You’re a year into the store’s opening. Anything you’ve learned you wish you knew on day one?
At first, I let the intimidating details hold me back from enjoying the exhilarating ride of starting a creative business. Things have a way of coming together when they need to and I wish I would have trusted that.
Over the last year I’ve had conversations with folks from all sides of the creative community – makers and shop owners, from startup to veteran. We’re all here because we have a passion for what we do, and at the end of the day, that’s more than enough to accomplish what we’ve set out to do.
How have you kept your customers coming back?
I have a theory that if you’ve taken the time to navigate your way to the East Bottoms, you’re probably someone I’d like to have a beer with. We look forward to hanging out with people who come here and sharing the stories behind our products.
Our General Store concept is simple – we purchase products we love from makers we love working with.
I owe it to Britton Turnbull, the visual mastermind and co-owner of Urban Provisions, who puts it all together. His visual displays are not only inspiring but change constantly. When people come back, they may be looking for something they can’t find anywhere else, or they might be coming to see what new things we’ve discovered.
Why the East Bottoms? And how does that location influence your shop?
I once read a book about starting a retail business. In the first paragraph of the first chapter, the author expressly advised against starting a boutique retail store in an old industrial neighborhood. I won’t go as far to say that this is bad advice, but for us, choosing an off-beat location was one of the best decisions we’ve made.
Kansas City is unique in that folks are always looking for the next corner of town where interesting stuff is happening. Instead of being afraid to cross the train tracks into the East Bottoms, Kansas Citians are intrigued. When people hear of us, it’s not just the concept and products that stick out. It’s our location and neighboring businesses that make people stop and think, “now what the heck is going on down there?”
When did you know Urban Provisions was an idea that needed to become a reality?
For years I dreamed of opening a store that sold American Made goods, though Urban Provisions as it is was never inevitable. In early 2014 the location became available, but it took a lot things falling into place, and several months of inaction for me to do anything.
One night that spring, I woke up at 3:00 am panicked with the thought that I was about to let the opportunity I’d been waiting for pass by. I called in sick to work the following two days while I gathered the courage to put in my two weeks.
Freshly unemployed, with only a rough concept and no business plan, I called my best friend, Britton Turnbull for advice. He’d been running a thriving Etsy business, building mid-century modern furniture, and at that exact moment in time was figuring out how to open a brick and mortar. Early in the conversation, I came to the realization each of us could bring what the other needed to the table. It was clear that the store would be something we did together.
We wanted to bring something new to Kansas City, so we set out on a road trip to attend an American Made lifestyle trade show in Nashville. That trip was in early May and we opened less than four months later, over Labor Day weekend.
What is your latest epiphany?
In the last few years I’ve become a bit of a world traveler. Like the store, it’s become a part of who I am, and I’d really love to find a way to combine the two. We’re not looking to change our concept, but I think ethically sourced products from up and coming international makers may have a place on our shelves someday.