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1 Shop, 2 Owners, 60+ Independent Designers: fruitsuper’s JOIN Shop in Seattle

12.05.17 | By
1 Shop, 2 Owners, 60+ Independent Designers: fruitsuper’s JOIN Shop in Seattle
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Seattle-based fruitsuper is no stranger here on Design Milk as we love them for their modern spin on everyday items (which they’ve shown as part of our Milk Stand in the past). The duo behind fruitsuper, Sallyann Corn and Joe Kent, founded their studio in 2008 and nine years later, we’re excited that they’ve opened up their first brick and mortar location. JOIN Shop now lives in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood and carries an incredible selection from the JOIN Design Collective, a community of more than 60 independent designers and makers in Seattle.

Sallyann and Joe juggle multiple hats as they designed, own, operate, curate and manage the JOIN Shop, and that’s in addition to their roles as designers! Their goal with the new store is to showcase American-made objects that celebrate design, craftsmanship, community and the stories behind the objects. The shop carries homewares, stationery, jewelry and gifts – all hand-selected personally by Sallyann and Joe – and will also serve as a venue for trunk shows, launch parties and workshop events. To put it lightly, the duo have their hands full! We got the chance to chat with them about their new role as shop-owners and some of the awesome items they carry in store. Spoiler alert: read on to find out what exciting news they have coming down the line…

Why did you pick this storefront?

In a way, it picked us! South Lake Union is currently one of the fastest transitioning neighborhoods in Seattle. Our building is located in the midst of a rapidly developing residential and commercial area. The building development company knew the rich history of JOIN Design and wanted to fill the ground level spaces with local businesses. They felt a brick and mortar manifestation of our Collective could really add unique character to this burgeoning neighborhood.

Where did you get the name for the store?

The name Join Shop (or Shop Join) is an extension of the nearly 10-year old JOIN Design Collective, a group of like-minded, independent studios that share the same values. We wanted the name to be simple, playful, and immediately understandable.

Has it changed much since it opened? How?

Yes! When we opened the Shop in April we featured nearly 30 independent makers, artists, and designers. Since we’ve opened, we have now grown to proudly feature works from over 60 studios. Having this brick and mortar location continues to expand our creative community and provide a new platform for featuring small and upcoming design studios, something that has always been at the core of JOIN’s mission.

What’s one of the challenges you have with the business?

One of the core values of the collective and our studio has always been working with studios and makers that produce in the USA. As an extension of both, we knew that the shop had to exclusively feature American made wares. As we started to round out the curation of the shop we realized we faced a few tricky challenges in finding the right merchandise that would fit all of our criteria. Objects that are well made, from independent studios, made domestically, well priced, and high design. It was more challenging than we first realized but has proved to be a challenge worth taking on! It’s forced us to find new makers and studios and product collections made domestically.

Another challenge we’ve discovered (in our city and neighborhood especially) is emphasizing to our audience the importance of supporting a brick and mortar retailer. Competing with online shopping has been an interesting but rewarding challenge. It’s forced us to be creative in our storytelling, our events, our outreach and our in store experience. We put heavy emphasis on telling the amazing stories of each of the objects in our collection.

What other stores have you worked in before opening this one?

Over the last decade, we’ve hosted pop-ups in various cities across the country (Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and more). We’ve had amazing opportunities to curate, collaborate, and partner with the SF MOMA store, Poketo, studio e gallery, and Foundry Vineyards to name a few. After so many pop-ups and temporary events over the past decade, it’s amazing to have this permanent platform!

What’s your favorite item in the store right now? 

Currently, we’re really loving some of the items with rich backstories, such as the hand-carved wooden chopsticks from HANK by Henry or the leather Cord Keepers from Mavro/Tawny. Throughout the shop, we try and balance handcrafted without being crafty: quality-made objects that show the hand of the maker that are skillfully made with lasting materials, and most importantly, contain rich anecdotes as beautiful as the objects themselves.

What is this season’s theme?

We’re inspired by the authentic experience of the farmers market and have worked to create a similar in-store experience. Creating a maker-to-object experience, similar to farm-to-table. Connecting customers to the makers, the stories, and the process behind the objects in our shop. Each Saturday since we opened, we’ve featured one of our #JOINshopMakers via Instagram. Sharing their studio origin stories, their process, and what inspires them—giving insights into how and why these objects came to be. We’re so inspired by the stories behind the creative process and the objects we surround ourselves with on a daily basis and love having the opportunity to share them!

Are you carrying any new products and/or undiscovered gems you’re particularly excited about?

Absolutely! One of our favorite features in the shop is our gallery wall. We carry limited-edition and exclusive prints from amazing designers such as Gabriel Stromberg (who worked with Civilization to design our Shop branding), Brian Farrell, Apartment on Belmont and Honey & Bloom. Our selection of prints range in scale, printing method, style and price range. An artist print is such an accessible and introductory way to start bringing art into your home.

What’s been a consistent best seller?

We’ve noticed that the playful, functional, and colorful continue to resonate with our customers. Our biggest sellers have been the fun trio of Anywhere Vases by fruitsuper and stationery from Apartment on Belmont. A set of Anywhere Vases makes a perfect gift (especially when paired with a bouquet from our shop neighbors at Verde & Co) and the illustrations for the cards and prints from Apartment on Belmont are so sweet and lovely they’re irresistible.

Does the store have its own line?

Not technically, but since our store is owned and operated by us, the shop serves as a headquarters that also features our full product line. In addition, the Join Shop features a wide-selection from some of the anchor and founding studios of JOIN such as Grain, Melanie Abrantes, Pigeon Toe, and History+Industry.

Any special events/exhibits/pop ups/collaborations coming up?

Since we opened, we have tried to host at least one event per month. Whether it’s workshops like spoon carving or watercolors, Meet the Makers, trunk shows, product launch parties or collaborations with fellow businesses and makers, the events serve as a wonderful way to further bridge our creative communities. This holiday season we’ll be hosting multiple events connecting our customers and makers with festive cheer!

Do you have anything from the store in your own home? 

Yes! People often ask us how we have found the makers we carry and what our process is for curating the shop. We are extremely fortunate to have so many dear friends that are talented, passionate, who also happen to make beautiful objects! The shop is both a representation of what we have in our own home, and the amazing, creative friends we surround ourselves with.

What’s next for you and your store?

We’ve just had the amazing opportunity to open a second shop location in Walla Walla, WA as an amazing partnership with Foundry Vineyards. Our new location is located within a Winery Tasting Room and Gallery space, the perfect pairing of Art+Wine+Design. We love dreaming big, and are currently scheming on our next potential collaborations, events, and locations.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned since opening your store?

We’ve remembered the amazing feeling of actually connecting with customers. Making real-life connections and hearing feedback and stories has been so refreshing: as owners of our own design studio, being Managing Members of JOIN Design and now store owners, it’s easy to get lost in our daily to-do lists, caught up in digital connections and sometimes forget why we’re working so hard in the first place. Creating and curating objects for people to discover and treasure is the most delightfully satisfying feeling.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to follow a similar path to yours, what would it be?

Have a strong mission statement that can serve as your anchor. The day-to-day tasks for maintaining and operating a shop can be overwhelming and it’s easy to lose track of your core values along the way. Before we opened, we tasked ourselves to write a manifesto for our shop. Since the first day we opened we’ve got it proudly displayed on one of our walls to remind us on a daily basis why we’re doing what we’re doing: “We are a community of designers, makers, and artists. We believe in creating objects with stories, getting our hands dirty, and taking pride in what we make. Join Shop supports small studios that proudly make their wares in the USA.

Want to visit JOIN Shop? Head to 400 Fairview Ave N, Suite 102 Seattle, WA 98109.

Photos by Krista Welch.

As the Lifestyle editor, Vy Yang is obsessed with discovering ways to live well + with intention through design. She's probably sharing what she finds over on Instagram stories. You can also find her at vytranyang.com.