La Boutique Lane
is a unique, upscale, home furnishings boutique in the Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro, N.C.
Have you ever thought about opening a retail store? Sort of daunting, isn’t it? Well, read about Sandra Siano and how she came to open one of the prettiest, most unique, inviting and well stocked stores in our area.
I first met Sandra Deschamps Siano more than a year ago while searching for a wedding present. Sandra’s store was then in a smaller space (she has more than doubled her space this year) but right away I knew this was a special home furnishing and accessory source.
It’s taken a while, but we finally were able to finish an interview; Sandra was very thoughtful in her answers and I think you will all enjoy this.
Me: What was your thinking/reasoning in opening the store? Had you wanted to do this for a long time, or was it sort of an impulse decision? Had you been in retail before? Did you know just what kind of store you wanted?
Sandra: I was in one of those (what I call ) “unlucky but lucky” moments of my life where everything was falling apart and life circumstances had changed drastically and were unreliable. I asked myself what would make me happy and what I visualized doing for the rest of my life. How could I feel the joy again? It was time to re-invent myself and that’s when unlucky became lucky. I looked at my skills and my experiences and tried to come up with a lifestyle that suited my needs. I basically made a list of all the things that excite me in life and on that list were things such as connecting with others, creating spaces, furniture, art, retail, independence and contributing positively to my community.
And that’s how the idea of opening the shop came to me. I had been in retail my whole life. My mother had a store when I was a kid and the store was beneath our apartment. I was doing window displays at the age of 11 and merchandising jewelry and watches and receiving inventory.
Retail was my normal and its the only thing I trust that I know. After attending university in Paris and then in NYC I returned to Haiti to continue with the family retail business and continued to do so until our family relocated to North Carolina in 2006.
Me: What is your aesthetic in planning and buying for the shop? What is the look and feel you are trying to achieve? Does it change over time?
Sandra: When I buy for the shop I simply buy things that I fall in love with. Obviously I am mindful of budget and story board but if I am not in love with it I wont do it.
Our environment affects us and how we feel and think. We don’t have a lot of space that is our own in this world, so I want to help others create their own space and create their own environments that celebrate their joy and their values and lifestyle.
And yes it (our aesthetic) does change over time because life is in perpetual motion and we evolve and so should our environment. Nothing is forever or perfect: perfect is freaky because it’s not real!
Me: Which categories of product sell best for you? Is is seasonal or do you have some items that sell well no matter the season?
Sandra: I have only been open for a year now so its hard to define what works best. Though I must say to my surprise my art is doing better then anything else.
Me: What do you like most about owning a brick and mortar retail store? And, do you have any plans to sell on line?
Sandra: What I like most about the store are the connections I make with clients. I always saw retail as an opportunity to create a world for others to experience and I get to be a part of that experience.
Would I want an online store? Sure, I probably have to get on that because it would be more profitable, but it would take me away from what I love most. So if I can find the right team to help me with an online store then yes. In a world where we seek conveniences, things like big companies and online shopping takes over and wipes out the smaller local business… but an online shop would help me grow the business.
Me: You also sell your own paintings. Would you tell us something about that? Was that always the plan? How much time do you have to paint day/week?
Sandra: The paintings have caught me by total surprise and no it was not a part of my plan. I had carved out a studio space in the store for me to paint for my own happiness and my own pleasure but I never expected to sell anything nor did I ever think anyone would see my art. When I opened the store I had run out of money for the wall art and a friend of mine suggested I use my own art. I thought she was silly and ridiculous and the idea petrified me. It was similar to feeling naked, exposed and on display. But I had no choice, the store was to open in 5 days and I had no art on the walls. So I went through my collection of 80 canvases and picked out a few and decided I would not tell anyone it was my art. To my surprise the reaction was positive and one day I sold 11 paintings and it paid for the rent. I realized that if I wanted to paint more I had to pay the rent and to pay the rent I had to sell art. Very quickly I got used to the idea of being vulnerable and on display and the rare and few times people made negative comments about my art I was able to accept it. As of today I have sold just over 100 paintings.
To celebrate the move to larger space, Sandra held an “event” in the store last Friday evening: such good food, champagne and an overall good vibe! Her paintings reflect her joy and grounding; her product mix reflects her good taste; the store design reflects her attention to detail.
Just a few more images of some products:
Although the store is totally interior with no natural light, Sandra and her associates have done a wonderful job of recreating a “home-like” feeling and making the entire space very inviting.
Many thanks to Sandra for taking the time from her busy schedule to do this interview!