I think I can speak for the entire otona-nikibi2 team when I say we’re all fans of (see here; I still remember discovering them when they came out with their first product launch, the Yield Picnic Tote Bag, almost five years ago). When they told us they opened a retail shop in St. Augustine, Florida, we knew we had to (virtually) check it out.
Rachel Gant and Andrew Deming of named their brand’s first retail store and it’s filled with a curated collection of objects from furniture and drinking vessels to bags and jewelry for the shop. Their own line is known for being modern, fun and accessible which is why we love featuring it on – they’re everyday objects that have been beautifully reimagined. The store also has exclusive items from designers that aren’t available anywhere else, and will have a visiting artist on rotation as part of their programming.
For today’s story, we’re chatting with Andrew to find out where the he and Rachel got the inspiration for the store’s name and, as first time brick & mortar store owners, what they’ve learn since opening the store.
Why did you pick this neighborhood?
We are in the center of downtown St. Augustine, just across the street from Flagler College (in the old Ponce de Leon Hotel) and surrounded by many good bars and restaurants. St. Augustine is a beautiful coastal college town that boasts the distinction of being the oldest city in the U.S.
The Obscura location was pretty ideal to us, as it is walkable and central, but set apart from some of the kitschier tourist spots that have historically defined shopping in this city. St. Augustine is going through somewhat of a revival, with great food and drink spots leading the way. Through our Obscura shop (and YIELD) we hope to play a role in jump starting a similar type of progress in the city’s design scene.
Where did you get the name for the store?
We chose Obscura as our shop name because we wanted to curate everyday objects that have been reimagined in a new way. We’ve experimented around with camera obscura’s in the past, and love how the images are projected upside down, giving a magical effect to a typical scene. The store is somewhat of a general store in terms of the full range of objects that you might find, but they all are a bit out of the ordinary, designed and crafted by artists and designers near and far.
Has it changed much since it opened? How?
Yes, it’s definitely been evolving. We’ve been updating our product selection since week one, consistently adding in new pieces. The rotation of visiting artists also has a big impact on the appearance of our small store.
What’s one of the challenges you have with the business?
Even though Obscura is less than a mile from our , it can be tough to coordinate and get our whole team on the same page. We’ve had to rely heavily on messaging apps and stay vigilant about our communication. It’s just one of many challenges that comes from having a separate business from our other already demanding business.
What other stores have you worked in before opening this one?
None! We are entirely new to this. With YIELD, we sell our products to many retailers, but this is our first time on the other side, running our own store. We hoped that the retail experience could give us valuable insights that can inform our own product creation and it certainly has.
What’s your favorite item in the store right now?
Our . More than any other product, these candles are very much of the city and tied to the store’s location. They are poured into our custom glassware by a local candlemaker just a few blocks away and are inspired by the different seasonal scents of the city.
What is this season’s theme?
We’re getting to that time of year where everyone is at the beach and out surfing. While our products don’t follow a strict seasonal timeline, we’re introducing our own take on the summer necessities: towels, books, and umbrellas for those tropical showers.
Are you carrying any new products and/or undiscovered gems you’re particularly excited about?
We have a line of ceramics commissioned from our friend that aren’t sold anywhere else. Lauren is our neighbor and produces her ceramics line out of her home studio in St. Augustine.
What’s been a consistent best seller?
Moglea’s printed goods, the cards in particular, do really well for us. People love to buy gifts for others, and these cards are accessible, playful, and unique. Many of them are one of a kind hand-painted pieces.
Does the store have its own line?
All YIELD products are essentially our “house brand.” YIELD products feature heavily in the store: from our housewares to our jewelry and bags.
Any special events/exhibits/pop ups/collaborations coming up?
We have a pop-up in the works by a local surfboard maker who produces stunning artisan boards.
Do you have anything from the store in your own home?
We have quite a bit in our house and have had to exhibit restraint, especially with the books and candles. It goes both ways though; many objects in the store are products that we used to seek out for ourselves online before there was a local store that carried them.
What’s next for you and your store?
We launched our online store obscurashop.com not too long ago and are in the midst of building out our web presence with some larger scale furniture and objects that won’t fit in our tiny shop. Since we have some locally oriented products and objects made by small independent makers, we’re excited to make that work available to a broader audience.
What’s one lesson you’ve learned since opening your store?
Opening the store has reinforced the importance of delegation and assigning ownership of roles. Since Rachel and I are balancing many things and don’t get to man the shop ourselves, we’ve worked with the team to have a clear definition of roles and responsibilities. It’s not only critical for managing the workload, but it’s also empowering for everyone to be able to take charge and make decisions within their segment of work.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to follow a similar path to yours, what would it be?
Don’t let the unknowns stop you in any business venture. Find people who are further along the path and ask a bunch of questions. Use this to learn from other people’s mistakes/successes, but also be wary of letting anyone tell you that there is a specific formula. Ask them about their experiences first, their turning points, how they came upon their niche/customer. Look for patterns. Those are often the most valuable lessons, not necessarily their direct advice for you. Most success comes with a great amount of risk, and as long as you do your homework, understand the context of your audience, and come through with a great amount of passion and determination, you will figure it out.
To visit Obscura, visit 51-C Cordova Street, St. Augustine, FL 32084.