Kennebunkport, Maine – At Spaces Kennebunkport, casual “seaside chic” home fashions co-exist in the elegantly eclectic merchandise mix as effortlessly as the relationship between the shop’s co-owners,
Anne Dixon, left, and Nicki Bongiorno became fast friends and faster business partners five years ago..
“We are like twins separated at birth, except we’re not the same age,” said Bongiorno, an interior decorator/designer, of her business partner, Dixon, a retailer by trade.
“We read each other’s minds,” she continued.
“And finish each other’s sentences,” Dixon quickly added.
The two ladies laugh.
Business for Bongiorno and Dixon is indeed mixed with pleasure, which makes for easy decision-making and painless day-to-day operations – from shopping trade shows for product to running the store.
“We agree all the time, which is great,” Bongiorno said. “If Anna spots something she likes, I am already noticing it in the distance – and I like it, too. Maybe on five occasions we had to discuss for a moment if we should carry something in the store or not.”
Interjected Dixon: “We share the same brain.”
Their career strengths also complement – Bongiorno’s sense of style and
Spaces Kennebunkportdécor paired with Dixon’s eye for fashion and her knowledge of running a retail business. The two loosely knew each other before pairing up professionally in the summer of 2008. “Anna’s sister babysat my brother’s children,” Bongiorno explained.
Bongiorno was working independently as an interior designer, and Dixon had just left her position managing a gift shop, where she had worked for eight years, when the two decided to collaborate.
“I was looking for help in my design work, so I called her up and we started working together. It was that easy,” Bongiorno said. “And then, we were working together for only six months when we decided to open our own shop.”
With her retail background, Dixon “knew about the discounts we could get wholesale for the shop, and she knew how and where to find interesting things we could not find anywhere else in Maine,” Bongiorno continued.
Just one week later, a retail space in the quaint downtown area of tourist-heavy Kennebunkport opened up. It is situated near four major hotels, which helped drive traffic to the area.
“Literally, we signed the lease on July 1st and opened our doors on August 15th,”Dixon recalled.
The 500-square-foot space had been a flower shop, “so we have to move out the shop counter and the sinks, and then we painted the place, brought in shelving [and other display furniture and fixturing] from West Elm and we got it all ready very quickly,” Dixon said.
Spaces Kennebunkport, which just celebrated its fifth anniversary, has steadily ramped up its home textiles offerings over time. The segment – including sheeting and top-of bed components, fabrics, decorative pillows, blankets, throws, table linens, baby and nursery linens, and other accessories – originally represented a small percentage of the total business. Today it occupies about 60% of the store.
“The economy crashed right after we opened,” Bongiorno said. “So it was hard at first. We were carrying more furniture at the time. But people around here where not really looking for that. They were looking for easy and quick ways to update their rooms. They were after products that could make their home feel more comfortable with things like decorative pillows and quilts and throws. Lots of textiles.”
“But we wanted to have things here that were uncommon in this area,” Dixon piped in.
“Our taste is a little more contemporary, and we like more of a punch of color,” Bongiorno added.
Today on the selling floor are three display beds that Bongiorno and Dixon update frequently with a mix-and-match presentation of linens from their various supplier brands. These include John Robshaw – the store’s first textiles brand – along with Nandini, and Better Living, among others.
The shop also offers sheeting on special order.
Price points average about $220 to $475 for quilts, $220 to $475 for sheets, $75 to $225 for decorative pillows and shams, and $8 to $25 for place mats and napkins.
The other 40% of the mix includes “little pick-me-ups,” like candles and other small gift-able items as well as chic resortwear from upscale brands like Roberta Roller Rabbit and more recently lifestyle accessories like bracelets and other items for women – the latter of which have become important drivers of traffic to the shop.
“Right now, we’re seeing our shoppers are willing to spend on small, personal items like scarves, bracelets and clothes. And that is what is drawing the customers in, and once they are here they usually tend to look around and buy other things,” Bongiorno said. “And in turn, that is helping our home business.
Spaces Kennebunkport also operates an e-commerce business online at http://www.spaceskennebunkport.com – where an assortment of total mix in the shop is available.
“But we still hand-write our receipts,” joked Dixon.
“And we use a cash drawer,” laughed Bongiorno. “It’s how we are. We never have more than three people working here, and that is only when it is peak season. Most of the time, it’s just the two of us. We are a tiny operation, and Anna and I do everything here.”
That’s how they like it at Spaces Kennebunkport.