from that, you’re reaching a wider audience. So I started doing an email blast to customers, social media, we were listing it on with a link to Etsy. And then I actually was able to upload the Etsy to my website as well. So there’s various ways I’ve gotten phone calls, I’ve gotten emails from people. I have done, probably a third of them have been custom, where people say, I want a little bit of the vineyard, but I want this and I want that. So we’re really flexible and it’s interesting how everybody really wants to reach out and touch someone and let them know they’re thinking about them. But they have, everybody’s different. What they think that person would like. So it’s really interesting.
I wanna just reiterate the shipping thing, because one of my thoughts too was like, oh, gee, this kind of a luxury to sometimes be able to send something like this. And then you’re talking about shipping on top of it, when you flowers for somebody, there’s always that delivery fee.
Right now next to me, I have the whole list of the post office flat rate options. So we have a scale, it’s pretty easy if you’re using and we’ve had to adjust the boxes. Definitely, if you’re getting a larger box, it does take it’s more money because the post office doesn’t have one this big, but the smaller ones are fitting in fine to the medium flat rate, which is about, the small ones are $7, 65 cents to send. The larger ones are $13, 22 cents to send. And we’re absorbing that which I think is well worth it.
I think it’s really great.
Some off, but really right now and especially a month ago, it was like we need to generate cash to keep the business around.
That’s when we know that customers don’t wanna go to the post office either. So that’s we’re allowing them to avoid doing. Yeah, from grandparents who wanted to send something but didn’t wanna be out in the public so that we’re really happy to accommodate that.
And I think with a lot of us, retailers, like Kate, you too, we’ve been doing video calls with people putting them on FaceTime, walking around the store, will this work? Will this work? I had one customer and she was so grateful to a uncle of hers who was letting her and her family from New York staying in their place in . So she’s sending a kit to them in California. So we walked around the store and there was some chilmark signs. There was a scrabble piece, it said . There was some nautical things. So we really put it together the both of us and then we sent it out and it’s great because at the post office, I can label it all and I Just drop it on the counter. And it goes so.
Great. And now as far as if people aren’t feeling comfortable about getting out and getting into the stores, what is the protocol now?
Kate, go ahead.
Yeah, so we’re allowed to have customers in the store with masks, of course, we’re all really used to that right now. There are some limited capacity issues that we’re all managing as stores and some of it is mandated. And of course, every store owner is doing what he or she is most comfortable with. But we’re open, we’re open for business. We’re excited to see people and we are really working hard. And I know this is true of all shop owners and Anne-Marie and myself, everyone up and down Main Street. We wanna work with customers to make sure that they are comfortable. And so whether it’s coming into the store or doing it, I’ve done a lot of sales from the door kind of yelling and taking credit card numbers. Or doing Curbside Pickup. So we’re really we know that this is a slow journey, and it’s going to be a while before anybody feels 100% comfortable. And so we are being flexible and always looking for new ways to meet people’s need and comfort level.
Well, I have to say that Kate is being humble. Kate has been delivering like crazy.
But I’m not anymore. The Island and all. oh my God a whole new way. And it’s been a lot of fun.
And, the great thing is, even not delivering, but just the Curbside Pickup. I mean, sometimes it’s more convenient for people anyway, if they’re busy. And so I think some of these things that we’ve been doing, the people have been having to do, are going to end up often being a preference in the future.
We’re creating new habits. That’s for sure.
That’s what the joys of working with local businesses, because we are really, we are committed to making it work for everyone and that’s why we really, we’re better than Amazon .
Yeah, and I think people are ready to spend the ones that are, able to get out there. I’ve seen just this, we just opened Monday. And so the last three days have been pretty busy in my shop, we can have a max of eight people in the shop. But I’ve had probably only like three or four maybe in the shop. And but they’re looking to spend some money. And I really think support the local business too, which I love. They all kind of say something at the counter when they’re checking out like, “Yeah, we were thinking about you guys. “We are so happy you’re still here.” And I’ll say, well, it was kind of close, because there was so much uncertainty. It’s like, what do I do? But the PPP really helped. And eventually I’ll start bringing back more employees. But I guess the big question is, how long is this gonna last and I feel good that at least our doors are open for those people who feel comfortable getting out. We have the kits ready for you. They’re online. I forgot to tell you it’s SC etsycoastalkits.com. And my website is refabulousdecor.com.
Is there anything else that either of you wanna share?
I don’t know. I guess for me, it’s forced me to think a lot about others and their suffering. I have a sister who lives in Manhattan. And here I was, I was able to get in my take a ride, of the beautiful Island. And that’s one of the reasons that I decided to come up with the kits. My sister in Manhattan, she’s stuck looking out. I don’t know if you’ve seen on Facebook. That group that’s going around now saying the view from my room. And it’s all around the world. And people are sending that out. And a lot of them I’m saying, “Oh my god, they’re so confined in apartment buildings, “or small locations.” And so I don’t know I just had that’s where this came from. I said to myself, how can we bring joy to people because a lot of I think what I have in the store and Kate does it’s something to do with the activities. It’s maybe a sweet smelling candle, it’s gonna bring some peace to them and some calm when they open it. So I’ve been, we’ve been getting great feedback. So that’s the silver lining, that we are thinking about other people and how they’re managing.
Yeah. And the other so in getting to know people. I’d said one of the reasons for opening the store was to embed myself in the community and get to know people, and the relationships that I’ve built with people, as they call them, and I’ve worked, spent time with them on the phone and learned about their families and what. It’s deepened a lot of relationships. It’s given us a whole new appreciation for what it means to see people in person and have those interactions. And so, there’ve been some challenging moments on the Island, of course, for all of us, but I think we’re coming through it stronger, with a deeper appreciation for one another, a deeper appreciation for the small business owners, the restaurants, everyone who’s struggling to make a go of it during this difficult time and to know that everyone is really supporting one another. It’s been really wonderful to see.
Yeah, I just wanna add to that, for me personally, that when everything first started, I thought, “Oh, how can I help in the community?” So I started doing these interviews, and I’m continuing to do them, but it’s also given me sort of this. I was always interested in networking and being part of the community. But when Anne-Marie and I were talking actually about her other business, the home staging. Then she was starting to tell me about the store and having to close it and some financial, stuff and I said, “Oh my gosh!” In my mind, I thought, “How can I help? “How can I help?” And I think that that is something that has shifted a lot for me. And it’s, it’s amazing how often now when I’m talking to people, I think, “Oh, is there anything I could do to help them?”
Yeah thanks Jen, when you told me about that I was like, “What a great idea.” What a great idea. It’s just connecting people and you’ve been great at interviewing people and finding out what their business is about and it joins people together.
Yeah, silver lining. So we got it. All right. Well, thank you both so much for joining and thank you anyone out there watching. Appreciate it.
Thank you so much.
All right, have a great day.
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