When we got first started with our Shop in 2013, we had a lot to learn. We thought: You source good products from people who make them. You present them on the site. People either like the products and buy them, or they don’t and you stop selling them. We thought offering just the right mix to our customers was the ultimate goal.
Five years into running our Shop, we feel very differently about this business than when we started. Yes, we now have more than two thousand kitchen and home products as opposed to the 80 we launched with. Yes, we’re determined to source only the most beautiful, functional goods. But we’re also just as focused on the people behind what we sell.
When we spot a Miyabi knife on our site, we think about the woman we met at the factory in Japan who hand-assembles the box it’s packaged in, and the man who methodically hammers the blade to make sure it’s straight. More than 200 people practice incredibly specialized skills to make each knife perfect. (Watch some of the awe-inspiring process here.)
When we look at these linen napkins, we think about Paul Denoly, a founder at Hawkins New York in Hudson, New York, who has brought to life so many extraordinary treasures (like this and this), and personally introduced us to his dinnerware maker in Portugal so we could create an exclusive line with her. Both were in our office the other day, drinking beer with our buying team out of these handsome glasses (made by Sempli in Italy).
And all of these beautiful plates and bowls come from ceramics superstar Virginia Sin, who we’ve been working with since she was making plates as a side-hustle to her advertising job.
As we’ve learned, the people who make the best kitchen and home goods are usually not in it for the money. They do it because they’re creatives who want to preserve a craft, master a form of manufacturing, come up with new ways of imagining how we live in our kitchens, and surround themselves with good things.
The only way we can fill our Shop with excellent products is to spend time getting to know each and every partner we work with. The very best way to do this is to visit them. This past spring, we traveled to Seki in Japan to see how Miyabi produces its beautiful knives. (How? Through a largely handmade process.) Two years ago, we visited the Staub factory in France and the Demeyere cookware factory in Belgium, both decades-old businesses. Our buying team has spent time with woodworkers and glassmakers in Vermont, potters in Brooklyn, and salt harvesters in Oregon, as well as centuries-old soap makers and ceramicists in Europe.
Our buyers also seek out new makers at trade shows all over the world, and meet up with existing ones over dinner to talk shop and cook up new plans. (This is how we’re able to offer so many exclusive products.)
Our favorite party of the year is one we throw for all of our partners who attend NY Now, a semiannual trade show in New York. People stay late into the night chatting and trading industry gossip. We call it our “kegger” because one year we had to run out for more beer—a fact we’re very proud of!
But it’s not just about making friends. It’s vital that we understand how they make their products, what their challenges are, and most importantly, what kind of business they’re trying to build, so that we can be good partners.
Because this isn’t a business of widgets. It’s a business of people. And we love it all the more for this.
Amanda & Merrill