Virtual Storefront: Creating A Website Saved This Shop When The Economy Crashed

July 12, 2016 - 1:00 pm
  In September 2007, Emmanuel Todorov and Michelle van der Heijden opened MUSH, a shop featuring furniture, art, antiques and home accessories. From their 2,400 square foot shop on Hollywood Boulevard, they rented furniture and art to the studios, and for impulse merchandise carried limited amounts of jewelry, incense, greeting cards and ephemera. “The end of year prospects were big,” says Emmanuel. Then came the Great Recession. “By March of 2008,” says Emmanuel, “the recession had come to stay, and a massive slump registered in our books. No furniture sales to speak of, rentals were down 75 percent, and people were scared to spend $20 on a sterling silver ring. There was no end in sight. Even though we had bargained for a relatively cheap lease, making it every month became a Herculean effort. We could not afford employees and were working for no pay, well sometimes cheap Thai lunches. The only way out of bankruptcy was to find a cheaper location for our store which would match our monthly profit, develop a website and hope that by increasing sales by 7 to 10 percent, we could have a chance of survival.” MUSH, an acronym for Most Uniquely Styled Homes, moved to a different location, only to close that shop also. By the end of 2011, MUSH was operating out of a home office and selling through fairs, flea markets and websites. The owners continued to seek an affordable storefront. In 2013, Todorov and Van der Heijden secured a location in the trending Silverlake neighborhood. “Our new shop measured 450 square feet with virtually no storage area, and we had to overhaul our whole business model to fit our new reality.” The storefront is now their boutique outlet, which features jewelry ranging from very fun and affordable to expensive designer pieces, including vintage and contemporary art and a curated selection of antiques, vintage collectibles, one-of-a-kinds and home decorations. “Our reputation and business relations made it possible to still keep a functional furniture retail and rental business through our website,” says Emmanuel. Most of their furniture is shipped directly from their suppliers, saving on warehouse costs. In 2014, 30 percent of revenues came from these online sales. Our new focus and direction seems to have been well chosen as we measured a 10 percent sales increase since last year, and we are hoping for even better results this year.”     This article was written by Gillian Burdett for Small Business Pulse   For more tips and inspiration for small business owners, visit Small Business Pulse Los Angeles.