We may finally be shaking off this deep dark recession as the economy gradually recovers, seeing the return of consumer confidence, and witnessing the slow melting away of double-digit unemployment—hurrah! Still, few economic sages would say that it's the best idea to start a small business.
And yet, one brave Eagle Rocker decided to open her retail doors just before the Christmas 2010 shopping season. On Dec. 4, Traci Green established what she describes as her “community family resource”—a store named on Eagle Rock Boulevard. Green Bean is located in the [exact] space where Twerps, a resale/retail clothing store for children, used to be for the past 18 years.
The owner of Twerps, Mary Rose, “kept calling people who could continue the store in a kid-friendly way,” says Green, one of those who got a call from Rose. It sounded like a good idea—at first, says Green. “We kept trying to make it go away but all the signs kept saying ‘go,’” she recalls, adding: “My husband and I come from an entertainment background, I’m one of those people who likes to spread sunshine and joy—and working out of a single location that allows me to do that is a dream come true.”
Green recently sat down with Eagle Rock Patch and talked about what it’s been like to run her store—what she believes she did right, what she'd never do again, and why she loves being part of this business community.
Given the economic climate, were you nervous about opening Green Bean?
Of all the shops to open at this time, we felt this was a good choice, especially since a lot of people were disappointed that Twerps closed. Besides, about half the merchandise in our store is recycled—whether it’s brand new clothes with tags that weren’t used by the owners or consignment items such as cribs and swings. I offer owners 30 percent in cash for what an item would sell for or 40 percent in store credit. I’m always looking for locally made goods—toys, furniture, crocheting hats, things like that. There’s a grandma who lives in Eagle Rock and who makes shoes for babies. And I’m selling handmade greeting cards by a friend who lives in Silver Lake. Also, local music is very important to us—we have a lot of local CDs.
What is the concept of your store?
We call ourselves a “community family resource” and we’re definitely not a boutique. We’re not only helping the community by recycling items but also making available handpicked recycled items and offering support emotionally to families.
Why did you decide to open in Eagle Rock and what advice did other retailers give you?
You can’t throw a stone in Eagle Rock without hitting a stroller. A lot of the resident in Eagle Rock are what I call “working creatives”—artsy people who understand how to spend their incomes. Everyone here moved here because they love Eagle Rock’s small-town feeling in the middle of L.A. People want to know their neighbors and their merchants. That’s one reason why Eagle Rock is a great choice—and the fact that this corner has been a kids’ corner for 18 years. A lot of people come in here saying, “This isn’t Twerps—you’ve remodeled Twerps.”
How did your store do in the first retail season?
It has really been fun. It was a little weird on Christmas, with all the rain, but a lot of people have been supportive and many drop off items for free. I haven’t had much of a chance to get the word out from the P.R. point of view. I have plans for a website and a community calendar on the store’s front and back door as well as on the website. I’m planning to get the walls painted with murals.
The girls next door [owners of the Owl Talk store] told me that when they opened 17 years ago, they had just one table with clothes on it—that was it. They have been very supportive and give me lots of good advice.
What do you think you did right in your business?
I’m very happy with the way the store looks and feels. It was very nice before, but we wanted I to have a different energy. I love that parents can’t get their kids to leave. I would love parents to hang out here, too. Most of the people who work in the store are parents—they know what customers want.
We’re happily surprised with the way things have turned out, considering we’ve never done this before. Also, I’m very happy about the picks I’ve made—I’m very particular about what kind of clothes I have and people are very happy about that. And I’m proud that we focus on community goods: There are so many beautiful artists in this neighborhood who don’t have a storefront, and I want to have their artworks in the store. For example, one artist, Darryl Blood, made an organic birdhouse that kids can assemble. It’s made from waxed milk cartons, old buttons, painted popsicle sticks, duct tape, magazine covers, black beans, sunflower seeds. We want to be a hub for recycled trains—my son loves trains. We’d like to be the place where you bring your lot of trains. I really want to encourage the community to bring their stuff here.
What do you think you did wrong and what would you do differently in the future?
It’s too early to say—as I said, I’ve never done this before. So far, so good. I’m in the P.M.A.—positive mood attitude. One thing I do know is that my son is the best salesman. He’s barely three years old and I sometimes have to restrain him. ‘What size are you looking for?’ he asks customers.
What programs and events do you offer to attract the community?
On Fridays at 11 a.m., a psychotherapist, Molli McIlvaine, who lives in Atwater Village, comes here to lead a discussion and support group about everything from nursing babies to making sure that moms eat and take a shower. There’s a $5 suggested donation.
On Mondays, at 3 p.m., we have storytime in Spanish and craftwork for kids, but we’re open-ended about the age of kids who can come. We recently began offering a prenatal “mommy and me” yoga class, a baby-wearing class about how to carry babies, and a cloth diaper-wearing class. Eventually I have plans for a nursing and breastfeeding class.
What do you think the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce can do differently in the holiday season this year, compared to 2010?
Except for a banner sign on Colorado that said, “Shop Locally,” I didn’t see anything. I think it would be great to have something like Montrose, where the local chamber of commerce sponsors community activities for the holidays. But then again, Montrose is a very enclosed community and Eagle Rock is still a small town in a big city, so I’m not sure how that would work.
There could be one giant ad in L.A. Weekly or Pasadena Weekly, urging the community to shop locally. There are so many new stores here.
What are some of the most attractive items in your store?
There’s a new “Melissa & Doug” classic wooden toys and art supplies. It’s a mom-and-pop company that also sells individual pieces for train tracks—if your kid has lost one caboose and is crying for one caboose, you can buy one caboose. Melissa & Doug is our biggest-selling item.
We sell “Episencial Body Care” products from a local, L.A. family-run business. Even though it’s a major brand, it’s made for children but used for adults as well. The products are healthy for the earth and for the kids. People are loving it.
We have “Silikids”—a family owned and operated home business on Eagle Rock Boulevard run by a mom who was concerned about the use of plastic bottles. She makes bottles that have glass on the inside and silicone on the outside, which protects them from breaking. There are also Silikids covers for baby food jars, to help with breakage. I’m very proud to carry these items because they come from a mom who’s straight out of my music group right here in Eagle Rock. We have lots of local music CDs, hand-picked vintage clothing for kids.
We have “See Kai Run” shoes, “Eleven” shoes—Twerps used to carry them and I decided to continue them because they were very popular. They come in sizes 4-12 and I’ve had requests for bigger sizes.