“As we have gotten older, and our customer base was aging as well, we realized that to continue to prosper we needed to engage the younger crowd, so we added work that appealed to that segment of the population.”
What inspired you to start your business?
Janet and Michael Francoeur: We moved to New Bern, N.C., because of its beauty, location on the water and wonderful architecture. As an artist specializing in architectural renderings, we were looking for a place I could paint. We were also looking for a place that was on its way but hadn’t gotten there yet. We started by renting studio space, since we were living on a boat we needed space to work. We did this for five years, just selling our own work, then rented a storefront and added other artists to expand our base.
What’s the first thing someone would notice walking into your store?
Janet and Michael Francoeur: Light, bright, colors, and “it’s going to take a while to get through this gallery!”
Describe your merchandise mix:
Janet and Michael Francoeur: Our focus is American Made. Because we are in North Carolina we have a lot of pottery, because our state is known for that. We also have jewelry, glass, wood, greeting cards, furniture and wearables.
Has your customer base evolved and changed the merchandising focus of your store?
Janet and Michael Francoeur: As we have gotten older, and our customer base was aging as well, we realized that to continue to prosper we needed to engage the younger crowd, so we added work that appealed to that segment of the population. It seems to have worked since we get as many younger people as older, saying “Carolina Creations is our favorite store!”
Do you hold annual events and exhibitions?
Janet and Michael Francoeur: We have a 20′ wall that features changing exhibits during an ArtWalk every other month. We have a student Valentine Card show and sale every January and February (2015 our 9th year), where we sell their cards and donate all the proceeds to the Teachers Art Fund. We also have an open house on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, and an open house for the Historical Societies Spring Home and Garden Show each spring (Janet does the artwork for the tour each year).
Are you engaging your customers in a conversation about the Shop Local/ American Made movement?
Janet and Michael Francoeur: When folks come in we tell them that we know all the artists whose work we sell, and proceed to tell them stories about the artists, how their work is created, etc.
Have you noticed an increase in customer demand for locally made and/or handmade merchandise?
Janet and Michael Francoeur: Yes, we’re thrilled that the younger folks especially are interested in living and shopping in our downtown. We also have local folks with “New Bern rooms” full of art depicting our town.
How do most of your customers find you?
Janet and Michael Francoeur: We are located in a downtown storefront, we advertise with social media, a monthly newsletter, and print and radio advertising. We work with local organizations (Historical Society, School System, Chamber, Convention Center, Tourist Development Authority, Downtown Redevelopment Corporations) which gives us a lot of exposure.
What makes your store stand out from other retailers in your area?
Janet and Michael Francoeur: We have a wider variety of handcrafted merchandise, higher quality, and a constant influx of new work and new artists.
What would you say is your key to longevity?
Janet and Michael Francoeur: We change with the times. We listen to what our customers ask for and never quit looking for well done, handcrafted items.