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Fern Hill Market: A Sip of Small Town Shopping

Fern Hill Market: A Sip of Small Town Shopping

 

Taylor
Prystawsky decided she needed a new challenge. An interior decorator by trade,
she worked with builders to turn houses into homes. In her spare time, she
brought on the bling, decorating upwards of 30 Christmas trees each season. She
hung up her paint charts to raise her family, but after 14 years the itch to do
something else needed more than a scratch.
 

Taylor
began her new adventure in January 2020 when she answered an ad for retail
space in historic East Dundee, Illinois and soon the River
Street Collective
had a new tenant, selling home décor goods in a 12’x12’
room. Two months later Covid hit and the store closed. Four months after it
reopened Taylor was no longer a tenant, she owned the joint, juggling 27
vendors.
 

Even
though managing that many diverse vendors, plus her own shop wasn’t easy, it
still wasn’t enough for Taylor. In January of 2021 she began to search for new space,
hitting the jackpot when she found the historic Christian Geister House in the nearby
village of Algonquin, Illinois was available. So, she closed the River Street
Collective and went to work. With help from her husband and father-in-law, who
made and installed most of the fixtures, she was able to flip the almost 4000
square foot house in four weeks. Fern Hill Market, featuring Sips on Main Café
& Wine Bar (owned by tenant Kate Micheletto), made its debut in June of
2022.

We
have a thing for old houses and the Christian Geister House is one of our favorites.
Built in 1892 and meticulously maintained, it’s a beautiful example of Queen
Anne architecture that features a steeply pitched cross-gabled roof, dormers, more
gables, a turret tower, lots of stained glass, and a private garden. It was the
first building in Algonquin to be listed on the National Register of Historic
Places by the National Park Service.

Taylor
is the best kind of retailer; the kind that is new to the game and has no idea
of what works and what doesn’t. Retailers like this are fearless and open to
trying anything. If it doesn’t turn out quite like expected, Taylor tweaks it
and tries again.

Customers
and her community are as important to her as they are to her business, this has
made her a big believer in Shoppertainment: the combination of in-store events
and shopping. Fern Hill Market and Sips on Main partner to host a number of
events each year. It’s not unusual to see customers enjoying monthly wine
tasting nights or classes on flower arranging, calligraphy, gardening and
painting. Upcoming events include the popular Algonquin Wine Walk where participants
pay $50 each to sample wines at 19 different stops. Fern Hill Market is the
second stop and visitors are invited to shop while sipping.

Sips
on Main Café & Wine Bar offers customers a selection of wine and beer
options available for purchase. This room also doubles as the store’s
classroom, hosting a variety of monthly events including a monthly wine pairing
night. Pictured: Christmas Cookies & Wine Pairing.

Taylor
incorporates craft and foodie events in her class calendar; Paint & Sip
classes are a customer favorite. Always looking for ways to increase foot
traffic, she takes part in every village sponsored event. She also participates
in an annual Vintage Shop Hop, a self-guided road trip to vintage shops,
antique stores and boutiques, all located within driving distance of her store.

The
infamous Sanderson Sisters from the Hocus Pocus movies posed for pictures with
trick or treaters outside of Fern Hill Market during Algonquin’s Annual Old
Town Trick-or-Treat Trail, attended by over 5000 people. All of South Main
Street closes for families to enjoy a night out that finishes with a movie in a
nearby park. In December Algonquin holds Miracle on Main, a night of holiday festivities.
Santa arrives on Main Street while The Grinch graces Fern Hill Market. Lines
for photos with both are long.
 

Fern
Hill Market hosts a 4-hour Holiday Open House each November. It’s a ticketed event
where shoppers pay $15 to get a first look at holiday merchandise (at full
price). This year shoppers were treated to a concert by a string quartet, enjoyed
a glass of wine or specialty cocktail, and sampled a complimentary charcuterie
spread and desserts. Many visitors make it an evening out, first attending the
open house, then grabbing dinner at a local restaurant nearby.

How
many boutiques have you visited lately that all seem to sell the same things? That
doesn’t happen at Fern Hill Market because Taylor sources locally as much as
she can. Other buying happens via sales reps who stop in, along with the
markets she visits throughout the year. She makes a point to visit every showroom,
not just her favorites. And she rarely buys from a vendor’s list of top 10-25
items. She buys to standout.

When
your store is located in a house each room has its own decompression zone and
each room needs its own speed bump display. Several things are happening here
in the apparel room: the multi-level metal stands offer height and create a
pyramid that causes a shopper’s eye to unconsciously move about the display,
seeing more product at the same time.

This
rack is located inside the front room of the house, directly across from the
cash wrap. There is no room for an official speed bump in this space so this
rack changes frequently to give shoppers a preview of what they will find as
they move throughout the many rooms of the store. Its nearness to the cashwrap
also encourages impulse purchases.

Displays
at Fern Hill Market are curated to tell a story. Smart move. Stories
organically sell additional product because they silently suggest shoppers
choose more than one thing. Shoppers like product stories because it helps them
visualize how the items will look in their homes; you like them because the
extra sales add to your bottom line.


Three
pots, three vases, three plants. Grouping items in threes may be an interior
decorator trick, but three is also the magic number in retail display. Groups
of three encourage shoppers to become more visually engaged with the display.
They see how good the items look together, tempting them to purchase more than
one. Note that the three items do not need to be the same, it’s the number that
matters most.

At
just 10 years old, Taylor’s son Max became Fern Hill Market’s youngest vendor.
Max’s gorgeous charcuterie boards are favorites of customers who appreciate
locally-made and artisanal products. The kid’s an entrepreneur and an
inspiration.
 

Reinforced
vinyl slatwall provides an attractive and flexible means to display a variety
of products. Reinforced slats are important when it comes to slatwall. The last
thing any retailer needs is a display that comes crashing to the floor. Or on a
customer.
 

Two
etageres, a console table, and slatwall combine to create an attractive display
in an upstairs hallway. Small fixtures like these allow for the most
flexibility when building display vignettes. The dark walls help the product
stand out and the wall paper adds a whimsical touch.

This
display is located in the main room upstairs. The mannequin is
cross-merchandised with apparel pieces that are available on the first floor. We
love chandeliers in stores because they add a touch of the unexpected. Taylor
has added several throughout the house.

Wall
standards are the workhorse of store display when gondolas are not utilized.
Once again, the display is curated and the combination of shelved and hanging
products makes it visually interesting. We like the uncomplicated, clean look
of this wall. The neutral color scheme allows the merchandise to be the first
thing shoppers notice, not the fixture.

Random
objects, like these old wooden spools, make great fixtures and add to the
ambiance of your store. Just make sure the found objects you choose are hardy
enough to withstand rowdy shoppers.

Fixturing
at Fern Hill Market is a combination of  antique,
and modern and sleek. The apparel fixturing is the latter; custom made by her
husband from steel gas line piping and painted to blend in with the rest of the
store’s décor.

Every
part of Fern Hill Market is merchandised. Here, the stairway provides the
perfect backdrop for framed pieces, like these signs and paper calligraphy
scrolls designed by Alyssa Eliot of Cottonwood Shanty. Perhaps you have a
corner or nook on your sales floor that’s wasted space and is crying out for a
makeover? Think of the possibilities!

You may
have heard us mention the KIZER & BENDER Bathroom School of Management. We
can absolutely tell how well a store is run by the condition of the women’s
rest room – if it’s a mess, so is the store. The restroom at Fern Hill Market is
maintained with the same care that is taken throughout the house.
 

A
trip to Fern Hill Market offers customers a shopping experience that goes
beyond just shopping. It’s the chance to explore the history of wonderful old home,
discover new products, gather ideas, and enjoy a glass of wine all at the same
time. If retail therapy is on your agenda, we can’t think of a better way to
spend an afternoon!





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This article first appeared in Creative Retailer Magazine