Some six months ago sisters Judi Connery and Polly Stacey were out together talking about what type of business they thought Main Street needed. Judi lives in Bristol and Polly lives nearby in Warwick.
As they talked they came up with the concept of a vintage artisan and gift gallery, or what they call a modern antique store. The concept was unique gifts, one of a kind, whether they are vintage, true vintage or modern artisan hand-made items.
They thought their idea was so good they should do it.
Polly’s experience includes big box retailing at all levels and Judi oversees marketing for Roger Williams University.
Convinced they had a great idea, they started buying inventory, planning and doing the business start up paperwork. Judi worked with a graphic designer on the logo and created the marketing components. As the pieces came together the inventory was stacked in boxes in their homes.
When Alex and Ani moved across the street they felt the perfect location had become available and snapped it up. With everything ready, including their shelf space design, they freshened the store interior, loaded a truck one day and moved in the next. The location had been vacant only a few days.
Judi says they have a wide range of price points with gifts for babies, men and women and all age levels.
They wanted their design concept to have what they describe as sort of a '70s pop, fun, feel to it, including signage, interior, wrapping paper, etc. The Smyle brand is their creation and they want it to be a strong one.
When asked about the challenge of opening a retail store in a difficult economy the sisters say you can either be hesitant or seize the moment and the opportunity and they have chosen to seize the moment.
They describe much of the merchandise in the store as coming from people who left full time or real world jobs and found other ways support themselves. They say there is a back story to almost everything in the store.
Polly says that while the economy is tough, it doesn’t mean we can’t find happiness, pleasure and joy in other things and creating a happy place to be was the original, motivating force and concept behind their idea.
“The more we started to make the concept a reality,” she says, “the more we realized what we were doing was offering opportunity to other people, not just ourselves.”