Introducing the Boston General Store
Just a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of stumbling upon Boston General Store on Instagram. I was immediately drawn to April’s beautifully curated feed of rustic natural goods. And, even better, it was all happening right in the city we just moved from—a city that is in our hearts forever. After talking with April a little bit, it was apparent that this was a hugely passionate project for her (a girl after my own heart) and I knew I needed to learn about her journey and share it with others. It's people like April that make our world beautiful, so below I encourage you to take the time to learn more about her and her thoughts leading up to the creation of Boston General Store. It is a beautiful journey that is far from over.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a 32 year old Texas transplant to the Boston area. I came here around 6 years ago to be closer to family and with my boyfriend (now husband). I trained as an architect with a specialty in environmental design. Right after college I worked with a firm in Texas and helped to renovate an old warehouse into the city's permitting building. Once I got to Boston I worked with the New England Aquarium on their exhibit design and the renovation of the giant ocean tank. This is where the Boston General Store became a reality (on nights and weekends).
What has your journey been like creating the Boston General Store?
It's been a pretty long journey. Since I was a kid I knew I wanted to create something of my own. I grew up with a dad that designed and built furniture and a mom that was crazy creative in all things. So I had the bug from a young age for sure. I remember hanging out in his workshop and playing in all the sawdust, lol. I thought it was amazing that he could take an idea in his head and make it a reality for other people to enjoy. So I went to school to get the tools to do just that. It started with buildings and has now morphed into me finding other people doing just that. We are working to open our first brick and mortar shop on Oct. 1. Once we are up and going you should expect to see a Boston General Store line of products that will be available for wholesale. I still have the design bug and that's definitely in the cards for BGS.
Why Boston? Why this this type of store?
While I was in college my family decided to up and leave Texas and buy a bed and breakfast on the Cape. Family is really important to me and I always want to be close with them so it was only natural that I follow soon after. Boston seemed like a great location where I could spread out on my own and still be close to them. A part of what Boston General Store is and what it will be in the future is creating a community. It is so important to me to have a strong support system and be surrounded by people I love. So when creating the idea for the brick and mortar I wanted it to be a place where people could find products they needed but also be a place where they felt comfortable to come in and hang out for a bit. Historically a general store served this function. Equal parts utilitarian and community.
What made you realize you needed to bring this dream to reality?
I'll give the honest answer to this and hope that none of my old bosses read this. lol. I loved architecture and I loved designing space for people to enjoy. But I found a great deal of repetitiveness and also very little control over what you design. There are so many moving parts in a large construction project and so many codes and design restrictions. When I was working with the general store on nights and weekends I found a lot more freedom in the direction of the company. If I wanted to redesign the branding I did. If I wanted to carry a new product line then I did. One day I'm pricing products, the next I'm designing new displays, the next is I'm working on financials, the next I'm day dreaming about BGS's own product line. No one day is the same as the other and I'm not stuck behind a computer drawing. Its really exciting for me and I'm learning a lot through this process.
Any major obstacles you've had to get over during the process?
Finances! It costs a lot to open and run a shop. I've learned that there is a definite line you have to toe in order to keep your design intention and still make money. I think there is a reason you don't see a lot of stores like this one because its not necessarily a strong profitable business idea. There are so many affordable products being made irresponsibly in the market. I can understand why so many companies choose to sell these items because they look beautiful and are a really great price. But at what cost are you sacrificing to carry these products. It may not be apparent to you personally but on a global scale it should be. I hope that makes sense. Its a constant struggle for me to find products that are made responsibly and beautifully and still semi affordable to the public.
Your always going to pay a premium to support these companies that are designing and building somethings they love. I'm trying to price them as competitively as possible for the customer but I also still need to keep the doors open. That's why the stories behind the makers and the relationship that I have with them are essential to what we do. I can tell you the daughter's name of Brothers Artisan Oil, I can tell you about the new space that P.F. Candle Co just moved into or why Dram Apothecary decided to start creating their own line of bitters. I want customers to feel like they are a part of the products being created.
What do you love most about creating this space?
Designing it for sure. I know that most of my time is going to be spent in the space so I want it to feel like home as much as possible. A place where my husband, family and friends and customers feel good about coming to hang out it. I envision a monthly dinner series, maker workshops, pop up shops taking place in the space. That means that I have to make the space feel really comfortable but also functional as a profitable shop. This is really fun for me. I have a company in Philadelphia that's constantly looking for vintage items to have and sell in the shop. I think this will aide in giving a comfortable but also ever changing feeling to the shop.
Do you have any advice to give to others chasing after their dreams?
Start small and work your way up. Make a list of whats important to you and then don't sacrifice those ideals. Its essential that your company can always be a fluid and living thing. Its always trial and error. Nobody gets it right the first or even the hundredth time. We started as an online shop with 10 products and have grown to a few hundred. Most of the original items we carried we no longer do. Also keep telling yourself over and over that failure is just not an option. Some things don't work and that's fine. You re-assess, change it and move on.