For this installment of the SSW Store Owner Spotlight we are featuring The Fine Fox, a one-of-a-kind Artisan Collective in Neenah, WI. Artisan Collectives are businesses that allow store owners to showcase a number of artists together in one retail space. With the popularity of websites like Etsy, artisan-made products are now showing up all over the world. If you crave handmade, these types of shops are a wonderful alternative to a regular big box retail experience.
Situated in the town of Neenah, about an hour south of Green Bay, The Fine Fox is proud to offer original art work, home décor, jewelry, clothing, artisan food, and more created exclusively by artists from Wisconsin. The store is a specialty boutique with over 50 contributing artists. The artists volunteer their time promoting the shop, each other's work, and store coverage as needed. The store functions just like any other boutique retail store would, but with added collaboration among participating artisans and a much-needed hybridization of art gallery retail practices.
Started in 2014 by owner Jennifer L. Theuerkauf, The Fine Fox was proud to celebrate their 1 year anniversary in May of 2015. The Store Supply team caught up with Jennifer this month to get her take on starting such a unique business.
Do you have a background in retail? If not, what is your employment background?
"I've always been an artist. My art and business background are what guided me toward this specific kind of retail. When I chose to put my public service career on hold to stay home with my first child, I found I still needed something that kept my skills fresh. I've been an artist since I was a young girl and it made sense to pair that background with my business background to create an independent career. Along the way, I met other artisans who created fantastic work, but didn't have access to a lot of selling venues outside of seasonal shows. It was through them that I gained the inspiration to open an Artisan Collective."
How did you come up with the name of your business?
"I was at an art conference in Madison and had been milling over various names including "Artisan Shoppe" and a few more abstract suggestions when I happened to sit at a round table of similar-minded collective owners/managers. One of them suggested alliteration and I spent the remainder of the section brainstorming on paper until Fine Fox popped out. Once I said it out loud and asked everyone for feedback, it was clearly the perfect fit! It's a double play on our region the Fox Cities or Fox Valley, and the fine art we stock. We've also be able to turn it into a literal "Fine Fox" with our mascot, a felted fox with a top hat. Our shop has slowly attracted more fox-themed work in addition to our state and regionally inspired works in the past year."
The store design relies on the artwork included in the store. As each new artisan joins, they purchase or repurpose fixtures to best complement the work. The entire store is rearranged with almost every new addition. The branding and color palette remain consistent, but the individual displays have to be dynamic, durable, and flexible to accommodate new work that arrives weekly. The second focus is to help guide the customers through each section. The displays transform many times to accomplish this.
What inspired the look of your store?
"When I first moved to Wisconsin, my husband was returning home, but it was new to me. While driving up the interstate in December, birch trees were the first signal of home for me and it made me feel like this was the place for me. Since our store exclusively carries work made in Wisconsin, I wanted to bring that into the store by using grays to allow the vibrant art work to stand out and adding murals of birch trees to echo our logo throughout the store. Then we added accents of teal, linen, burlap and copper throughout the store to warm it up for year-round style and provide a balance between natural décor and chic boutique. We were so happy to find the linen styled jewelry displays and cobblestone boutique display collection from Store Supply Warehouse - they both fit perfectly with our style!"
Store Special Events
What are some features/special events that you do at your store to set yourself apart from other retailers?
"We hold Artisan Spotlights twice a month - this is an event that features an individual artisan and their work. They bring more work than they normally carry into the shop, plus they demonstrate their work and talk to our customers. We make it a full event with beverages and appetizers and it often turns into a gathering you'd swear was made up of old friends. We also hold a seasonal reception that showcases multiple artisans and all the new seasonal work - it's partly a sneak peek event, but mostly it's customer appreciation focused - we stay open late and have a great time with our neighbors.
We also participate in all of our downtown and regional events organized by Future Neenah, the Downtown Neenah BID (Business Improvement District), our local chamber of commerce or even just impromptu collaborative events with our neighbor businesses. We're regulars at our local farmer's market and other art events throughout the region. The more we can build relationships with our community and our customers, the better!"
Words of Advice
What advice would you give others seeking to open a retail business?
"Beyond the typical -do your research,' advice, I'd strongly encourage new business owners to seek and rely on the wisdom of business owners around you. Get to know your neighbors and collaborate often, get involved in your BID or your chamber - go beyond the networking events and be involved. We're in a new economy where small businesses thrive on collaboration and customers want to see what you're doing for the community."
Would you like to be featured in our next installment of the SSW Store Owner Spotlight? Email Patricia Sims for more information.
The Fine Fox
214 W. Wisconsin Ave
Neenah, WI 54956
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+TheFineFoxNeenah/