Tell us a little bit about the concept behind Obscura Shop. Obscura is about experiencing everyday objects in a new way. A camera obscura flips the image from outdoors and creates a new experience of the everyday view. We wanted to create a space that invites people in and becomes a place to spend time beyond just the act of shopping. We have work from a rotating artist on view and a little seating nook dedicated to spending time with a magazine or in conversation.
Which artist is currently on view? Our current visiting artist is Marleigh Culver, from Richmond, VA. We’ve been internet friends and have followed her work for years, so it was nice to have this opportunity to invite her in as our first artist. In addition to producing her own work, she’s a designer at Need Supply, one of our favorite retailers and stockists.
Have you had past experiences with shopkeeping? No, this is our first time opening and managing a retail store. It’s small scale, but it is an entirely new learning experience.
What are your impressions so far? We’ve only been open for a week, but we’ve already learned a lot about what our customers are after. We love that we get direct, face-to-face feedback in a physical store. One change we’ve already started making is an expansion of our Children’s section. We have a curated selection of books and a few toys including the Color Puzzle that got wiped out in no time. Our town is full of young families and it shows.
What’s your customer looking for? What will they find? We have a healthy mix of tourists and locals coming through. Most are looking for a unique gift or memento that they wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere in town.
What’s your background? Rachel and I run YIELD, a product manufacturing business that we started in San Francisco and relocated to St. Augustine a few years ago. Rachel studied architecture and industrial design and I have a background in graphic design and a design/business MBA. We met in school in California and started working together on product ideas almost immediately.
What was your initial impulse in opening up a shop on top of everything else? We’ve felt a little crazy at times taking on a retail store with everything else we have going on, but when we stumbled upon the space we realized there was never going to be an easy time to do it. While our audience has grown elsewhere, our brand has flown a bit under the radar in our own town. We view opening a store as a way for us to grow our presence where we’re rooted, while drawing more attention to the city and other local designers. We also envision opening YIELD retail in major cities in the future, and this seemed like a low-risk way to try our hand at retail.
What sorts of thing inspired what the shop’s assortment? How do you decide what to stock? We stock the shelves with a condensed assortment of many of the best things we’d want in our own home and as part of our lives: from kitchen basics like tea towels and containers, to playful toys, candles, bags, and jewelry. It’s an eclectic assortment of functional, but distinctive items.
Did you build the fixtures? Yeah, we unfortunately had a woodworker lined up who had to back out due to an emergency. We were too late in the game with an opening scheduled, but no fixtures, so Rachel and I tackled building it all: the shelving, cabinetry, and cash wrap.. Before the fixtures, we did a lot of work to the space involving moving a wall, pulling out a drop ceiling, and installing lighting. The only thing we hired out was the flooring.
Tell us about the interior design of the shop. It’s a modest space (about 500sqft) with good natural light and high ceilings. The space has a minimal color palette: raw light wood, light walls, and black accents that allow the products to stand apart.
Where do you go for lunch around Obscura?
Our favorite spot is The Floridian just a block away. Our guilty pleasure is the taco shop.
If I was to stop by what else would you recommend in the neighborhood? There’s a lot to see within walking distance. We’re in the heart of the historic district, an historic landmark town plan that dates back to the 16th century. It’s a bustling area with many bars and restaurants. From our front door you can see Flagler College, a liberal arts college housed in a strikingly beautiful resort from the late 1800’s that is certainly worth a visit.
Seen any good movies lately? Yeah, the last movie we saw was Arrival. It was a good one.
Thanks so much for chatting with us Andrew. Any parting advice for people out there who might be starting a space of their own? Don’t let the unknowns stand in your way and keep you from acting. We don’t know know what we’re doing, but we’ve entered this new challenge like we have others, with the confidence that we can dig in and figure it out along the way.