Interview by Kaui Awong
For Marie Owens Mull, it has been a whirlwind of an experience since first opening the doors to Owens & Co. last March. Located in the Chinatown Arts District on Nu‘uanu Avenue, the boutique offers an eclectic mix of home accessories and unique gifts. This Friday, Apr. 20, Owens & Co. will be hosting a party in celebration of its first birthday open to the public. The event will include trunk shows, drinks, snacks and a 20% discount for the night. We caught up with Marie to ask about what the last year has been like.
Kaui: Since first opening, how was the company grown? Has the style changed or evolved in any way?
Marie Owens Mull: That’s a really interesting question. I had a firm vision of exactly what the store was going to look like from the day we opened our doors last year until today, but the reality of running a brick-and-mortar retail space—and any business for that matter—is that things will inherently change as you get to know your customer better. When we first opened the doors to the store last year, we put a focus on refurbished furniture pieces and home accessory items. Although we sold through all of the furniture pieces, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the bulk of our business was going to be centered around accessories and gifts. That being said, we sometimes carry refurbished pieces and have plans to do a few more, but the majority of our focus is now honed on smaller-scale unique gift items and home accessories. We’re also in the process of adding more locally-made lines to satiate the recent influx of tourists visiting Owens & Co. Long story short, in my opinion, being successful means being able to have a focus on what you want to do, but also being able to adapt to the market and your customer.
What motivated you to first want to open the shop?
In the back of my mind, I’ve always envisioned myself owning my own business, but the actual catalyst that set the wheels in motion has a really interesting story. I was working for a clothing company in Ala Moana called Theory and, like so many other businesses during the recession, they closed their storefront in Honolulu and I was out of a job. It turned out it was actually a blessing in disguise. With some extra time on my hands, I was able to do some serious thinking and I decided that it was as good a time as any to go for it and open up my own store. After almost a year of planning and searching for the perfect space, Owens & Co. opened its doors.
How would you describe the vibe of Owens & Co.?
You hear the word “eclectic” a lot when it comes to describing boutiques, but that word really rings true when it comes to Owens & Co. I want the store to have a really unique feel to it, so when you walk in the door, you’re immediately transplanted to a place that makes you feel something. I think there are a lot of ways that you can achieve that in a retail setting; you have to appeal to people with more than just the merchandise. Everything from the way the store is laid out to the way it smells to what’s on our playlist, we want our customers to really “feel” something when they come inside. As far as the actual merchandise is concerned, when I’m looking for things to carry, I envision my ideal customer—when I say “ideal” I’m not referring to someone who spends a lot of money, but someone who represents what our store is about—and I try and put myself in their shoes. I’m a firm believer that you can get into trouble in retail, and just about everything else for that matter, when you don’t define yourself. When you try and become something for everyone, you don’t appeal to anyone.
What does celebrating Owens & Co.’s first birthday mean to you?
To be honest, I can’t believe it’s been a year already. It’s definitely a milestone and we’re gonna have a great time celebrating, but come Monday, it’s back to work. I don’t want to get ahead of myself with the backslapping and all, but I’d like to keep my eye on improving the store, growing the business, and having the time of my life while doing it.
What exactly will be going down at Owens & Co. on Friday night for the birthday party?
We’re so excited to be hosting three jewelry trunk shows for the evening. Local designers Justine Jones, Amanda Watkins of A.Wattz, and Allison Fujita of Gem Parfait will be showing their latest collections. Guests can enjoy 20% off of the trunk show items as well as everything else in the shop. And of course, we’ll be toasting the night with a few drinks, nibbles, and some good music with our customers and friends. I’m happy to announce there will be cake! Otto Cake will be providing us with some sweet treats for the evening.
Now that you’ve reached the one-year marker, what are your plans and hopes for the future of Owens & Co.?
At Owens & Co. we’ve got a couple of projects that we’re working on right now. We’re not quite at the stage yet where I’m ready to say what they are, but I think our customers are going to be really excited when we unveil them. In the meantime, I’d like to continue improving the store, hopefully spend a little more time at the beach, and never forget how lucky I am to have my dream job in the ever-unique and charming Chinatown.