The quest for “just the right thing”
When customers come into the shop, we often strike up conversations while they shop. I love that it’s the kind of place where transactions can turn into relationships. We consider ourselves lucky to be located in a part of Omaha that really seems to value its community.
These conversations seem to come easy as most begin with questions about unique products, or maybe it’s a certain type of fabric that gets things rolling. Either way, I love the questions because telling about the products is one of my favorite things. In fact, a few of the questions I get asked the most are, “where do you find all this stuff?” or “how do you choose what to buy for the shop?”
Well, the answer is somewhat complicated, but sourcing the goods we curate is definitely one of the small-business challenges that I actually look forward to.
When considering products for The Simple Man, I look for unique products not widely available at other common places. That gets more difficult as most goods can be bought online in multiple places these days. It becomes important to stay on top of trends and make selections quickly, before items become so popular that they just don’t fit our criteria.
In addition, I look for goods made in small batches or by crafts people; those made with purpose and done with skill and attention to detail. I love companies using sustainable manufacturing practices and components that are recycled and or recyclable. Integrity in their mission is certainly an admirable and responsible trait. USA made is also something I shoot for, and hopefully as consumers become more accepting of the challenges with manufacturing here in the states, we can offer more and more USA-made goods. Price seems to be the biggest obstacle there.
Finding small companies often leads to relationships between myself and the makers, which only adds to the story. Many of the items we carry are made by some amazing folks, pursuing their passion just like me. Even though some are manufactured, the dream behind those processes started out in a similar way.
I come to find these makers, reps and brands via several ways. It often starts with some research through the web and social media feeds. I’m told by my family that I spend way too much time in front of a screen. I guess that part is somewhat true. I also travel to different market shows in the winter and summer to seek out the latest from existing brands and get my hands on some new ones I’ve researched. You may not know, but all of the fall/winter merchandise in the shop now was ordered, for the most part, last January, and lots of it done at one of these market shows.
Some brands just have an impeccable reputation that needs no explaining. People simply know the brands and the products and quality speaks for itself. Often these are the heritage type brands we carry, the ones holding onto a history all their own.
When I dial in on a brand or product, I look to a help from others in the same business as us. There’s a small group of fellow owners that I’ve come to know through my travels, and I often lean on them for advice or their experience with certain brands. First-hand knowledge has saved me more than a few times, and the connection to others, going through the same challenges, can make a huge difference. Again, more relationships, paying off big time.
Lastly, there have definitely been a few items that have come by way of customer suggestions. Even with all the research and travel to shows, sometimes the best advice on gear walks right through the front door. I enjoy introducing brands and products to people, but I love it even more when you may come across something amazing in your own travels, and think to recommend it as a fit for other Simple Man customers. When that happens, it all comes together full circle.
Curating “Quality Goods for Men” is our passion. It’s what we love and what we strive to do.
(Now who wants to do the tax stuff?)
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I’ve realized a few things about myself in the last two months.
First, teachers need to be paid $300,000 a month. Seriously, a month.
Second, one of the biggest benefits and things I love about having a small shop is the conversations and connections I have with customers.