While I was in Austin for SXSW, I stopped by a cute little boutique in the South Austin area called Nannie Inez. Owned and operated by Deeyn Rhodes and Lonzo Jackson, the shop features modern but whimsical furniture, decor and lifestyle items from some great contemporary designers such as Austin local Alyson Fox, MacMaster Lighting, Room 39, Donna Wilson, SCP, Rob Ryan, and Het Paradijs. The duo hand-picks everything for the store so that it feels fresh. Besides the product, the interior itself is a nice work of design. Clarissa Hulsey Bailey of Ecru Moderne was the interior designer, and she also created the fixtures. The shelves and cash wrap were built by Kenneth Atkisson. The piece on the ceiling, polygons and the structure over the cash wrap were built by Christian Klein of Drophouse Design.
I spoke with Lonzo quite a bit about the shop while I was there, but I wanted to reconnect with both of them again and find out more so that I could share it with you in a special Design Store(y). They agreed to a fun interview punctuated with my photos of the shop and illustrations created by Brooklyn artist Lindsay Mound, who used to work with Deeyn in the fashion industry and was an integral part of the shop’s initial visual marketing.
Why did you decide to open a store?
Deeyn: Before opening Nannie Inez, I worked in luxury fashion and am so thankful for having had the opportunity to work for some amazing designers. Being around beautiful product and knowing the care and thought that went into the development of a collection, it just does something for me. I love seeking out interesting products and there is nothing I love more than helping another person find something for themselves that they find truly delightful.
Without a doubt the biggest influence in my design aesthetic was the time I spent working for Paul Smith and Mulberry; and living in London. There is something about English design that is methodical but not serious. There is a playful and whimsical sense that I absolutely love and this element is ever present at Nannie Inez.
It took a few years before the store finally opened its doors. What was the process like?
Deeyn: Well, for the first year we did some serious research to get a pretty clear idea on our opening expenses as well as operating costs. We researched everything from rent, utilities, internet, insurance, graphic design, web development, photography, marketing, products, shipping, POS systems, packaging, interior design costs etc.
Meanwhile we kept up the search for designers and pitching our concept to them. We were very lucky that all of our absolute favorite designers have been willing to work with us considering we are such a new store. We intended to research and plan for the first year and then sign a lease but finding a location was extremely difficult. It took us an additional two years to find the right space. This was very frustrating but in hindsight it was a blessing. We had time to fine tune our concept and test the market with a pop up shop that we did last year in collaboration with another local retailer.
What’s the story behind the name Nannie Inez?
Deeyn: Nannie Inez was the name of my paternal grandmother. She was always very meticulous about her aesthetic. Her hair was always perfect, clothing perfectly ironed, her home was always super clean and decorated perfectly. She was a gardener both for flowers and vegetables and her meals were no joke. Lonzo and I had lived away from Texas for almost 10 years and something about moving back made choosing the name Nannie Inez feel like a true homecoming.
What’s it like running a business with your partner?
Deeyn: It’s actually very cool. I trust that he really gets it and I know that we are both totally committed to the project. We both have our strengths and there is little cross over in those areas so we are both able to own certain parts of the business. I am a little more emotional and it works to our benefit for something like selecting products. I only go for things that I absolutely love. There is a down side to that and in those times I sincerely appreciate his even-keel personality.
Lonzo: We have been developing this shop together for several years, so we trust one another to make business decisions that don’t lose sight of the original concept. We have a mutual respect for each other’s opinions and skills. We both know how hard the other has worked to get to this point, and no matter how stressful it gets, one of us is always there to remind the other to appreciate that we have an opportunity to do something that we really love.
How do you go about selecting what’s in the store?
Lonzo: To be honest we don’t have what I would call a strategic plan to selecting the pieces we sell. The original motivation for opening our shop remains today, which is how can we communicate the positive experiences we feel from creativity. We look for creative inspiration in many different places and forms, for example it could be an art exhibition, a film, a song, or garden. These experiences are usually the start of what eventually makes it into the shop. Once we have this inspiration, the next stop is usually the interweb.
Deeyn: We both spend more time online than I care to admit. We are both constantly reading blogs, magazines etc. We travel quite a bit and this seems to be the best way to find something new. There are always trade shows which we attend but I try not to focus on that too heavily as these items can be very readily available. Additionally, I try to stay very strict with things that fall within our concept. With every single item in the shop, I ask myself if this belongs in Nannie Inez or in X shop? Having worked in fashion, I love the whole idea of what makes a brand and how people experience a brand. I’ve been having the conversation about whether or not something is on brand since I was an intern so it’s natural that this carries over into our own endeavor.
We have developed a certain aesthetic for Nannie Inez but we have to be discerning when buying. We can’t take a blanket approach and say for example, oh are there triangles in the design… we’ll take it.
Why did you choose this particular location?
Lonzo: As is often the case with a dream, we have big ideas on a limited budget, so property and renovation costs were major factors. We knew the importance of location, but we decided early on that if a compromise had to be made between the location or the interior design, then we would spend less on our location. With a little patience, and luck, we eventually found our current space. Being new to the area, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. Prior to deciding we spent some time hanging out in the area, visiting its food trailers, coffee shops, boutiques, and music stores. We immediately liked the shop owners and people we met. This part of South Austin is known Bouldin Creek and the community is made up of a unique collection of Austinites who maintain an understated creativity and worldiness. Our local customers include artist, students, musicians, entrepreneurs, and professionals from all over the world. They are polite, but have a strong opinion of what they like, and don’t like. This level of authenticity motivates us to thoughtfully select all of the pieces we carry.
Deeyn: Although we are fairly central, we are a bit of a destination. Recently we had a Londoner stop in while visiting Austin. His wife had found us online and told him he had to stop in while here. So, If someone from London can find us, I have faith that other Austinites can find us!
Do you have a favorite artist or particular product that you carry?
Deeyn: I really love everything in the store but my favorites are Donna Wilson, Hazel Nicholls prints, the MacMaster Iris Pendant lighting, and everything from Hay. Right now we are both a little obsessed with the Zuzunanga throws we just received. The are so soft and vibrant and I’ve never seen anything quite like the bitmap design.
Do you have some of the pieces you carry in your own home?
Deeyn: Oh yes. Definitely a Donna Wilson pouffe and a few cushions. I also love our Aimee Wilder Analog nights print and Hay bedding. We are currently renovating our house so we’ve been pretty strict not to buy too much for ourselves but once the reno is complete, the Macmaster Iris Pendant, the neon Array pendant and Drum ottoman from Bend are coming home with us for sure.
Do you think down the line you might launch your own Nannie Inez brand of product?
Deeyn: Definitely. We have a few items in the shop now that are Nannie Inez pieces like the refurbished Louis chair in a mix of Designers Guild fabric (the absolute best fabric in my opinion!). However I love finding new designers and in some way supporting them in their craft. I value the knowledge and skills of other designers so I can’t imagine our Nannie Inez collection would ever be the majority of our offering but I can definitely see us growing our in house brand.
Visit Nannie Inez at 2210 S 1st St. Austin, TX 78704.
Illustrations by Lindsay Mound and photos by Jaime Derringer.