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Guest Column

Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce Member Spotlight – Garage Collective

By J.J. Ballesteros, President of LB Chamber of Commerce

Owner Kristin Lewis started from her garage doing pop-ups in 2015 and manages a space where artists, makers, and creatives collaborate and inspire each other. The Garage Collective is where you can discover unique home goods and gifts you may not find anywhere else. With a real eye for fashion, we sit down with Kristin to find out why her store has become successful despite the challenges most home goods and gift stores face. 

J.J. Ballesteros: How did the Garage Collection come to be?

Kristin Lewis: I have always had an interest in fashion and design, specifically interiors. In 2015, I read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and to say I was inspired would be an understatement. The book, which I have read about four times since then, talks about creative living and not allowing your fear of failure (and other fears, insert list of a hundred other fears here) hold you back from doing what you want to do. It also talks about inspiration and acting on an idea. I reached out to a couple extremely talented friends to see if they would be interested in doing pop-ups out of our garages and the Garage Collective was born. For a year we transformed my garage and a couple other locations into a store. We also began to do pop-ups with local businesses. Each of us offered a unique product. I specialized in rugs, textiles, pottery, and leather. 

It currently still maintains that collaborative environment. When I opened the shop, I wanted to expand my product lines, and you can’t be good at everything.  I found women in my same position. They were makers and wanted to branch out from doing only pop-ups or online to the retail aspect of business. So in essence, their shop is within my shop. They rent shelf space for a specific time and eventually are rotated out with new makers so that the products change.  Some of them also work in the space and use it as their creative time, which allows them to connect with their customers and curate their products. In addition to sharing in overhead, we also collaborate and support one another.

Laguna Beach store

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J.J. Ballesteros and Kristin Lewis, owner of Garage Collective 

JB: Why did you join the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce?

KL: I joined the Chamber in order to connect with other local businesses.  The Chamber offers amazing networking, education, and services for the local businesses to help us not only succeed but thrive.

JB: How has joining the Chamber benefited you and The Garage Collective?

KL: In addition to meeting other local entrepreneurs, the Chamber assisted me during an extended period of construction in front of my store. I was unable to get any information regarding the scope of work and length of time our parking would be affected. Paula and J.J. from the Chamber were a crucial part of me getting a response, working with the city to mitigate the impact on my business, and most importantly, they advocated for me.

JB: Can you tell us something fun about your shop people may not be aware of?

KL: We currently offer more than just amazing home goods and gifts, we offer a community. We host monthly women’s networking and business groups as well as a local co-working day, workshops, and private events. 

JB: How do you compete with other stores that offer online services?

KL: Customer service! It is the only thing that we can offer, being a small local store, that other companies can’t. We spend time with our customers to find their needs and offer resources, design help, tips and tricks.

JB: What is it about Laguna that made you want to open up your store here?

KL: I am a Laguna Beach native. I grew up in Laguna, attended the local schools, and currently live in town. I want to offer our community something that we don’t currently have, a unique and affordable curated approach to decorating.  As well as a place that you can grab a cup of coffee, meet a friend, and hang out in one of our outdoor lounge areas, or attend an event/workshop or networking group.

JB: Do you have any advice for other stores competing in today’s retail environment?

KL: The riches are in the niches. Find your niche, know your customer, and provide them value. Also use available free resources like Instagram. Instagram is an amazing free marketing tool. It has been a huge part of growing my community, connecting with my customers, and increasing online sales. There are tons of amazing resources out there like Later. I highly recommend you find one.

The Garage Collective is located at 1524 S Coast Hwy, across from the Surf and Sand Hotel. For more information, call (949) 371-6049.


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