In its new, 24,000-square-foot store on 4th Street in Santa Monica, modern furniture and home decor retailer West Elm not only doubled the size of the space, it also doubled down on its commitment to supporting local artists and makers.
The super-sized digs will feature the work of 26 California-based artisans (like designer Eric Trine, A Question of Eagles, Nickel Designs, Janel Foo Glassworks and Margins) within the store’s merchandise offering, and will be the first West Elm nationwide to host an in-house, small-business residency program.
The small-business owners chosen for the 30-day residencies will receive retail space within the store, and free help setting up. They will be in charge of their own point of sale and will not pay a percentage of profit to their corporate benefactor. “We think of it as a complement to our ‘Local’ program,” said West Elm spokesperson Dru Ortega in reference to the company’s commitment to include locally made merchandise within each store. “We took a hard look at how we could evolve that program,” said Ortega, “and really be a place where small businesses and artisans can incubate new ideas, grow their business and most importantly learn from our retail experience how to take their business to the next level.”
Keeping customers happy is the name of the game. “We found that customers really love to add a touch of their hometown into their space,” said Ortega.
West Elm hopes customers will also respond to the thrill of discovering a new local artist and take part in in-store workshops led by the makers. “There’s an interactive component,” said Ortega, “something consumers can be excited about participating in. … The idea is to continuously offer that surprise and delight element of coming into our stores … and giving our customers a reason to come back and check in with us.”
“The store is so beautiful,” said Brooks, “it’s right by the ocean, with the ocean breezes coming in — I’m so happy to go first and be the first person to do it, to try it.”
A former television producer, Brooks will be offering candle-making workshops within her space ($40) alongside her line of Journey Candles, body polishes, silk sleep masks and lavender-scented pillow sprays. She hopes to share the powerful message of intention and self care during the time spent teaching her craft.
“I tell my story,” said Brooks, a breast cancer “survivor and thriver,” about her workshop process, “then I move on to ‘What is your story? How do you want to see yourself grow? What’s your next phase?’”
Her message: Don’t wait for something bad to happen to think about what you really want out of life.
“It’s an incredible opportunity,” said Brooks of her retail residency, “and I’m doing everything I can to make it count and share my message because I’ve never had a platform like this and it’s fun, and it’s moving. … I feel such gratitude.”
Coppersmith, a full-time artist who designs high-end, industrial-inspired marquee lights out of recycled construction-waste wood said, “I feel very grateful, and lucky at the same time.”
“The promise of publicity is huge,” he said. “I sold a piece within two days [of the store opening].” Until now, Coppersmith has sold his designs mostly through word of mouth.
“West Elm supports local artists in a genuine way,” Coppersmith said. “I researched other artists who had been featured in their catalog and they’ve done really well by them. So they have a good track record … and that was important to me.”
For local artists and entrepreneurs looking to score a similar opportunity, Jennifer Gootman, vice president of social consciousness and innovation for West Elm, said makers should submit an inquiry to WELocal@WSGC.com. Local leads within each store decide who will best authentically represent the community.
What are they looking for, exactly? “Beautiful design, a great quality product … a strong mission orientation and a great story … we want to be able to bring the best products to our customers,” said Gootman.
West Elm, Santa Monica
Where: 1433 4th St., Santa Monica
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to p.m. Sundays.