In a character-filled, old, sunny warehouse in Lincoln Park on the north side of Chicago, there’s a business that is edgy, worldly, and well… positively chic. “ Jayson Home has a warm, sensual, textured feel,” says Creative Director Caroline Scheeler. “It’s the kind of store that friends meet up at, and hang out, while they’re shopping. While our store, our brand, is ever evolving, it has always stayed true to its roots… That is: authentic, unique, chic, classic, and unexpected.”
Jayson Home has established itself as a destination store, but also continues to spread its wings in the ever-expanding online space. “We’re really a small business that has a national and global presence because of our website, editorial placement, blogs, marketing and advertising,” explains Scheeler. “Because we’re a small business, we can shape-shift our product mixes seasonally and yearly, buying as we like, of course with our very savvy clientele in mind.”
For many businesses these days, e-commerce has been the path most commonly chosen, and Scheeler believes that its rapid rise to fame has gone a long way in raising the retail bar. “You really have to be on your toes, more than ever,” she says. “Not only are our customers savvy, shoppers are savvy. I think in creating a website as a truly interesting, exciting retail shopping experience is a real challenge,” she says. “For us, the challenge is in conveying the theater, the drama that people love about our store. There’s really only so much warmth and fuzziness you can convey on a screen. But, I do think we’re pretty successful at doing just that!”
That warm, fuzzy feeling that Jayson Home creates online, and offline, is really why this remarkable store has made its mark. This, for instance, is just one happy customer talking about the store online…
“I must explain the awesomeness that is this store, because you have to visit all the different areas. When you enter the main building, all the merchandise really delights you…. and your nose! This main part of the store has really cool/funky furniture, accessories and gifts, all very unique – I buy a ton of gifts here. It also has fresh cut flowers, along with a wonderful selection of candles, so the whole room is wonderfully fragrant. Be sure to visit the outlet store in the basement where you can get huge discounts on off-season items, plus slightly imperfect items.”
This infatuated regular customer goes on to say… “The next area is outdoors, where Jayson sells seasonal merchandise – in the fall it’s a pumpkin patch, in the winter it’s a Christmas tree lot; the rest of the year it’s plants and garden accessories. I hardly have a green thumb, but I love meandering here anyway.”
Jay Goltz, founder and owner of Jayson Home, and not to mention self-proclaimed ‘business artist’, is the man behind the name, and as Scheeler says, “the success of the store follows the belief that it’s as equally important to be responsible within a business model, as it is to be creative.”
Goltz opened a picture framing business in 1978, right after finishing college. His business grew quickly, and before he knew it, it was twenty times the size of the average framing business, making it the largest in the U.S. After gaining so much first-hand experience in retail, Goltz wrote a book – ‘The Street Smart Entrepreneur: 133 Tough Lessons I Learned the Hard Way’, now translated into three languages. Goltz also blogs for The New York Times (check out “You’re the Boss”) and is a popular business speaker.
Caroline started with the company in 1993. “Jay has always supported my vision. A couple of years after I started, I realized there was such potential with this company,” she explains. “The home furnishings retail business was beginning to blossom, so we struck while the iron was hot. Jay’s fresh entrepreneurial spirit struck a chord with me, and I decided this was a good, inspiring, and happy place for me. I have found a personal balance between being creative and, to my surprise, learning a lot about business along the way!”
The joy that Scheeler and Goltz gain from Jayson Home is obvious, not just in their words, but in the impact the store has on its visitors. “We just want to bring things here that are exactly what we know our customers would like, and then to also bring in some product that is a bit of a risk – a surprise,” Scheeler says. “I think that’s what people love about our store – a mix of classic and elegance with a little bit of edge.”
Yes, it has international attention, but Jayson Home has certainly found a loving physical home, and with it a loyal following in Lincoln Park. Scheeler could not be more proud when she explains how this store sprung from this once grungy part of Chicago. “Chicago is a city with a grounded, self-confident sophistication. There is such a diverse mix of culture, art, architecture, design and people, that quietly filters into our brand,” says Scheeler. “We are who we are because of where we are. We love this city, and we love to get out and about, and then bring it all back home! I think that kind of wanderlust; nomad-centric aesthetic is in large part what people have loved about our brand. They rely on us to travel the markets and dark warehouses and dusty roads to cull through everything and bring back an edited collection for them to add to their own experience.”
So what can other retailers learn from the Jayson Home experience? How can a retailer help their customers when it comes to decorating their homes? Scheeler thinks it boils down to gathering things with which you feel a connection. “You can never go wrong if you do just that,” she says. “My home does not look designed – it looks collected, and very lived in. While I live in a very traditional home in these parts, it is littered with things from all over this world – from Africa to Sweden, and India to Japan.” She sums up the Jayson experience: “I think that’s what people respond to in our store – it feels like an adventure. You can’t take it all in one fell swoop – you have to look at the details. It tells a story and makes you want to sit and stay awhile. So it feels like home.”
To learn more about Jayson Home, visit www.jaysonhome.com.