Meet A Touch of Dutch located in Coupeville, WA. They are one of our amazing customers and we want to thank Bas and Janine for sharing with us some information about their store. Be sure to check them out next time you are in Coupeville, WA and YAY! A Touch of Dutch!
What do you do in your store to nurture your community culture?
We nurture our community culture in many ways. Firstly, the store has been there for 20 years, so it is a fixture in the community. Starting 20 years ago as a Dutch shop (hence the name “A Touch Of Dutch”), it has since expanded into products from Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland and various other countries. For a lot of our customers it’s simply a joy to see and experience the various items and foods from “back home” or that their parents or grandparents introduced them to. We try to carry everything that people can’t get easily, most of it being food. I find not only are people grateful, but they are extremely excited to be able to find products that remind them of their childhood/grandparents/the ‘old country’ etc. We also do special orders. A lot of our clientele is retired, so they appreciate someone else doing the work for them. It is also an ‘outing’ for a lot of families. Grandparents bring in their grandchildren to educate them on what our products are, how you eat them, how to pronounce it, and tell stories from their own childhood. Some of our customers have to drive 2-5 hours to reach us, so we take keeping our products in stock very seriously.
It is also located in the original post office from 1938, so people look at it fondly just for the fact that it is still in use, and that we were even willing to take over this project. Even though it is not a practical location for a store (very limited storage, almost impossible to receive large deliveries, door swings inward, only one door to the outside, etc.) it is an adorable ‘tourist-y’ one.
At least twice a month, there is some sort of fundraiser to raise money for the community. We try to put as much as we can into the gift baskets, which raise money for various causes within our own community.
Another thing I do is try to carry local products whenever possible. I love supporting small business. I carry a local’s handmade jewelry, made in the USA; solid lotion bars and Heritage Lace which is also made in the USA; YAY! Magnets (again, made in the USA); and most recently, goats milk handmade soap from a local farm.
What trend do you see in your indie business that you’re excited about?
Maybe I shouldn’t be excited, but scared instead, but more and more businesses like mine are closing around the USA and Canada. It has been good for our business (so that is exciting), but I can see that if I don’t teach my kids a foreign language and about all the products in the store, it can easily fold when it comes time for us to retire. But, not just my kids, if locals are not teaching their children as well, my store could fold. As I see that even for me (who has been married to a Dutchman for 10+ years) it is pretty much impossible to know what everyone is asking you for. Figuring out what it is and how to get it can be a logistical challenge, not one that most people would be willing to take on.
What’s the best advice you can share that will apply to everyone?
One thing I strongly advise if you are going to buy a business that is already up and running. Get EVERYTHING before you sign the papers. Run through the store and make sure you have a supplier for every product you currently carry. Also know all the rules and regulations before you sign: How long does it take to get there? Is there a minimum order quantity? Does the store have adequate permits/licensing to sell those items? Can you order year round?
What’s something you feel people should do more of?
Slow down and enjoy your business 😉 The customers are what make your day!
What changes or improvements do you have planned for your business in 2016/2017?
We hope to overhaul and redesign the store layout (basically give it a face lift), go to a POS/scanning system, and also hoping to improve security. Big plans and fingers crossed the next few months keep going well or it may be pushed out to 2018.
What’s something in your business you’re glad DIDN’T work out as you hoped?
In my first few weeks, I was planning on fixing drooping shelving, and extending some peg boards to re-merchandise the store (and fix it up a bit). My carpenter had different priorities and was unable to do it. Later I found out that I may have to rewire the store. So, I’m glad that fell through, or I may have lost all the money that I put into fixing those items.
What’s the most recent kind gesture you received from someone you didn’t know?
Just yesterday, without even telling us, Dutch Seattle featured us on their home page. I thought that was extremely nice of them 😉 I find it amazing that so many people are just so happy that we purchased the store, that they offer or just do kind things to help keep us open. I am so happy to be part of this community.
What’s a success you’d love to see someone close to you achieve?
I would love to see the day when my husband doesn’t have to work what seems like a million hours. It would be amazing if we could get to the point where he can slow down.
What’s been one of the most pleasant experiences of running your business/your job?
My favorite part about this shop is EVERYONE is happy that shops there! I literally have someone dancing in front of me every day just because I carry something they haven’t seen for years, or have never seen before. The happiness factor makes the job 😉 I do have a very ‘happy’ store. And a lot of customers tell us their stories, how they came to love these products and almost making us a little part of their stories, and families.
What successful choices have you made in your business that others should consider doing?
Listen to your customers and try to create a personal connection. What do they want? What are they looking for? How hard (costly) is it for you to accommodate them? I seriously think, by just trying out new products that people have asked me to find for them, it has benefited the store tremendously. Without listening to the customers, I would’ve never known to even look for it. And to some customers we are almost an extension of their family or a link to the past (products their (grand) parents) had, so that is very special to them and to us.
What makes you say YAY!?
By far the best Yay thing is just making someone’s day! And in doing so, they make yours 😉
Also, the reason YAY! Life! fits so well with our store is that you can sense that is exactly what customers are thinking about things in our shop. One of the Dutch staples is Stroopwafels (yummy cookies) and when customers see it in the store, we hear a lot of Yay! Stroopwafels! They then totally crack up when they see we have that same expression on a magnet, or we simply find them around our YAY! display full of magnets, laughing at all the different magnets we have. It always puts a smile on everyone’s face.