small business

small is beautiful holiday shopping guide

Small Is Beautiful holiday shopping guide

Hello and Happy December!

Also, how is it December!?!? How did the year go by so fast? But now that I think about it, it was kind of a shitty year (at least here in the US of A), so maybe I should be saying good riddance and seeyalaterbyeeee to 2018!

I can’t complain about too much at present since I’m writing this poolside in Palm Springs. (Because sunbreaks = mental health when you live in Seattle.)

I’ll be back in the Rain City in just over 6 hours though. My weekend plans involve chasing away the grey and perpetual drizzle with some serious holiday cheer. Greens will be foraged for one of these wreaths. Cookies will be baked. Cheesy Christmas music will be played. I might even test a batch of holiday punch. (Strictly in the name of research.)

If I’m feeling like Superwoman (which I might just be after 3 days of Palm Springs sunshine), I’ll start my holiday shopping.

When it comes to gift giving, I’m a big fan of starting early to avoid last minute shopping trips and the crazed shoppers that come with them. The mall can start to look a lot like an MMA battle royale in the week before Christmas. Trust me, you’re much better off at home, wrapping packages with an egg nog in hand.

Because we’re also big fans of supporting independent businesses around here, I’ve put together this Small is Beautiful shopping guide to help you make sure your holiday dollars, pounds, euros, yen and riyals are supporting people working hard to provide beautiful, artisan crafted objects and create community.

At a time when big box stores are churning out disposable garbage at a distressing pace, owning an object meant to last and that (sometimes literally) bears the fingerprint of its maker, reminds us that things are still made by people. People with complex lives: loves and losses and joys and heartaches just like ours. It reminds us that their work and their stories actually mean something. Just like ours do.

By purchasing small-batch and artisan products curated with love by small businesses owners, we create a little thread of connection that benefits us all.

And shitty year or not, there’s nothing that brings the holiday cheer like making the world a little bit brighter place.



P.S. If you're looking to for an extra-special gift for that extra-special someone in your life (or even your own extra-special self), registration just opened for our May 2019 retreat in Alentejo, Portugal!

Small Is Beautiful holiday shopping guide
small is beautiful holiday shopping guide

small is beautiful: drygoods design

Image: Olaiya Land

It's time for another installment of Small is Beautiful! For those of you who missed the first one, SIB was born out of a desire to document and share some of the amazing independent businesses and creative projects near and dear to my heart. I also want to provide a space where small business owners can talk about how they got started and the challenges and joys involved in running your own business. Whether you're contemplating taking the leap into setting up shop yourself or just looking for cool places to check out in Seattle, I hope you enjoy hearing their stories.

This week, I'm featuring Drygoods Design. Owner, Keli Faw's ebullient spirit combined with the expertly curated selection of beautiful fabrics and notions makes this a space I love to stop into whenever I'm in Pioneer Square. I've taken several classes here and am always thrilled (and as a novice seamstress--somewhat amazed) at the beautiful garments and accessories I leave with!


An interview with Keli Faw, owner of Drygoods Design fabric shop and sewing studio

Image: Olaiya Land

Mad lib time! People could describe your business as Pinterest meets reality.

What is your background? 
I came out of college during an economic downturn so I headed back to retail and then as the economy improved I moved to corporate communications, PR, and marketing.

How/when did you get the idea for your current venture? 
Strangely enough, the current version of Drygoods was not originally in my mind's eye or plans. I started out as an online-only shop where I also made things to sell. I couldn't find fabric locally that I loved on a regular basis for my own line of goods so I decided I could take matters into my own hands. From there, it became more about getting the fabric to customers than the line of goods and then creating a retail experience that was not found elsewhere. After watching the power of our customers learning from each other, it just made sense to launch the studio and classes.

Image: Olaiya Land

On a scale of one to shitting-your-pants, how nervous were you about starting your business?
Initially, it was a three because the growth and expansion were very organic, all the while keeping my day job for a couple of years. I launched Drygoods a month before my second child was born knowing that it was now or never. And at that point, it was just me. When it came to opening a retail outpost a little less than a year later, it came at one of the worst possible times in my life. My father was terminally ill but I knew that if I didn't go for it, I would always wonder what if. He passed away a month before I opened the shop. It was crazy and dark, especially with two young children and frequently traveling husband but it's strange how adaptable we are. 

The first few months of having a retail presence were almost a blur. Then it became easier, but it's taken years to get a true handle on all that I need to do and do it well. As Drygoods has grown, the stakes are higher. Knowing that you have people relying on you for their livelihood, it's much more sobering.  Since then though, the scale has shifted much more to stress and freaking out, especially when it became clear we had to move from Ballard to another neighborhood. However, our move to Pioneer Square was a really good move. Not only is it a beautiful space, it's also central to so many parts of the city and we were incredibly fortunate that so many of our Ballard customers kept coming to see us.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

What's the greatest challenge with your business? 
Managing the manic nature of retail. One day is amazing, the next can be the worst. In this city, we're competing with the weather, city events, and the purchasing behaviors that major online retailers are driving. We have an amazing customer community but we are not invincible.

What do you love most about your business? What brings you the most joy? 
I love watching our customers and students react the same way we feel about fabric and/or completing a project. Watching someone catch the sewing and/or craft bug is so rewarding. And making the buying decisions around fabric. It's almost always like Christmas morning when a shipment arrives.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

What's on your bedside table (be honest)? 
A few travel books for the US (my kids and I are scheduled to go on a four-week road trip this summer), the Hillbilly Elegy, the Alexander Hamilton biography, a bunch of receipts, my current knitting project, and my tarot decks

Secret hobby and/or obsession? 
It's not so secret but my cathartic moments away from the shop are found knitting, cooking, and working in our yard.

Favorite city? 
That might be the hardest of questions. In Europe - Paris, Stockholm, and Lisbon. The US - NYC and San Fran

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

If you could get in a time machine, zoom back into the past and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your business, what would it be? 
Okay, this is the hardest question :). I think it would be to start it earlier and diving in sooner with a more concrete version versus going from an organic, "let's see how this goes" point of view. However, at the same time, it's hard to wish for another directive. I think of all the incredible people I've met through this all and I would hate that all the good and the bad didn't potentially happen because I took a different course of action about the business.

What other local business/project do you think is Small and Beautiful? 
Some of my favorite places to shop are Re-Soul in Ballard, Phinney Books, Velouria, Clover Toys, and The Palm Room

Image: Olaiya Land

small is beautiful: union coffee

image: olaiya land

Welcome to the Small is Beautiful Project! 

There are so many creative people doing cool things here in Seattle, I wanted to document some of their projects and share them with all of you. I’ve had this idea kicking around in my brain for a while. But because I’m an introverted hermit, I’ve been dragging my feet on reaching out to people to ask if I could come shoot their portrait and photograph their spaces. 

But I finally got my ass in gear and asked Zack Reinig, the owner of one of my favorite coffee shops, if he'd be part of the SIB Project. Happily, he said yes.

So I give you my inaugural Small is Beautiful story, featuring Union Coffee. The clean lines and organic touches in this light-filled space make it one my favorite work/chill spots in the city. Also, they feature beautiful roasts by Olympia Coffee and pull a mean shot. My Seattle people definitely need to discover this gem of a coffee shop if you don’t know it already!


An interview with Zack Reinig, owner of Union Coffee, coffee shop and experimental space

image: olaiya land

Mad lib time! People could describe your business as Great Coffee meets Architectural and Sonic Self Indulgence.

What is your background?  
I’m from Eastern Washington originally. I am a musician and came to Seattle in ’94, and very soon thereafter started working as a studio technician and assistant recording engineer at various recording studios in the area. I moved from that to being a freelance recording engineer/producer and moved to New York for a few years. I was producing a band back in Seattle at Jupiter studio in Wallingford during that time and met my future wife, Molly.  She brought a pot roast and cookies to the recording session that day. It was both a completely crazy thing to do, and very, very charming. 

I moved back to Seattle, continued my life in production, playing in bands, and dating Molly for a number of years. I did a few tours of the US, and then at some point, did a tour doing live sound for a friends’ band. I caught on pretty quickly as a live sound engineer, and ended up traveling the world for years with three girls from Olympia/Portland collectively named Sleater-Kinney, and subsequently a New Mexican band called The Shins. Touring was a great education in various cultures' design spaces/rooms/buildings. I often wonder why design firms don’t hire people who have toured a lot. You see so much insane architecture and design when traveling 200,000 miles, year after year while working in the arts.

image: olaiya land
image: olaiya land
image: olaiya land
image: olaiya land

Anyway, after 15 years in music, and five or six breakups with Molly, I realized it was time to quit music and transition to a more reasonable lifestyle for both of us, if Molly would have me. We got married at Treehouse Point in Fall City in 2011, we had a little girl (Named February Moon Reinig), and I studied law to get some of my logical mind back, having lost it from so many years on the road. We now live in a little house five minutes from the coffee shop.   

Since 2009, I have been making Molly coffee every morning since we moved further than three blocks from our favorite capitol hill coffee shop. In my eyes, “Union” is much more about Molly and my relationship, and our mutual daily discovery of coffee than my street address. Over the years, I learned coffee via a Bialetti, various pourover devices, a vintage La Pavoni manual press, and finally a full on professional espresso machine - futzing with various grinders along the way.

image: olaiya land

How/when did you get the idea for your current venture? 
A few years ago, I was kicking around various small commercial development ideas that resembled places I had been to in Holland and Japan, where a coffee shop was the center piece to the build-out of a space. I went down the road on a few projects only to be turned away during the final bit of negotiation. I decided that it would make more sense to simplify and focus on what I loved most about the project - coffee, music, and architecture in one small space where I can hang out all day and chat with friends. I knew the coffee and customer experience would have to be outstanding and I wanted to value my baristas as quality craftspeople, because a great barista is definitely the most important piece to pulling a great shot. So I hired, and continue to hire extremely carefully and offer full health benefits, the ability to tour and pursue art, and hopefully one day even paid family leave to baristas working over 28 hours per week, even though I know that would be expensive for a new small business. I designed the space to be very different from anything in Seattle, and did not compromise much at all from my original thought on the build - which took a ton of confidence in my vision.          

On a scale of one to shitting-your-pants, how nervous were you about starting your business? 
Very nervous, and that continues to this day. Only in the very beginning of design of the space did I think “Oh, this shit is eeeasy”. You quickly learn that there are so many x-factors in small business from construction overages to financing/debt, to opening and operations, to juggling life priorities, that you always feel that you are one really bad move from catastrophe. Business is a stressful thing, and I respect anyone who chooses to hang a shingle.  

image: olaiya land
image: olaiya land
image: olaiya land

What's the greatest challenge with your business?  
Patience! I want a great art show to happen in the space tomorrow! I want to have an awesome live music show the next day! I want to have a community speaking event the day after that! There are so many cool things to do - it just takes time to put them together in a way that gives the artists/performers/academics/etc. their just due... all the while running this infant of a business well enough to get the capital to fund more great fun things to do. Did I already say that running a business is hard? Or is it ambition that is hard? Hmmm….   

What do you love most about your business? What brings you the most joy? 
There are these moments that occur where my dream vision for the shop materializes out of thin air. Molly and my girl are hanging out on the couch, some old friend or tour buddy of mine has come in to chat, people are really loving the coffee, there’s a great record on the hifi, and customers are enjoying the design and architecture of the space. It's like - just for a minute or two, everything comes together in perfect rhythm. Those moments are so great.  

image: olaiya land

What's on your bedside table (be honest)? 
I don’t have a bedside table, but in its place is a cord that I try not to trip over while letting the dog out to pee every night at 2 or 3 am.  

Secret hobby and/or obsession? 
Coffee plantations in sunny locales.   

Favorite city? 
That’s impossible. Osaka for the energy and oddities, Brussels for the music venues, Prague and Barcelona for the Architecture, Nashville for the Ryman Auditorium, Montreal for its European feeling with close proximity to Seattle, Anywhere New Zealand for the weird plant life. Favorite US town - Asheville North Carolina. It has a lot of east coast history and feels very liberal and experimental, with a ton of life wrapped up in such an idyllic looking small town. I love it.    

image: olaiya land

If you could get in a time machine, zoom back in time and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your business, what would it be? 
That ceiling is going to be expensive!!  

What other local business/project do you think is Small and Beautiful? 
Well, Molly Moon’s [Zack’s wife’s business] is too big to be small at this point, so I have two for you: 1) Prussian Blue in Mount Baker. Dawn is an impossible hurricane of exquisite style and sincerity that you need to know. And by you, I mean everyone. 2) Hello Robin. Catch her at work and sit at Robin’s butcher block island, built to resemble her kitchen at home, and treat yourself to the Robin Wehl experience. To me, Hello Robin will never have true competition because you can't clone Robin.

image: olaiya land