Husband and wife Josh and Niki Quinn started making handmade belts and wallets about 10 years ago and traveled the US selling them to small independent shops. In the process, they fell in love with the idea of owning a store of their own. Stopping in Columbus, Ohio on their way to the East Coast from Los Angeles, they eventually decided to stay in in that city. They set up their eclectic boutique, Tigertree, there in 2007. Tigertree currently sell women’s and men’s clothing plus accessories, jewelry, grooming products and other items. On her (supposed) day off, Niki was kind enough to share her thoughts about being an independent retailer with us. Interview by Christopher Blomquist

What is the Tigertree’s retail philosophy?
We buy what we like and can offer to our customers at a good price. The idea of not limiting our store to any particular categories has let us bring in so many fun items that go beyond the apparel and gift store that we opened as. We carry everything from ceramic saltboxes from Japan to salvaged school chemistry tables and stools.
Tigertree window
Tigertree window

What are some of your bestselling items/brands?
Our apparel is extremely representational of our own closets. For men we try and have a pretty even mix of classic tailored pieces and more relaxed West Coast/surf-inspired brands. We do really well with blazers, shirting, ties and the like. We also carry a wide assortment of men's apothecary and shaving products from lines like Imperial Barber, Portland General Store and Baxter of California.
Our women's section is a mix of playfully vintage-inspired items mixed in with more sophisticated pieces. The function of our women's garments is very important to us, so when we are buying we are always paying attention to things like comfort, wearability and, of course, dresses with pockets.

What kind of customers do you draw?
I’m really proud to say that our customer is everyone. We have a fun chicken vending machine upstairs that dispenses buttons that we make in the store and that has attracted several regulars who are under the age of five. We have great apparel for men and women from small emerging brands like Dear Creatures to classic staples like Ben Sherman, which attracts the college/young professional crowd. Our gifts and accessories are always a huge hit with folks around my parents’ age. I want everyone to feel comfortable and welcome when they walk in our door and I know we have something that they will like.

What is the breakdown of your women's vs. men’s business?
It’s right down the middle. Josh buys for the men’s section and I buy for women. We are both very competitive and always try to get our own section to rise above the other’s but they are consistently head to head.

Where do you find and shop for new brands?
We are always on the hunt. We shop several trade shows a year for gift and apparel but most of what makes our store special is found from the blogs that we check every day, tips from friends who own shops in other cities or recommendations from customers.

What is the overall fashion and retail scene in Columbus like?
Columbus is an amazing city that I am proud to call home. Our shop is located in the Short North Arts District, which is nestled between downtown and the largest campus in the country, Ohio State University. The Short North covers about 10 city blocks and is full of really great apparel and gift shops as well as some amazing restaurants and galleries.

more than just fashion at Tigertree
more than just fashion at Tigertree
What are the biggest challenges of having a store?
The hardest thing about owning any small business is you can never really get away from it. Today is my day off–its 9:30 p.m. and I'm doing an interview about the store. Josh and I talk about the store constantly–on vacation, at dinner, watching TV… you just can't turn it off. We are lucky enough that we get to do something that we love and there is a really blurred line between what I would consider hobbies (shopping, design, social media etc.) and our jobs.

How do you keep in touch with customers?
We are really involved in social media and I think it is such an exciting time to own a small business in those regards. We get to connect with our customers through those outlets and it not only provides a way for them to see what we are up to at the store but we also get to be more involved in their lives as well. I think we get to know our customers a lot more intimately than would have been possible in any other time.

What are your plans for the store’s future?
We are always scheming. Our big plan for the future is to purchase a large building downtown where we can have a proper department store. In the more near future, we are working on growing our online business and creating more in-house products and other Tigertree exclusives.