Hi all! Retro Rita here to introduce you to Karla and Karrie, The Summer Kitchen Girls!
(The Summer Kitchen Girls' logo is an homage to their grandmothers. They've named them Norma (brunette) and Betty (blonde)!)
Karla and Karrie own an amzing shop in Helena, Ohio filled with all sorts of gorgeous floral designs, furniture, glassware, pottery, vintage reproduction pieces, vintage accessories, retro CDs, tea blends, French jams, hand selected books, and gorgeous vintage accessories for the home. The Girls also host a beautiful and fun blog, one of Retro Revival's favorites.
Retro Rita: Tell us about your shop.
Summer Kitchen Girls: Hmmmm. Well, it's an experience. Seeing: We love to make over-the-top displays and use our merchandise in creative ways. Smelling: A great candle is always burning. Hearing: Always some great, old music playing on the iPod. Give us Dean, Frank, Doris and Ella any day! And tasting: Every day we make a big carafe of tea from our tea company for our customers to enjoy.
Our shop started off as a floral shop with a few gifts. When Karla joined in the fun, we started adding more home decor items. Then a few years ago, we started sneaking in vintage items. It blew us away that people loved this ~ we were selling "junk" ~ gasp! Sales reps would come in a give us strange looks, and when we told other businesses what we were doing they thought we were crazy! But it worked. The vintage items really fit in well with the mood of our store.
(Karla and Karrie with some of their product. Funny story about suitcases...they love them! Karla's been know to dumpster dive for treasures. One day she found some cute turquoise suitcases by a dumpster, grabbed them and took them home. She was hoping for some good loot inside and she found some. But not the kind she wanted ~ they were full of VHS porn movies. Yikes! She returned the loot to the dumpster and they still laugh about that to this day.)
Retro Rita: What's new in 2012 for The Summer Kitchen?The Summer Kitchen Girls: Late last summer we purchased the tea company we were using. We are starting to come up with our own blends and would like to start doing more with this aspect of the business. Another goal for this year is to get our online store up and running ~ we are really looking forward to this!
Retro Rita: How did you get your start in this business?
The Summer Kitchen Girls: Do you want the long version or the short version?! Karrie started The Summer Kitchen in the old summer kitchen behind our parent's home when she came back from college in 1995. Focusing on floral design and a few gifts, the shop grew out of its space and we had a pole barn built to house the store. Karla joined the store in 1999.
Retro Rita: Tell us about the other services you offer.
The Summer Kitchen Girls: We try to host fun classes every month for our customers. We have classes on everything from making the perfect pie crust to making delicious pestos. There are creative classes like making holiday cookbooks and shadow boxes with your treasures. Then we have our learning classes where we host tea tastings to showcase some of our teas, and accessorizing classes where we show our customers how to decorate using vintage and new items together. We do interior design for our customers as well.
(The Girls' Cookie Cookbook class)
Retro Rita: How does your business affect local charitable organizations and why is this important to you?The Summer Kitchen Girls: As with any business, we are asked to donate money to many auctions for charities throughout the year. We donate when we can; however, we have some charities that we want to do more for. It's not always convenient to just write out a check for $400-$800. So how do you take $150 and make it grow? You host a tea party! Every February we host a "Have a Heart for Heartbeat" Tea Party for Heartbeat of Sandusky County. We sell 20 tickets for a sit down, four course tea party in our store. It's so fun! Guests are seated at tables that are nestled in our displays throughout the store. It is amazing what this tea brings in ~ and it is so nice to hand Heartbeat a big check!
(Tea time at The Summer Kitchen Girls!)
Retro Rita: Apart from running your shop, what do you do and what are your interests?The Summer Kitchen Girls: Sometimes our interests are just running the shop! It is amazing how much of our day is consumed by the details of running the store. Mondays are "our" day. Most of them are spent running around the countryside together, some days with mom or good junkin' buddies. When we have time, we love going to estate sales and flea markets.
(Estate sale finds are abundant in the shop)
Retro Rita: What is it like to run a business as sisters and what's the best thing about it?The Summer Kitchen Girls: We see each other every day...we think that's a good thing!
Retro Rita: Your small business is certainly a creative one. What does shopping at small businesses mean to you and why should people patronize small businesses?The Summer Kitchen Girls: Small businesses care more ~ so much more than any big box store ever can! We are constantly bettering ourselves ~ we continue to evolve into a different store day by day. Small businesses know their customers better than the cashier that is ringing you up at Target! We fight for your business and want to keep you happier than the big chains. We search and find the most unique things that you won't find at other stores. Heck, we even shop other stores to make sure we aren't purchasing things that the big chains have...you don't see them doing that! You know, when we do get out and go shopping, we never think about going to Target, Wal-Mart, TJ Maxx, etc. We always choose an antique store and little businesses in towns scattered across the country. Patronizing small businesses is so important to our economy. Many people don't realize that tax money spent in small stores stays in their counties when they shop local merchants. We were so thrilled to join with the 350 Project; they educate consumers on just what it means to shop local. We also love supporting our surrounding merchants. We constantly share with customers all of the lovely shops that are just trying to make a difference ~ just like we are.
Retro Rita: What are your hopes and aspirations for your business and where do you see yourself in the future?
The Summer Kitchen Girls: Oh, there was one point when we wanted to be, well, famous. You get on some blogs and websites, you see stores in trade magazines and think wow! You know what? It takes a lot of work...and over time, once in a while, you see those admired businesses close.
We are really hopping that we can get things together (translation: find time!) to finish our shopping cart for our website. We have had to take a long, hard look at our business to see what we really need to do and what not to do. When you own a business, you want to be everyting for everyone when you first begin. Then you figure out that you just can't do that so you fine-tune what it is that you do best.
(The Girls' van full of vintage finds for the store)
Retro Rita: What handmade possession do you most cherish?The Summer Kitchen Girls: When we graduated from school, our grandma Norma crocheted blankets for all of us grandkids. How many people have something their grandma made for them? Not everyone has that ~ a cherished keepsake!
Retro Rita: What is your favorite indulgence that you use to treat yourself?
The Summer Kitchen Girls: Flea markets, good ones with tons of vintage goodness ~ ohhh yea! And chocolate covered caramel pretzels (from our local candy-making store, Coco Beans). Oh, and we do like a good pedicure once in a while.
Retro Rita: What would you do if you won a ba-zillion dollars?
The Summer Kitchen Girls: We would definitely get a cottage. Well wait! A ba-zillion? OK, we'd get two cottages and have a blast decorating them thrift-i-ly, after all, a cottage is just that. We crack up when we go along Lake Erie and see all of those mansions that people call summer cottages...whatever! A cottage, well, is humble, you know?!
(The front of The Girls' shop has a cottage feel)
After our cottage purchases, and our thrifting, we might consider a trip to France, you know, to hit up a few more flea markets. Then, well, we'd take our remaining balance and give it away. Do you think bad of us? Maybe we shold have said that first?!
Retro Rita: I do hope all of you readers will pay a visit to The Girls in Ohio! And visit their blog ~ so full of eye candy!
And don't forget about Retro Revival's February blog giveaway, this fabu apron!
Only five entries to date so you have a good chance of winning! Click here for details. Drawing is February 29th ~ good luck!