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DirtRoads

Freestanding Retail/studio Location

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Could this work for you?  This type of business has worked very well for me.    Thought I would share my journey.

 

Starting point, September  2010  ... a meager collection of structures ..... joined by metal flashing.  A portable storage building, metal carport, cargo trailer.  I slid that building right up in a small thicket, almost touching a power pole with transformer.

 

July 2011 ... acquisition of house and 3 acres on Hwy 16 in Edinburg, MS.  Moved storage building to front yard.   Looked sort of funny before it was finished.   Everyone in the area noticed and lots commented on it.  Someone went in my brother's office and said "some fool put a storage building right in front of their house in Edinburg". 

 

September 2011 - Conversion of storage building to showroom.      No one thought this was going to work.  I thought it would be a decent supplement to shows.  I planned on about 10-15 shows a year.    I did 2 in the fall, Canton MS flea market and Tinsels & Treasures Junior League show in Lafayette, LA.  The destination traffic was way higher than anyone, including myself, imagined.    We sold everything.   I added employees, increased production, and we had to have more space.

 

February 2012 - Conversion of metal carport into a fresh air market.  Moved the cargo trailer behind the carport for storage of bags, extra pottery, etc.   We sold product out of this new space and it was okay in Spring/Fall but "fresh" air turned out to be hot or freezing air in Summer/Winter.   Surprisingly,  customers could tolerate the heat fairly well but if it was 50 degrees or lower, they hovered inside ... looking through the window and having me bring certain pieces inside for them to look at.    Inventory got dust and pollen on it and for the most part, this was not a good selling venue.  But I had enough traffic to sell everything and only did the Canton, MS flea market 2 times a year.

 

(continued)

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January 2014 - Added another 500 square foot storage building.    Gave me more room for pottery and additional jewelry.  Picked up a major wholesale jewelry customer and hired employee to stay in showroom, waiting on customers and making jewelry

 

February 2015 - Added another mobile unit and finished it off with a nice porch.   Nice living quarters, office and jewelry storage area.  Now all 6 rooms in the house are used for the pottery business.  And the car port has been enclosed.

 

Future plans:   I have 2 shipping cargo containers and I plan to convert at least one of them to a really cute retail building.  Other one ... maybe later.   I plan on staying at the current production/employee level.   I don't want to make the jump to a higher level.  Purchasing pug mill/tile extruder and electric slab roller in fall.

 

Sales are strong strong this year, showing a 30% increase.   We only do 2 shows a year.  The Canton Flea Market, which is only 40 miles away.  This generates a constant stream of new customers.  At full employment, production runs about $3500/week capping out at about $150k this year of pottery.    The jewelry business has increased exponentially.  (more details about expansion story on website if you care to read .... more pictures)

http://www.dirtroadspottery.com/aboutus.html

 

Why this works?

 

-  Location is on a major highway, making it easy to find.

-  Complete lack of building codes in this location.

-  The shows we did in the early days, and now, are considered huge promotional opportunities.   We plaster people with business cards that directs customers to the website and the studio.

-   A website that encourages people to come to the studio

-   Set business hours:  Monday - Saturday 10am to 6pm.  IF I was starting over,  I would shorten these hours to  Thurs - Saturday except for Nov/Dec.  And close for the month of January. 

-   Most potters in my area sell to retail stores.  We use a margin based price slightly higher than wholesale.  I had extensive experience with wholesale to public pricing before I got in this business.  I've got the prices now set to where the COGS/production labor is 50% of cost.    Retail labor time is subsidized by jewelry production.  Jewelry sales also offset the retailing costs.  (I had another business where I learn to subsidize retail downtime with production activities). 

-  Everything in the first 4 pictures was paid for.  The business paid for the last 2 expansions.

 

Yeah, that's where it started .... it was a good time.  Can't say the last 5 years haven't been interesting.  Last picture ... In Loving Memory of Buttercup.

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Thanks for sharing. I always wondered when I drive to these remote towns that are tourist attractions on the way I see many potteries. I never stop by because I am always in a hurry, but I always wonder if they make any money off highway sales. Good to know that if you have your stuff together, there is mucho money. 

 

Also you might have just added those buildings adjunct, but they look pretty well added together from a drive by point of view, better than most of the places I go by in the Georgia mountains, half of them look like they might fall on you as your looking around.

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dirtroads, thank you for sharing the details and the timeline. Very informative. Your buildings are so charming and inviting!

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Wow! I really appreciate you sharing this. I am not new to pottery, just the business end of it. I am working by myself, so you know, it takes time to get up to speed. I can't even think about a hire, yet. My wife is starting to help, but we need to set a schedule. The pottery barn is on my bucket list. I just got a brochure. And they seem to be a fair price. But I love how you built a homely atmosphere around it. Very cute. I have a house on four lots, business zoned, and my studio in a 13x30 foot garage with a carport.  But I was thinking of adding the portable building either next to my house or on a separate lot. One good thing is that my town is small. And you can get from one side to the next in ten minutes. Sorry, ranting again, just excited, by your set up. I hope to get to this point soon. I hope. Thanks so much.

DirtRoads likes this

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well, seeing the pictures shows that you have skills we never suspected.  the whole place has become a destination, i can just hear people saying "let's go see that cute pottery place we pass on highway 16".

 

you are a true entrepreneur.  to have built all this from not much and to employ several people must make you a leading citizen in the area.  i am sure the local business community looks to you for leadership.  the conversion of the metal carport into an attractive showroom shows others that recycling is not just tossing cans into a container.  boy, you know a good thing when you see it.  congratulations for actually making money from clay. :)  in just that ONE kiln????

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You didn't include any pictures on the inside of your shop.  I visited your website and I was particularly impressed with the displays inside.  You experience in retail really shows in all aspects of your operation. 

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wow

 

Wow

 

WOW

 

Inspiring, too bad I live in a place where they have codes for the color of your shingles and everything else they can think of. Your story is amazing, congratulations on all your hard work paying off and I hope it continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

 

T

PS. I too would like to see the interior of the shop space.

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Thanks to everyone for all the kind and encouraging words.

 

Here's some inside pictures.  FIrst 2 pictures show the inside of the small building.  We sell ornaments and jewelry in this building and use it as a cash/wrap area.  Also,  we have a work area for jewelry making.  One of the limitations of my set up is that the work area is too far from the selling area to allow customers to just let you know when they are ready to check out. 

 

Pictures 3, 4, and 5 show the inside of the larger retail area.   Right now, I'm racked and stacked with inventory.  I really don't like the idea of having to put inventory on the floor.  You know I had a Hallmark store once upon a time and that is a big no no.    I'm waiting to get those shipping cargo containers moved and fixed so I have an organized place for storage as well as selling.  We have to keep multiples handy because it's not uncommon to sell 30-50 small bowls ($7 to $18) or 15-20 larger items like hostess sets ($46)

 

Picture #6 is the fresh air market ... i.e.  more like FAIL air market ... right now it's 100 degrees F out there.

 

If you scroll through the pictures at the bottom of this page on the website you can see how the inside changes over time.

 

http://www.dirtroadspottery.com/aboutus.html

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LeeU and Marcia Selsor like this

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Wow! I really appreciate you sharing this. I am not new to pottery, just the business end of it. I am working by myself, so you know, it takes time to get up to speed. I can't even think about a hire, yet. My wife is starting to help, but we need to set a schedule. The pottery barn is on my bucket list. I just got a brochure. And they seem to be a fair price. But I love how you built a homely atmosphere around it. Very cute. I have a house on four lots, business zoned, and my studio in a 13x30 foot garage with a carport.  But I was thinking of adding the portable building either next to my house or on a separate lot. One good thing is that my town is small. And you can get from one side to the next in ten minutes. Sorry, ranting again, just excited, by your set up. I hope to get to this point soon. I hope. Thanks so much.

 

If you add the portable building, a word here.  Put it near your working space.  This is one of the things I would change if I was starting over.  I would combine my work area with the selling area.  I never thought it was be enough traffic out there to demand so much time.  I have fixed this by adding a retail sales person that makes jewelry in down time.  Actually that's how I got into making jewelry from import findings ... we spent much time out there waiting on customers.   I really couldn't afford a full time retail sales employee.  But with the jewelry making, basically the pottery side of the business pays nothing for selling wages.

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well, seeing the pictures shows that you have skills we never suspected.  the whole place has become a destination, i can just hear people saying "let's go see that cute pottery place we pass on highway 16".

 

you are a true entrepreneur.  to have built all this from not much and to employ several people must make you a leading citizen in the area.  i am sure the local business community looks to you for leadership.  the conversion of the metal carport into an attractive showroom shows others that recycling is not just tossing cans into a container.  boy, you know a good thing when you see it.  congratulations for actually making money from clay. :)  in just that ONE kiln????

 

No I started with that ONE kiln :) .  I have 3 kilns now,  1 Paragon and 2 L&L.   I think they are around 10 cubic feet each.    We run 3 loads of bisque weekly in the Paragon.  And 6 loads of glaze every week in the 2 L&L's.  (occassionally 7 loads) Around $600 in each glaze kiln.  It's a nice cool down schedule... Load and take out in 48 hours .. kilns are completely cooled down.

 

The business is at a nice equilibribrium now, balancing employees and equipment.  The target pottery production of $3500/weekly is profitable.  I don't forsee adding more employees or kilns.

oldlady and Joseph F like this

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DirtRoads,

You mentioned inventory on the floor as a no no; I was a member of a coop-gallery that put panels in front of bottom area of their

bottom shelves to hide the excess inventory that was stored on the floor.

I love your total arrangement.

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Okay ... so where I am now August 2017?.

 

 


 

Future plans:   I have 2 shipping cargo containers and I plan to convert at least one of them to a really cute retail building.  Other one ... maybe later.   I plan on staying at the current production/employee level.   I don't want to make the jump to a higher level.  Purchasing pug mill/tile extruder and electric slab roller in fall.

 

  The jewelry business has increased exponentially.

 

Okay .. the cute retail building.  At least it's cute, if not a "retail" building.   Going in and out of 3 buildings just didn't work.  Plus I needed a space that could be heated and cooled.  Great storage for excess pottery, pickup orders, etc but NOT a retail space.

 

Adds nicely to the overall effect.

 

http://dirtroadspottery.com/images/IMG_0034.JPG

 

As for the pug mill and electric slab roller,  LIFE CHANGING.    So were the ramps, rollers and racks.  I can not stress the importance of this.  Increased production with less output.  Anything you can do to reduce points of contact.

 

Photo story on my website:

 

http://dirtroadspottery.com/aboutus.html

 

As noted,  "jewelry business has increased exponentially.   Connected a new building to the original show room in March 2017.   Just launched e commerce site for jewelry and it's going well.  Why not for pottery?  We're at 100% sell thru and I can't deal with packing pottery for shipment.  I'm down to 2 full time employees and a Saturday retail employee.  Managing a production pottery line just didn't work for me.  I was literally working 70-80 hours a week to keep things flowing.    Right now the business is going really well.  Just waiting for my 4th quarter profits.

 

In retrospect (7 years in):

 

Pottery is an extreme amount of work.   The points of contact with the product are very high.  Anything you can do to cut down points of contact will help you.  I have a production business.  Training others is doable but you are assuming the role of a manager.     So if you are a solo operation, you depend on your own output.    It comes down to a production quota.  The other end of the spectrum would be to create art forms.   I have no real interest in making "art", just money.  I applaud all of those endeavored in artistic creation.   None of what I have to say would apply to you.  Is this a profitable business?  Yes.   I branched out to jewelry because it is more profitable and a lot easier than pottery.  But I do appreciate the pottery business.   Could I make a decent living doing just pottery?  Yes.  One day I may move back to my "dirt roads" property and hang out there, with no retail store and just make pottery.

 

You are going to have some set backs along the way (I don't consider them failures if you work around them).   Example my fresh air market and cute retail building just didn't cut it.   Two retail buildings are fine ... adding to the original small building for more jewelry has already paid for the expansion.    I have numerous products, in both jewelry and pottery, that don't really sell.  They are dropped from the line.

 

Come on 4th quarter!  Gift buyers incoming!

 

Sharon Grimes

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Edited by DirtRoads
GEP and Joseph F like this

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My business path has been littered with "dumb ideas".    But they have never made me stop dreaming.

 

"I've always wanted a horse shoe pit"   This idea documented right here on the forums.

 

http://community.ceramicartsdaily.org/topic/13337-qotw-did-you-do-what-you-wanted-to-do-in-2015/page-2?hl=%2Bhorse+%2Bshoe+%2Bpit&do=findComment&comment=99824

 

(and above it you can see all the bla bla bla about the cute retail space)

 

Putting a retail location in Edinburg, MS was pretty much a "dumb idea" to most people.   I hoped to sell $25K .... maybe even $50K, a year from this location ... my brother thought I would be lucky to sell $5K a year.  A dumb idea that has yielded a profitable destination business.  Two years ago, I had to expand the parking arrangements in order to keep traffic from backing up on Highway 16, waiting to get in during the Christmas rush.  When I put the building there, it was a stretch to think I could pay for the gravel drive way to the business. 

Edited by DirtRoads

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Ok ... about the horse shoe pit.  My nephew was wrong.  Here is a photo taken today.  The cats don't even use it now.  As you can see, no one uses it.  Only 2 children ever played horse shoes, at my request (grand children of employees).   BUT, it makes a nice privacy fence for the dog pen, covers up my expansion, until I get it painted and trimmed to match the rest of the building.   I do think it finishes out the property quite nicely :P

 

You have to keep trying until you find what works.

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Edited by DirtRoads
Joseph F likes this

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Wow, what a great fiscal journey this has been for you, One thing is for certain you fear no change, and approach it all with an open mind. Love your smiling picture.

 

best,

Pres

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