Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sally Ann's Upcycled Business: An Inspiring Vintage Travel Trailer "Mobile Boutique"

Vintage trailers epitomize the American Dream; nostalgic mid century modern luxury at their finest, they represent the open road, freedom, comfort and security. Owning one for cross-country travel (stopping at thrifts, perhaps recording a series along the way) and selling wares from it is a universal kitsch/art/vintage-lovers dream, so my 6+ years intrenched in the art/vintage community dictates. The vintage travel trailer "mobile boutique" trend giving makers a chance to sell wares using their creativity while avoiding rent and start-up costs, a liberating way to sell food, art, and wares on-the-go.

 

Sally of Sally Ann sells her stylish, upcycled dresses and accessories from her own vintage trailer mobile boutique at Riverside Arts Market here in Jacksonville, Florida. She kindly shared the behind-the-scenes of turning her gorgeous vintage trailer into a functional mobile store! It's an inspiration to many who have the same liberating small business aspiration.

1) Hey Sally, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello, my name is Sally Keiser, and I am the designer and creator of Sally Ann. Beginning to sew at the age of 7, it's like it's a part of my blood. I feel like at heart I'm a creator, plain and simple. Whether I'm relaxing and crocheting, working and sewing, or beautifying my home and building furniture, I'm always making something with my hands.

Selby the vintage Shasta camper at the beginning of Her transformation.  

2) I know how that is! When and why did you first start your portable biz, Sally Ann?
Sometime between 2007-2008, I began making and selling handbags in a record shop in Lansing, Michigan, and on a MySpace page. I discovered Etsy in August 2008, and I've been sewing close to full-time ever since. As the years progressed, we've grown to so much more than we ever expected, and now sell from a vintage Shasta camper.


3) Tell us a little about your process converting your vintage trailer into the stylish pop-up shop it is now?
I'd seen the mobile boutiques of girls like Kaelah and the ladies of Oh So Lovely Vintage and was so sick and tired of the set up and tear down with a canopy and clothing racks. How could I combine the two?: Get a mobile boutique. I spent about six months scouring local craigslist until I found Shelby. We found her in Greenville, South Carolina, we lived in Augusta, Georgia at the time, and drove up to pick her up.

For an incredibly low price of $300 we towed her the hour and a half home, prepared to spend the next 6 months working on her. It ended up taking 9 months, working on it on free sundays that were few and far between. We blogged about the entire process, since we were clueless when we started, and figured there were other out there that would benefit from the posts. You can read them all here.


4) I remember the hassle of tearing up-and-down canopies and racks. It's exhausting! What's your favorite part of running your portable biz?
I wake up every morning. Start a pot of coffee, put on some music, and just go. I have my sewing list and pile, a to-do list that is always as long as my arm, and I sew as the day is long. And the kicker of sewing to my hearts content is setting up once or twice a week selling my work at the Arts Market and other venues.


5) What tips can you offer to anyone wanting to start a similar shop?
Plan ahead. Get a trailer that needs minimal body work. Find your vision and stick with it. Storesupply.com was my savior when it came time to purchase pretty boutique hangers, rack, and all things needed for a retail outlet. They sell their products at really affordable prices, wholesale enough for a small business. It's really all case by case how anyone would want to build their own mobile boutique. We went the fancier route with antique heartpine on our interior, making more work for us. In hindsight, it was so much work but still very much worth it!


6) Thanks for the honest tips and resource hint! Now I have to ask for one on sales, your mobile boutique does so well, any little suggestions for increasing sales?
Product placement and the ease with which a customer can tell what it is without too much effort. Multi-level displays, clear pricing, branded price tags. Signage is very important, too! And my most handy tool on market days: a lint roller. Being an animal owner, with cloth products handled by the public, and working at a pet
friendly market every week, there's always a stray fuzz or hair that needs to be pulled away.

The finished Sally Ann trailer as it appears at Riverside Arts Market here in Jacksonville, Florida every Saturday.

7) Owning a white cat I feel your pain on the fur, and have learned the importance of ample, clear signage! Where do you see yourself moving your shop into the future? Brick & Mortar or online shop plans?
We are currently working on a One Spark (our project) initiative to open a Jacksonville-based drop-in sewing lounge. A place where locals can come and sew by the hour, with hourly, weekly, and monthly plans. With a giant wall of free fabric to use while there sewing, it will be a local community space to meet other and learn how to sew, or just hang out. My office would be in the back, and a small area up front selling my wares, and other locals with similar wares. We will continue to sell through our online shop shopsallyann.com.

The interior before they worked their magic to transform it into a mobile boutique with dress racks and a changing room!

8) I've always thought we needed one of those in Jacksonville, I hope you make your dream a reality. What vintage items do you love to collect?
Hands down: Sewing tools and notions! I love finding old metal rulers, pins, scissors, tape measures, and all little things sewing related to use as decoration or to actually use when I'm working. Plastic ones made now are such poor quality. They don't make 'em like they used to!

After: Gorgeous wood interior, plenty of racks to display clothing, pull the curtain across a round rod at the top and try on clothing within!

9) I love your dedication to sticking with vintage items and recycling, I'm a firm believer. Can you tell us more about Sally Ann's dedication to thrifting and using only upcycled materials?
I'm a huge proponent of handmade and fair trade, sweatshop-free products. I do not buy new clothes. I buy second-hand, handmade, and local whenever possible. I think it's extremely important to buy less and better quality, having a special relationship with our 'things', rather than one of a million bought from a big-chain box store. There is nothing better than feeling that something was loved before it was yours.

If you're local, be sure to check out Sally Ann at Riverside Arts Market and at One Spark! I'm definitely saving up to get a goodie or two from her inspiring mobile boutique! Thanks Sally for sharing your story so freely, you're living the dream!
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47 comments:

  1. How cool-- real American spirit too! Best of luck to Sally!

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  2. That's such a cool idea! There are a few businesses in Denver that do the same thing. I just love the idea of having a "brick and mortar" store without the lease, headache and actual building! So freeing and flexible.

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    1. I've seen several here, a food truck in an airstream recently graduated to a brick and mortar space. (Corner Taco). I've considered the same but I'm not sure about my future in retail.

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  3. LOVE this---what a great job she did on her trailer and $300... What a bargain :)

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  4. $300 is definitely a steal! Very encouraging score.

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  5. Wow, I've never seen anything like this before in the UK, what a wonderful idea. So inspiring!

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    1. I guess it's more of a subculture than I thought, seems like there's at least one at every art selling market type event here lately. And a big surge in food trucks built out of retro trailers, too.

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  6. What a great idea! That was a good deal that she purchased it for just $300.

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    1. Definitely! I now hold out hope I can find a cheap one someday...

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  8. Thanks for a feature! We LOVE our Shelby!! :)

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    1. For good reason! That's gotta make packing up a breeze, I did the tent/tables/rack method and it's completely exhausting!

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  9. I love these mobile pop up shops. This was a great post Van, really enjoyed someof the tips too.

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    1. Hope it inspired you :D Glad you liked it.

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  10. so jealous! I wish Toronto had a space for trailer businesses. Does Sally Ann still have an etsy shop? I'd love to see her wares!

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    1. She has one right here, definitely inspires me to get sewing again! https://www.etsy.com/shop/sallyannk

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  11. *gasp* LOVE! Thanks for the interview with her. You are right; it is the ultimate dream. And you can do it!

    -Lana

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    1. And for the record, I am fairly confident these shops don't exist in suburban Alabama. Sad day. I guess that means there's more room in the market for me! ;)

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    2. I love the flexibility of a portable biz like hers. I still have supplies for one, who knows what the future holds. :D

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    3. Oh and yep, all the more reason you'd stand out if you chose to make your own mobile boutique in your area.

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  12. wow! it looks amazing- i love the up cycling too :)

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    1. I'm a big fan of upcycling, forgot to mention her dresses are very pretty, easy to wear, and come in a variety of sizes, too. Better edit with that note. A lot of indie dress boutiques come in one size, xs!

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  13. Sally looks so adorable, if I was from around I'd visit her just for a hug (and well, to check all those beautiful dresses) I think it's pretty awesome when you think about a project like this and take all risks, I say living the dream. Fisrt time I seen something like this wasn't a trailer but a School Bus in Nicarágua!! It was huge inside off course and even the seller was living in a corner :) It's in Zopilote Finca by the way. Thanks a lot Sally for the great tips and before/after pictures (what a makeover!!) and to dear Van who always have handsome guest posts ;)

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    1. The school bus sounds incredible! Always secretly wanted me own tricked-out hippie-mobile.

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  14. Love her vintage trailer redo and mobile. Hope she continues to do well. Thanks for this post. If we get back to FL I'll be looking for that market.

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    1. It's my favorite, right in the neighborhood. I can scoop up art, accessories, local veggies and vegan food in one swoop.

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  15. Wow! Sally has a lovely set up. Loved this interview. Thanks for sharing! :)

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