For the season two premiere of Brick & Order, Faire’s podcast featuring stories from wholesale brands and independent retailers, we spoke with two retailers who opened up their shops in the middle of the pandemic. Amy Navarra, owner of Savor Charcuterie in Turlock, California, and Keri Travis, owner of Wild Child in Bend, Oregon, talked to us about influences from their childhood, creating community, and the future of retail.
Businesses shaped by personal experiences
Amy Navarra, owner of Savor Charcuterie, never thought she would return to retail. Her family owned stores throughout her childhood, and she worked in retail environments through college. She used to say she’d never go back—until the pandemic hit.
“I thought the path away from retail was the path of least resistance,” she said. “But the pandemic made me pivot and rethink. I’m really thankful for that, and I’m enjoying being back to my roots.” Amy opened Savor Charcuterie’s first brick-and-mortar store in March of 2021, where she sells gourmet charcuterie boards and other grocery items alongside unique home and kitchen products.
Keri Travis, owner of Wild Child, also credits her upbringing for her career trajectory. She grew up on a mountainside hobby farm in British Columbia, Canada, where she was surrounded by natural beauty. “I had a big imagination,” she said. “It made me understand the magic of childhood, and it’s a place you never really want to leave.”
It was a desire to help children experience that same magic that led Keri to teach and eventually open toy stores. She’s spent her life working with children, from roles at infant daycare centers to teaching children in Thailand and eventually opening up two schools of her own—all before opening Wild Child in December of 2020.
At Wild Child, Keri emphasizes the thing that made her childhood so special—nature. The store places an emphasis on enjoying the outdoors responsibly, selling sustainably made wooden toys, organic cotton clothing, and products made from bamboo and natural rubber. “I brought Wild Child to Bend because I felt like we needed a natural toy store that was really focused on sustainability,” she said. “It was a big gap.”
A desire for community
In Bend, Wild Child has become a space for not only buying toys but for building community. Parents will bring their children to the store and spend hours playing with the toys together. Mothers often enter the store just for company and conversation. “Mothers are very isolated in general, but with the pandemic, even more so,” Keri said. “They just need someone to talk to. I’ve had people come in and say, ‘I just really needed you.’” Keri hopes to incorporate this desire for community into future programs. Once CDC guidelines allow, she plans to hold group classes for expectant and new moms. She envisions taking walks by the river and letting the beauty of nature bring everyone together.
Similarly, as she navigated a new town as a new mom, Amy noticed a lack of authentic connection in her community. It was this observation that led her to offer her first charcuterie workshop as a way to connect people through good food and conversation. “It’s actually proven that if you’re using your hands to do something in the presence of others that you start to feel safer,” she said.
Amy’s first workshop consisted of 30 women from all walks of life gathered in her backyard. To this day, people who met at that first workshop are still friends. “That was just like a springboard for me,” she said. Now, the workshops are a place where Amy can teach others how to recreate that togetherness for themselves through building and sharing charcuterie boards. “How great is it that the table becomes the great equalizer?” Amy said. “Everybody comes to the table a little bit hungry, both your body and your soul. And then you can leave a little bit more full, both your body and your soul.”
The future is local
Amy and Keri—who both opened new stores during the pandemic—are now considering what the future of retail looks like.
“For those of us [operating] brick-and-mortars in this post-pandemic climate, we’re kind of in the forefront of the rebirth of retail,” Amy said. When the pandemic hit, Amy went from having all of 2020 booked with events to having everything canceled within two weeks. She learned the hard way not to panic, and to navigate the situation by keeping emotions in check. Now, she sees the road ahead as just another way to come together as a community. “I’m excited about learning together with the community,” she said. “We’re saying ‘we’re in this together and we’ll figure it out together.”
Keri is confident that consumers will continue to seek out the niche of natural and sustainable toys she’s carved for herself in Bend. “Starting a business during a pandemic is obviously a wild thing to do,” she said. “People have said ‘you’ve got a lot of grit,’ or ‘you’re crazy.’ But I felt strongly that the community would respond well, and they have.”
She has seen a shift in peoples’ shopping habits over the past few years, with a pivot towards wanting to shop for sustainable, earth-friendly products from local stores. Like Amy, Keri believes the future of retail lies in the local community.
“What I’m seeing with people is that they really want connection. They really want to care more, they want people to care about them, and I find people supporting my local businesses and deciding to choose me over a huge store like Amazon. I feel like that’s so intentional right now, and it just feels like the whole community wants to support each other.”
Sell your products to independent retailers using Faire
Faire’s wholesale platform allows brands to sell products to over 170,000 retailers. Both Amy and Keri used the platform to shop for new and unique brands for their retail stores.
“I cannot sing Faire’s praises enough,” Amy said. “It’s really an incredible platform. I’m so thankful for it.”
“Without Faire, it would have been such a struggle,” Keri said. “This whole world opened up, and it simplified my life so much.”