The Salvaged Boutique makes home decor accessible with handcrafted finds, friendly service and DIY workshops. Kathy Cruz and her sister, Karen Studd, are co-owners of The Salvaged Boutique, a home decor retailer and creative studio in Lakewood, Ohio. We caught up with Kathy to find out what makes the successful shop tick.
What inspired you to start your business?
Karen and I grew up really poor, with a single, ill mom on welfare who moved to the United States from Puerto Rico. She always stressed that no matter how much money we had, we could still create a nice home that was well-designed. We went to thrift stores and picked through garbage to salvage all kinds of household items. My sister and I loved it, and continued the same up-cycling ventures when we grew up and purchased our own first homes.
We started a blog on DIY decorating that was dedicated to sharing photographs of our before-and-after projects. We weren’t selling anything, but people started contacting us asking how they could buy what we were making, so we opened an Etsy shop and it did pretty well. The only downsides were that I was working out of my basement, my sister was working out of her living room, and there was sawdust EVERYWHERE. We decided that it was time for us to find a functional space that would allow us to create and work together.
In October of 2015, two years after launching our blog, we opened The Salvaged Boutique.
How do you find products that will appeal to your customers?
My sister is a gifted buyer. When she goes to stores and flea markets she has a great eye for what’s trending. Ironically, I don’t enjoy shopping — my strengths are managing the finances and social media marketing.
We both enjoy creating. Our shop is a mix of new merchandise, local handmade pieces and our own projects.
What’s the best piece of advice you have for small business owners?
Do right by your customers, competitors and neighbors. Treat people how you want to be treated. If a business is struggling, help promote them. Don’t be cutthroat. Another thing: if you’re starting a business, don’t forget to pay yourself enough. A lot of women I’ve talked to don’t do that.
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?
Pinterest, social media, magazines, catalogs — we’re always browsing.
What’s your favorite social media platform?
Instagram. It’s more visual, and less political, than Facebook – it’s creative, inspirational and positive. Pinterest was great when we were blogging, but it’s easier to target your local customers using platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
What trends are you seeing in handmade goods?
Anything to do with a city or city name. Last year I made ornaments out of clear plastic with the Cleveland skyline cut out. The rustic farmhouse trend is also very popular.
What’s a trend that excites you?
Painted furniture with the ombré effect — a blending of colors from light to dark.
What’s your favorite tip for DIY decorating?
Take a class if you’re afraid to dive in. Workshops are a great way to learn a technique, then apply it at home. We teach workshops on furniture painting, wreath-making, hand-lettering, flower-making and more. Some of the classes are taught by us and others are taught by subcontractors.
Do you have a favorite workshop/class that you offer?
Our most popular one: “Chalky 101.” Chalky is a type of paint used on furniture and decor. It’s different from latex paint. You don’t have to sand or prime either — it has ingredients that make it adhere to wood, brass lamps and leather tabletops. You can re-do a whole set of kitchen or bathroom cabinets instead of paying $20,000 to have new ones installed.
At our Chalky 101 workshops, customers bring in a small furniture piece to practice on, then they go home to tackle bigger projects. I love seeing how happy they are when they’re done painting. It really transforms a piece.
How would you describe your design style?
Definitely eclectic. Our mom raised us with a mix of design styles. Mid-century modern, rustic farmhouse, shabby chic, industrial – we like them all. I probably have a more modern style while Karen’s is more traditional.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be creative, and I also liked playing with a cash register and adding machine. Later, my sister and I would go to home decor stores and talk about the displays and the merchandising. We dreamed of owning a store together and would say, “If this were our store, it would look like this.”
What’s your most-loved item in the shop right now?
We have a bench that was made from the headboard and foot-board of an old bed. We collaborated with a local woodworker who built it for us. The bed was French Provincial style, so the bench has tall posts on each end. The back is scalloped and curved, and the seat is stained dark brown. It’s a statement piece.
Who gets you excited about the work you do?
My sister and our customers. We get compliments from customers on the merchandise we bring in and the before-and-after projects we work on. A lot of people come in and say there’s good energy — they feel good when they walk in. My sister and I always say that’s the biggest compliment someone can give us.
How did you get to know Darice?
We live in Strongsville, Ohio, so Darice is a convenient place to pick up supplies. We buy a lot of our wholesale supplies for the workshops there.
What do you like about working with Darice?
The customer service is great. I love that we can visit the showroom and feel and touch all the products. Their pricing is reasonable on the wholesale merchandise. And they’re local. We really believe in supporting local businesses. We do go to national stores and shop on Amazon, but if we can shop local, we’ll do it for sure.
Are you a brick and mortar who wants to be featured in our Independent Business Spotlight? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’re looking forward to meeting you!
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Darice was founded in 1954, by Pat Catan, an entrepreneur from humble beginnings who valued hard work and dedication. Today, Darice Inc. is a premier manufacturer and wholesale distributor in the craft industry.