Feeling Nostalgic…

As I was driving to work {“real” work} this morning, it hit me that Carver Junk Company is coming up on our 4-year anniversary of opening our doors. And of course, that gave me all the feels….and now I can’t stop thinking about all the things that have happened in these last four years. The challenges, the excitement, and what’s coming next.

I feel like I tell our “story” every year. How this was a maybe-when-I-retire bucket list item, an impulse “purchase,” and intended to be a one-weekend-a-month gig for fun.  A hobby….and then we accidentally grew a pretty cool business.

My literal first thought this morning, after I realized how close we are to 4 years, was about our vendors. We started out all alone, and very quickly realized we couldn’t do it all – we got too busy, too fast and were both still working full time. So we brought in really, really talented people to supplement the store with their furniture…and then with their handmade goods. We have over 40 vendors now. But the coolest part?  We started with 6 original vendors. Of those 6, three are still with us. Two others have started their own {successful} stores, and the last one took a break to buy & restore an old farmhouse.

My second thought, after realizing all of that was….I have known these people, and worked with them on a daily basis, for nearly as long as Chad and I have known each other. We have built this business together, our little core team of 10-12 people, and we’ve had a lot of fun doing it. Like any team that works together so closely, we have our challenges and days we get annoyed with one another. But we keep each other energized, excited, and challenge ourselves as a group to be better every day.

The very toughest thing about the last 4 years has come up in the last 18 months. As the concept of this business catches on {we aren’t claiming the invention of a refinished/handmade goods store}, more and more stores are popping up. Pinterest means that most ideas for refinishing & repurposing aren’t original. We use it for inspiration, ourselves! But with so much more competition close to home, we’ve literally had neighbors copy {word for word} workshop ideas and details from our website. We’ve had stores across the metro re-create and sell exact replicas of original sign designs by our vendors. The market is flooded with furniture and paint companies, and it’s harder and harder to reach our customers directly. But this isn’t a cry for pity – it’s a testament to the people behind CJC. 

In every instance where we’ve felt copied, defeated, and wondered if this business was worth continuing, this team has pulled together to come up with the next big idea. We’ve challenged ourselves to improve our quality, to continue being the best in the market. We’ve brainstormed & introduced “style guides” behind the scenes to ensure we’re bringing in the newest, freshest designs. We know they’ll only be fresh for a few weeks, but we’re finding the excitement in discovering & creating those new styles – and we’re accepting the challenge from the market to continue being the leaders.

We’ve partnered with tons of local businesses to support each other, and to make our events bigger & better for our customers. And THAT all happens behind the scenes, with our incredible team of vendors.

We have a super-secret {not anymore, because I’m telling you} group setup on Facebook, where we chat amongst ourselves, plan and share information. Last year, after an especially tough week, we posted and asked the group to brainstorm some ideas for a new event. We ended up with HUNDREDS of ideas, comments, and played off one another, continued to build ideas. One person suggested opening our workshop & storage and holding a super-secret sale there. Another asked if we’d seen the show “Million Dollar Listing” and suggested we hold a high-end party.

And then….someone suggested we combine those ideas. Let’s bring our store into a house, have a party, and sell all the stuff. Hello, cjc@home!  And a week later, Lennar agreed to loan us a home to stage, a date scheduled, and we made it happen.

The same thing happened when we asked for ideas for Valentine’s Day. We have a small store. We don’t like to get stuck with all the pink stuff after the holiday, so we wanted a different way to celebrate. We joked about bringing in a kissing booth, and making the guys on the team “staff” it. And then someone said – why not bring in puppies? Ta Da! Brilliant! We get to partner with MN Pit Bull Rescue and Secondhand Hounds, donate ALL the proceeds plus some to them, and everyone gets to kiss sweet puppies.

We’ve already seen both of these ideas utilized by other stores. And you know what? Fine with us – let’s bring more attention to dogs needing homes! Let’s all partner more locally, with other businesses in our communities. And while that’s happening, our vendor team will step up to the challenge, and find the next big thing. Because they’re the best. Our vendors have made this last 4 years the absolute success it’s been, and we’re so proud to have them on the CJC team.

Every time I’m feeling sad {because, let’s face it – it sucks to have your hard work re-created by a competitor} I am going to come back to this post to remind myself of all the things we’ve done and will keep doing. And I’ll turn to our team & remind them, too. We’re in this for the long haul, Minnesota! Thanks for supporting us, and our dozens of families, for four amazing years. 

B

 

Just for fun, here are some of my favorite items we found & sold in our first year:

622597_140061209467519_759411104_o (1) 614909_139743859499254_1305443690_o 51895_152877288185911_312759857_o 334085_145216058952034_19531026_o 334948_140753352731638_1822950905_o 280073_146413642165609_1619196264_o 615723_153648734775433_1017114349_o 54786_172386412901665_311298113_o 257123_147088588764781_8022132_o 478031_178853875588252_300649310_o 622640_170167183123588_2113055987_o

Comments

  1. Karen says

    As a newcomer to your store I must say people may recreate your ideas but they can’t recreate your service! Each time I have been to your Minneapolis store (I always leave with something!:)) the level or service and friendliness of your staff is what will keep me coming back! Keep your head high–superior service always wins!
    -Karen

    • carverjunkcompany says

      Karen, thanks so much! We love hearing this, and will certainly let Katie & Stacy know how much they are appreciated. Those girls are the best!

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