It all began with two young—and admittedly naïve—entrepreneurs pursuing their passion for coastal living in a historic cottage in the heart of the Solana Beach design district, eager to make their mark on the world. And a beautiful one at that.
Most businesses start with a need for something you can’t find and in the case of Melissa Anderson and me, Betsy Bracken, it was coastal home décor. The irony was, we were living on the California coast and yet there weren’t any shops nearby that were offering what we considered essential to coastal life—the fibers and fabrics, colors and patterns, scents and scenes that inspired the pages of Coastal Living magazine and Diane Keaton’s iconic home in Something’s Gotta Give. How could this be? And how many other people in our community were searching for a similar aesthetic? We wanted coastal without spelling it out in seashells and anchors and we had a feeling we weren’t alone. So it was on that hunch that our dream of creating a place to find classic, coastal-chic style was born.
Since opening in 2010, customers often ask where the name Bixby & Ball comes from and in the early days, Melissa and I would take turns sharing a bit about our families and the meaning those names held for the two of us. Her family, the Bixby’s, were heavily involved in the development of California ranches and real estate in the 19th and 20th centuries and for whom the spectacular Bixby Bridge in Big Sur is named. The Ball family, on my side, started a manufacturing business in the late 1800’s that later produced the famed Ball jar, a piece of Americana still widely used today. Both families embodied the value of hard work, innovation and giving back, deeply inspiring us to honor their legacies as we sought to create our own entrepreneurial story.
It’s hard to believe Melissa and I were only acquaintances when we headed to New York on our inaugural buying trip because we quickly became more like family. We developed a solid partnership that was built on a shared vision, mutual respect and perhaps most important of all, fun. We laughed louder, worked harder, and cared more about what we were creating than either of us probably ever imagined we could, which made her decision to pursue a different path five years in an incredibly difficult one for us both. I had never envisioned Bixby & Ball without Melissa and yet there I was suddenly on my own. In many ways, that’s when the work really began.
Bixby & Ball has been my greatest teacher and I’ve learned more from the many challenges endured in my business than successes enjoyed—challenges that have propelled me forward in a way I don’t believe would’ve otherwise been possible. I’ve learned that business is a not only a constant push to be better but is also a simultaneous act of letting go, all while requiring the trust that everything will be okay. One of the big lessons I’ve gained on this journey is that input doesn’t always equal output, and the yardstick of success is about so much more than money. This business has been my biggest container for growth and creative expression, and ultimately a place of my becoming into more of myself.
Nearly 10 years since opening our cottage doors, Bixby & Ball has expanded into a second location in Newport Beach and I am busy dreaming up what’s next. I often remind myself and my team that we're not saving lives, we're selling pillows—a healthy perspective to staying grounded. But I have come to believe that the experience we create for each person who walks through our doors is indeed a powerful one. I like to think of my stores as little portals of light and places of community where people can connect to themselves, to one another, to beautiful things and to the stories behind them—that, to me, has meaning and significance.
From the beginning, Melissa and I hoped that stepping into Bixby & Ball would feel less like visiting a store and more like coming home and that continues to be my hope today. In a time where real connection can feel more and more elusive, I find that providing a serene physical space for people to come into is like a salve for the soul, a brief respite from the busyness of the world whirling around us. It is also my hope that those of you who discover us online will feel connected to our community and delight in our shared passion for beautiful living. Although our aesthetic is coastal-inspired, the pieces we curate both in-store and online compliment a variety of design styles and I hope you will discover something that brings you joy.
The most important things in life aren’t things, indeed, but they sure can add some beauty to the everyday and I think we can all agree that the world could use more of that.
For all of you, near and far, I am beyond grateful to you for sharing in our story.
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