guys, i have some exciting news – furbish is joining the holder goods family here in raleigh, and we’re going to share their retail space on south street. you’ll now be able to shop our vintage rugs in person.
we’ve never sat down and really caught up on how the store has evolved in the past ten years. now seems like as good a time as any. you got a minute?
next year will really be 10 years of furbishing. crazy, right? when i tell the story of me, and of the brand, it all starts with this blog. almost 12 years ago, after voraciously consuming my friend Jordan Ferney’s blog cover to cover weekly from my desk at an advertising agency, i wrote my first post on I Suwannee, positive that i was too late to the game, that blogs were over, and that it would just be a silly diary for me to chronicle my life as a twenty-something newlywed who loved domino magazine, hot sauce and donkeys, all the while dreaming of exotic vacations, pink sofas and fancy feasts (not for the cats).
well that combo seemed to resonate at the right time with a few of the right people, and now a decade later, I’m still sharing the silliness of my everyday life and my domino daydreams with you right here.
over the course of that journey, furbish was born when i saw an opportunity to make an aspirational lifestyle achievable by creating an inspirational place to purchase pretty things for our homes that had previously only been coveted on pinterest, decorating blogs or glossy mags.
it was an interesting time to start a lifestyle business via a brick and mortar store. a lot of my peers took a different route than me – they were early to embrace influencer opportunities, and they built their personal blogs into brands with collaborations, affiliate partnership strategies and promotional opportunities. a lot of them turned into mini-media brands, offering advertising, editorial viewpoints, shopping, etc. and as they positioned themselves accordingly, affiliate marketing programs like rewardstyle were born, and in turn, bloggers were able to generate significant amounts of revenue by monetizing their influence with their readers and followers.
specifically, i mean bloggers didn’t have to become traditional ‘stores’ to sell what they liked. they could simply point you to their favorite shirt at nordstrom, or their new chandelier from west elm without ever having to stock it, sell it themselves, ship it, or even touch it in real life, and they could make a commission when you bought it, or bought anything really.
i was not an early adapter to this strategy. i took a different route, for better or worse, and started a company in the traditional retail model, where i sourced the product, purchased it at wholesale, hosted it in store and online, managed the inventory and then shipped it directly to the consumer. i thought this was the right way – it felt safer. established. known. it felt legit.
i opened my ‘real’ company, furbish in the tiny little light-filled shop on glenwood – the corner store across from the park, where rowdy and i worked every single day for two years there, painting furniture in the basement, making pillows out of scraps, flying nick olsen in to host DIY workshops, selling my favorite designer fabrics and wallpapers to raleigh peeps, and trying to actualize all my katy perry teenage dreams of mexican serape upholstered chairs, disco balls, greek key door mats, statement! jewelry (i loved a big plastic necklace) and ginger jar vases for days.
and raleigh showed up! i was busy. the store was vibrant and full of life, and it was working!
and it worked so well i took it online, after just to months, and it worked so well i had to hire my first employee. and it kept working – we had to move – to a huge warehouse downtown to hold all of our inventory. and i hired more employees, and we did all the things all the time, and boy, was it working. furbish was an established brand in the sea of fly-by-night bloggers who didn’t have ‘real’ stores, and it was going to grow and grow.
then i got tired. really tired, and confused and ambitious, and a little crazy and scared, and curious, and lazy and too big for my britches. i pushed the company to grow, but I checked out. i got real busy trying to distract myself from problems associated with growth that i didn’t think i knew how to solve, i threw too much money at what i thought were magic solutions to the problems (NEWSFLASH THERE ISN’T ONE – IT’S JUST HARD AND SMART WORK), and i got laser focused on imploding my personal life all to shreds – maybe for some reason, that seemed more controllable. i handed a lot over to my staff and i took my finger off the pulse.
a brand born from my brain, a product of my picks, the edit exclusively me all of a sudden had no cook in the kitchen — and the natives went a little wild. the brand at times jumped the rails. the systems backfired. the best practices weren’t practiced and the culture of furbish took a tremendous hit.
bricks and mortar retail particularly cannot work without a community. a brand can’t be island, a owner can’t be cold, and you can’t forget the staff has to be invested and included. it simply won’t work otherwise. you stand a better chance online, but it’s still going to be tough. now more than ever, the story is what resonates with the brands you choose to spend your money with. and without that story – and someone living that story, the odds are not in your favor. because i needed to weather some storms for a while, my remaining team and i took in our sails, we battened down, and we protected ourselves to survive the shitstorm of a confused founder floundering.
in hindsight, i can say that blessed be the fruit, the lord opened on his own time when he told me in ’14 that our big ole ‘i might as well be nasty gal’ warehouse at Johnson Street was being bulldozed to make way for a high-rise condo project. we were out and had 6 months to find a new home for the store, the staff of 12, the warehouse and the workshop. 7000 sq. feet + a huge parking lot in downtown raleigh. start over.
this hit while I was just bopping around the world on the implosion tour, so accordingly, our strategy was not strategic. we tried a retail shop in cameron village. wasn’t right. people missed our bigger-than-anthropologie showroom where they could wonder for hours, catch a nicki minaj slideshow and pet at least two dogs. it was the experience they came for, and we didn’t recapture it in cameron village.
then we tried the spot over babylon. it was charming and huge and maybe this would be it! but it was hard to find for even the most seasoned raleigh folks, and near impossible for new-comers, which the city is chock full of. the landlord was an out-of-touch opportunist, the building costs loads of dollars to move into and the sales were way down.
morale was low because the staff was shrinking. the staff was shrinking because the owner was full of shit. the owner was full of shit because she didn’t trust herself anymore. the dish ran away with the spoon, we closed the babylon spot quietly in the night without really telling anyone, we moved to a shipping warehouse and took the whole shebang to online only, and we shrank away from raleigh without much of an explanation. for that, i apologize. i really do.
here’s the good news. WHAT A MOTHERFUCKING LESSON right? i can tell you more about what i have learned through perceived failure than could ever tell you i gleaned from success.
i am still here.
i understand my company now more than ever, i understand what it takes, what it requires, and i’m doing better at doing it – taking care of it. i have stripped it naked and looked at it in the bright light, with a sharpie, and a magnifying glass and a measuring tape. i know what i’m working with, and I’m figuring out what I’m working towards.. i also know there’s no magic solution. i know i need my people. my community. i know i need raleigh.
furbish is ok. we’re really good actually – the business is sound, and profitable. online feels better than ever to me – i like how it looks, it feels relevant, authentic, and importantly different than anything else out there – it’s unique, still, even in today’s marketplace. and that’s the magic I think. our instagram is good – i’m proud of it, and we’re engaging with our audience in new ways. for example, we’ve introduced editor’s picks on the site, which is a weekly round-up of the things i’m shopping for from brands i enjoy. i want you to know that a funny little commes des garçons button-up from barneys can change your whole vibe, and i’ll let barney’s handle that.
but you’ll certainly want to wear that shirt to the causal chic editorial just-because dinner party you throw where you use a crazy laura ashley meets dolce and gabbana prairie floral placemat. so i made those, and that’s furbish.
that shirt and those placemats tickled me, the combination. i’m recommending you try it, and i’m showing you how to. that’s what i think furbish can be good at.
i’ve wanted furbish to be part of raleigh again for a while – i think i needed to preen my feathers a bit and tend to my beat-up pride, but i’m up for it now. i’m ready. and it’s remarkable how things have worked out — i’m going to join one of my favorite people, bryan costello in his shop – holder goods, on south street – where our entire vintage rug collection will be shoppable, in person.
we’re focusing on rugs right now because raleigh has asked enough times that i’d best be listening. they want to shop our rugs in person, see the colors up close, try the textiles in their homes, and they want to get out of their houses, off their phones, lose their laptops and go somewhere. they wanna talk to people, and hear their stories.
there’s absolutely no better place in this town for me to try this again. bryan’s store is full of charming curiosities that you never knew you needed until that oh-so-special moment of discovery where you are changed simply by the notion that you could do something different. i’m positive you’ve seen on my instagram stories that if i am in raleigh, and it’s the weekend, i’ll be at holder goods. it’s my happy place.
and after i’m there, you’ve also seen me bop next door to boulted bread, get a morning bun and a coffee, then i’m down at sir castle tees spray painting high-top vans, or customizing a pair of converse.
these are my people. this is going to be my place right now. and i want you to join me. come by this sunday and try out my tastes. see why i think this is the coolest block in raleigh right now, and why i am so grateful to be a part of it. we’re hosting a little open-house block party from 1 – 4. we’ll have champagne, i’ll drink two glasses but not three (probably), the weather is supposed to be miraculous, wear a cute sweater and we’ll all ask you where you got it, and you can stroll the block for an hour or so and chat with folks who like some of the stuff you do, and some other stuff too that you can ask them about. there are also great murals and graffiti to take the instagrams in front of. plus scooters.
so that’s me now. and here’s the thing – furbish will keep evolving and changing, just like me, because furbish is me. and i live in raleigh. i’m really glad to be back.