INTERVIEW BY GLEN FARRIS, IMAGES BY CYNTHIA PANTALEON
We sat down with Jeff Amano of one of our favorite stores on the Denton downtown square, Serendipity, recently and he gave us the what's what and the how's how about what they've been up to in there relatively short history of being open on the north side of the square. Read on to get schooled about "shabby chic" and check out some images from a recent painting workshop they held in their store.
You both have different backgrounds other than retail. What made you want to open up such a unique retail space?
It's unique? Holy crap, I hope we make it! Haha, well, we knew from our corporate previous lives where our primary distribution came from small shops competing against big boxes that small businesses need to offer what the big boys do not or cannot. It boils down to service and products that would be cost prohibitive and a training nightmare for a big box. WE ARE THE NIGHTMARE. Sorry, always wanted to say that.
How were your expectations transformed from what you intended to what you do today?
We started off as a primarily shabby chic furniture store. The problem raised its voracious head within the first month of business. Claire was out hunting for furniture to paint and I sold about 80% of the furniture in the shop. I called her in excitement, but instead she said, "Oh no! Now I have to fill it back up!" We realized that we could not run a growing business if Claire made every product we offered. So we multiplied her talents through painting workshops so Serendippers could paint their own furniture and by offering a full array of paint and finishes. We also expanded our product line to provide inexpensive to one-of-a-kind items.
Why shabby chic?
Because I'm shabby and Claire is chic! Shabby Chic is what Claire loves although she also teaches customers how to paint and transform old items into a less shabby look -- like taking blond, polyurethane, builder-supplied ordinary wood into rich mahogany or expresso. I realized after the first few months that we weren't just selling product per se, we were merchandising Claire's vision and taste. She has an incredible eye (two, actually) and I have yet to see a decorating and/or color problem she can't solve.
You guys are just such an essential part of the Denton Square community - but go ahead and tell us why being a "north-side-er" is the best.
Wow, you really want to get us in trouble. What the heck, trouble is my business. Always wanted to say that too. Now you see why they keep me in the back room. The Northside RAGES, because we aren't afraid of change and evolution. Even the veterans on the Northside have made improvements -- Wine Squared built a beautiful outdoor patio, The Candy Store offers Free Coffee Friday and now sell plushies and gift items again; J&J's, Carols and McNeill's are active participants in the DMSA once more, GSATi provides their software and marketing expertise for the Square and we doubled the size of our shop. The new businesses like West Oak Coffee Bar and Dark Age Tattoo are top notch, providing first class environments, services and products. Proud to rock the Northside!
Y’all are pretty big champions of the square. What led you to want to set up your shop there?
We lived just south of the bridge for twenty years so the Square was a regular jaunt. We loved the shops, the food and the music. Never missed a Holiday Open House and came to many an event. Claire had been selling shabby chic furniture and decor through a few shops in Carrollton, Lewisville, Canton and of course, Denton. Traci Davis of Garden Gate set us up for a booth at the Auto & Antiques event in Sept 2012. As we were making plans for the event we happened to see an available space on West Oak. Our nest was about to empty, we had a hoarder’s house full of painted furniture and Claire had talked about having a shop one day. We thought, “Why not now?” So We Denton Did It.
What do you see as the future of retail on the square? What does it look like?
A shop on the Square cannot be like a shop in a mall or a smaller version of a big box. We must match the evolving, syncopated rhythm of fiercely independent Dentonites’ needs and wants. Denton Square is music. Live music, event-driven community gatherings. Our workshops are a reflection of that in-person social medium emphasis. We not only sell product, we provide an event for customers to learn to create for themselves. Play their own music so to speak.
Serendipity on the Square is located at 108 W Oak St, Denton, TX 76201. You can follow along with them on their Facebook page.