Marion & Rose's Workshop was one of the very first stores I approached when I decided to start selling wholesale.

It was such a delight to meet Kerri, because I really feel like she and I are made of the same stuff (though I might have a little more gunpowder and whiskey in my blood).

Walking into her store is like walking into better-than-home. It's the kind of place that my home might look like if I had better taste, and, as a result, I always find myself trapped in fantasy lands where I lovingly fondle hand-hewn wooden bowls and lose myself in the fresh, wonderful smell of Juniper Ridge Douglas Fir tip tea.

Over the past several months, Kerri and I have become friends. I always love the opportunity to stop by and chat with her about her vision for the neighborhood, how she does such an amazing job merchandising, and how beautifully done the Limited Edition Oakland Horse Prints are (side note: my maiden name is "Farrar," which comes from the word "farrier," which means horseshoe maker... so basically, that woman horse is me).

We occasionally bemoan the increase in imported products masking as US-made... so don't forget to ask about where something's from!

Recently, we had a chat that kind of changed the direction of our traditional vendor-shop owner relationship... it kind of took it to the next level, so to speak. She asked if she could feature Outlaw Soaps and be our "flagship store." 

Of course I jumped at the chance, because Marion & Rose's Workshop is such a great place to be!

This Friday, we're having our launch party of our partnership, and I couldn't be more excited! RSVP here and come share in wine, music, and happiness (and soap) with us! 422701_202393329867006_1897759844_n

She agreed to answer some questions about her shop and her vision...

1. What is your favorite thing about owning your own shop?

One of my favorite things is getting know the vendors and forming new friendships.  I love feeling a part of something larger than myself. Discovering a community of people doing what they love all around the country is pretty amazing.
2. What is your number one challenge about owning a place in Oakland?
I think the biggest challenge I face as a business owner in Oakland is changing peoples perception of the City.  People have only heard bad things about Oakland for so long, that it takes more effort to convince them to explore the cute neighborhoods and new businesses.  I spend a lot of time talking about the City and how wonderful it is to new customers and visitors to the shop.  While I endlessly enjoy talking up the place I call home, it tells me that we as business owners in Oakland have a larger hill to climb and need to spend extra efforts on promoting the city as a whole along with our individual business.
3. If you could go back and tell yourself one thing when you were first stocking your store, what would it be? What determined the direction you took Marion & Rose's Workshop? We love the dogs! 
I  have a passion for supporting local and shopping at small stores, supporting union made goods, and being conscious of where my stuff was being made. Whenever possible I will go to the locally owned store to find what I need, like Ace hardware or the mom and pop coffee shop.  
I had already been working with local makers for a while through the small shop I had in the front of the gallery I ran with my hubby called Blankspace in North Oakland.  
When we closed the gallery I knew I wanted to continue working with artisans in more of a shop type setting and reach out past the local community to introduce new talent to people.
My focus has expanded to support the larger American Maker community, so M & R features handcrafted, high quality goods from makers all over the United States.  I am very interested in helping to support the return of small manufacturing to the US and the revival of traditions in handcrafting goods domestically.
When we choose to buy American Made we are telling people that we care about our community and want them (our neighbors, cousins, friends) to be happy, healthy and thriving in jobs that pay a livable wage.  
The more we talk with our wallets, the stronger the movement will get and a thriving creative economy is one way we will re-build the foundation for a thriving middle class to grow.

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4. Tell me a little about your makers. Besides Outlaw Soaps (because obviously, we're fascinating), what maker has a really interesting story? How do you share that story in your store? On your blog? In your social medias?

I think all of makers I work with have interesting stories so it is hard to pick just one to talk about.  I know that when someone walks into my shop or visits my website that I become the voice for that maker. This is something that I take seriously and I make every effort to do right by them and tell their stories accurately. If a customer asks a question that I cannot answer, I will find out the right answer and often times email them just so they know and are properly informed about what the materials and processes are for each product.

I love finding out the back stories of the makers and do Q & A's on the shop blog to share the fun stuff I find out with the readers.  My plan in the near future is to start visiting more of the makers around the country so I can share images from their workshops and studios.
5. One thing that always strikes me when I visit your store is how beautifully merchandised it is (as I have mentioned over and over). What drives your layout philosophy?
I approach the shop as I would curating an art exhibit.  I want everything in the shop to have its own special display and voice.  I am not a fan of clutter, so when I stock and merchandise the store I am conscious of not overcrowding it or making it feel like I added inventory to fill in empty space.  
I enjoy the empty spaces, it is a visual pause, almost a palette cleanser for your eyes, leaving you fresh for the next item to come across your plain of vision.  My hope is that you will slow down and take your time looking at each item as you would a piece of art in a museum, appreciating the craftsmanship and beauty.
Plus when I walk into a shop that is packed to the gills I feel anxious and can't look at anything, so I often run through and leave quickly. I want people to spend time browsing and taking it all in, even if they don't buy anything, I want them to leave feeling happy, not stressed out!
6. What keeps you going on days when you Just. Don't. Want. To.?
Caffeine, lots and lots of caffeine.  
There are days that it can seem like it's all too much for one person to do (probably because it really is), on those occasions I try to focus on the wonderful customers who have come into the shop in the past or even that day and have gone out of their way to tell me how much they love the shop ( and the merchandising!) Some even come in and tell me how the shop has effected them in a positive way or inspired them. It's those stories and smiles that remind me I am doing what I love and a handful of "bad" days is a good trade off.
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