Heritage Mercantile Co. Interview

Heritage Mercantile Co.

Website // Instagram

1.     What’s your name? How long have you owned Heritage Mercantile Co.?

My name is Jennifer Bloch (Jenn for short) and I have owned Heritage Mercantile Co. for what will be 4 years in July!

2.     How did it all start? What inspired you to set up this business?

It was a dream. I’d opened stores for other companies all over the world and I knew one day I’d have a shop of my own. I wanted something that catered to women, that was a space that would nurture them, that was authentic in what we carried and in the space itself. I didn’t want it in a strip mall — I wanted the building to have character. So when all of those elements came together, I knew it was my turn.

 3.     What do you love best about your activity/what is the best part of owning a shop?

Probably the people I meet. The diversity and the characters, the makers and the stories they share with me, and getting to know the customers on an intimate level that wouldn’t happen without having this space. I’ve gotten to meet so many different kinds of people and travel and enjoy the process of buying and letting the store evolve.

 
4.     What has been the biggest challenge? How have you overcome it?

Balancing family and work and the financial sacrifice. Uncertainty — it feels like a selfish risk when I could work for a company and collect a paycheck and have the stability. I work twice as much to be on my own, but to live out that dream. The sacrifice and uncertainty are worth it. The understanding that both my family and this shop — each of them has a life that needs to be fed and nurtured, so when I’m taking care of one, the other is having to fend for itself. Finding the balance between the two, finding good people that support that balance is such a big deal for me. For me, that helps me feel balanced because I feel like I can still be there for my kids and hear what happened today. This took three years…it felt like the shop was in the infant stage for three years and now it feels like a toddler and I can leave it with a nanny for a couple of hours and everything is okay. I’m basically teaching it how to walk right now.

 5.     What is your best achievement in this venture so far?

Creating an oasis, a respite, a space to get lost in for women. It’s like a little pit stop and they get filled back up again. Everything has been thought through for them so they can come in and rest and relax, knowing that everything is quality. The scent, the sounds, visually— it’s thought through. I think creating a space like that and creating a genuine connection on top of that with customers. They come here to share their good news or show me their new baby…that doesn’t happen in every store. That feels the best, that this is their little sanctuary where they can talk or not talk. I want people to walk away better than they arrived, feeling better than when they got here. Whether it’s at a gathering, coming to shop the store, or to take a moment for themselves, I want them to leave better than when we receive them and I think we do a good job of that most of the time.

 
6.     What surprised you most about the process of setting up a business?

The laws and taxes. I thought it would just be beautiful and fun. I’ve always set up all these stores but I’ve never done any of the back office stuff. To sit down and have to pay the bills and figure out where the money is going to come from and to have to abide by all these California codes and laws, there’s a definite learning curve on that. I think that’s the part people don’t realize…once you get employees and start to grow, I think you can grow too fast and close as soon as you open.

 
7.     Do you have any goals/plans for the future of Heritage Mercantile Co.? 

Going forward, we are now creating Gift Boxes – a curated example of the vignettes within Heritage. The Julia is a beautiful collection of culinary desires. The Sophia is full of our best apothecary products, to spa at home. The Jane if for the traveler, the woman with a constant sense of wonder. This new adventure for Heritage will launch in April in preparation for Mother’s Day, but will be offered year round in two sizes, with the product selections changing with the seasons. The boxes are packaged in such a way that you will have never received a gift like this before. The products selected are our best of the best, most favored – it’s our very best effort in creating the perfect gift. The ribbon, the label, the book marker inside — every detail has been thought through so the recipient thinks to themselves, “They get me”. The boxes will be stocked in store and online, available for personal or corporate gifting. In addition to the remodel, rebranding, and new expansion of gifting, we host monthly gatherings geared towards nurturing our customer. We’re incorporating gatherings with more depth. Each month we create a space for learning something new, breaking away from the to-do lists and allowing us to replenish our customer so she can jump back into her daily routine, feeling even better than she arrived. We’ll still be doing artisanal lost arts, but we’re also adding in more substantial, professional gatherings to give women skills to become even better at life.


8.     Tell us something funny/interesting about yourself.

I grew up on a farm in Norco — One of the things that’s so contrasted between growing up now and growing up when I did is while most kids grew up on a bike riding around a neighborhood, I grew up on a horse going through open fields and trees. My best friend and I used to pack food and water in our saddle bags and leave at seven in the morning, ride all day down into the riverbed and come home after the street lights came on. We didn’t have cell phones; our parents just trusted that we would be okay. We didn’t wear helmets. Half the time we didn’t wear shoes. If it was hot in the summer, we’d just use a bareback pad and would swim in the river and the horses would roll around —it was amazing. In the town, there was a hitching post in front of the grocery store for people. It’s still there. The town had one main road and we grew up without sidewalks. We had horse trails, so everybody rode past each other’s houses in the afternoons.

 
 9.   Why should we visit your shop?

It’s a respite in the busy world. You can get lost in the music and the scent — it has a nurturing effect and peaceful quality here. For weekenders who want to come and visit, it’s a great stop in your day Grab a donut and coffee across the street at Sidecar Doughnuts, visit Almond Surfboards next door and stop in here to find something lovely before you head down to the beach. And then on your way back, grab lunch or dinner at Eat Chow just a few streets over. All of the businesses around here work together to offer a great experience — and for bloggers and photographers, everything is so “Instagramable” around here.

10.   What advice would you give to someone starting a business?

There’s a fine line between really thinking it through and over-thinking. I think if someone would have told me about all the hurdles that encompass having a business before I opened, I would have never opened. But luckily, ignorance is bliss and I just opened thinking, “If it works, it works and if doesn’t, it doesn’t.” I was genuinely surprised every month we stayed open. I came in having a tremendous amount of experience and opening stores for other companies, but I had never had the financial liability on my own. I’m so thankful no one told me. I would tell people to just try. Do it with cash and do it as inexpensively and as beautifully as possible.

 
Any last comments?

We have a Writer’s Workshop with Sally Kim on March 31st, a Community Dinner Party with Lark Artisan Market on April 7th, a Perfume Workshop with Stacey Lazzara of Jade Daisy Perfume on April 30th and a Goddess Night (flower crown-making and life coaching) on May 21st! Those can all be purchased on our website at www.shopheritagemercantile.com. People can also visit us on IG @shopheritage! We hope to see everyone’s lovely faces soon!

 

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