MODERN LUXURY: For those reading who have never heard of Bixby & Ball, tell us a bit about who you are and what sets you apart.
BETSY BRACKEN: Bixby & Ball is a coastal-inspired lifestyle boutique specializing in all things home. When it comes to our aesthetic, think East Coast sensibility meets West Coast casual, but the pieces we curate both in-store and online compliment a variety of design styles and fit with ease into any home. We are passionate about creating beautiful spaces and we strive to be a place of inspiration for customers and designers alike. Since we have access to so much more than we can fit inside our quaint shops in Solana Beach and Newport Beach, we are experts at scouring our resources to find just the right piece for customers at no additional charge. And if you’re feeling lost in the whirlwind of redesign, we offer full-scale interior design services so you can put your mind at ease.
ML: Your Solana Beach store will be celebrating 10 years this Fall — what keeps you inspired?
BB: My incredible team and the loyal customers who have supported us—many from the very beginning—are my biggest inspiration. Hearing someone walk in the door and say, “I want to live here!” or “I love coming in here because it always feels so good!” That makes me feel like I’ve created something truly special and pushes me to keep at it, to keep that energy alive. I also stay inspired by consciously making time to do things I enjoy that have nothing to do with work, especially when it's the last thing I feel like I have time for. I often find the most inspiration when I'm traveling or in nature or just relaxing and doing nothing — I think you need to give yourself permission to take a break to allow room for creative ideas to flow in.
ML: Some would argue that brick and mortar retailers are becoming obsolete — what has been the key to your continued growth?
BB: Retail is indeed changing and the ease of online shopping has undoubtedly had a huge impact on brick and mortar stores. But I’ve found that in a time where real connection can feel more and more elusive, people really value the experience of walking into a physical space and touching, feeling, smelling—really experiencing—everything around them. Connecting to the stories behind the ‘stuff’ is paramount to our process and we take pride in sharing with customers our knowledge of the makers of our goods, as well as the materials and methods used to create them. When customers feel connected to what they’re bringing into their home and the place where they found it, they’re a lot more likely to come back again and again, and we’ve certainly found that to be true. And I really do have the best team of committed and conscientious professionals, who genuinely love what they do and who they do it with. Customers feel that and it makes a big impact.
ML: Our culture seems to cycle through trends faster than ever before thanks to Pinterest and Instagram — how do you stay relevant while remaining true to your core brand?
BB: Isn’t that the truth! Not too long ago, you’d have to wait each month to relish the pages of your favorite shelter magazine and now you can scroll through an entire issue’s worth of ideas and inspiration in a matter of seconds. And because there’s so much access to everything and everyone, it’s easy to get distracted by what other people are doing rather than focus on your own creative process. For me, the key has been not to get caught up in trends and always come back to the classic coastal style for which we are known. Of course that style has evolved over the years and I’ve taken some risks along the way, but I’ve never strayed too far from the materials, textures and colors that I consider essential for the Southern California lifestyle.
ML: What advice would you give to someone thinking about opening up a retail store or starting a design business?
BB: It's way harder than you think it's going to be so make sure you're really connected to why you're doing what you're doing and hopefully it's about a lot more than money or notoriety. I love the quote "I don't have a '9-5', I have a 'when I open my eyes to when I close my eyes'." — there is no truer statement for entrepreneurs so be sure you're following your passion because it's the thing you'll cling to every time you question why you decided to do it in the first place.
ML: Any quick home design tips you can share with us?
BB: Trust your gut! When designing our Newport Beach store, I fell in love with a tile I found and immediately envisioned it as flooring in our entryway. But when our tile installer saw it he told me it would never work on the floor and should only be used as backsplash. After a brief hesitation, I decided I wanted to try it anyway. And guess what? It’s the thing that stops customers in their tracks every time they walk in the door. So break the rules and go with what you love.
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