Marketplace: Two years of Livin’ Life in Park City
February 2, 2010
Don Croce and Jill Rathburn admit to moving to Park City several years ago without any more of a plan than to enjoy life in a ski town. After three years, they found their calling as Main Street merchants.
In April 2008, the two acquired Livin’ Life, a successful gift store specializing in metal art. Croce described it as a high-end souvenir shop a place he personally didn’t have any interest in. Rathburn saw potential in the place and liked what they were offering. When she heard the owners wanted to sell, Rathburn decided to give retail a try.
The couple had managed much larger businesses and possessed the entrepreneurial spirit. If they could stock the store with the right items, they knew they could be successful.
Not long after opening, the nation was hit by historically-high gas prices. Then the stock market crashed and the recession started.
"We haven’t been spoiled," Rathburn said.
But by listening to customers, offering excellent service and guaranteeing fresh, unique items on a regular basis, they have survived into their second winter.
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Much of what Livin’ Life sold in its previous five years like the metal art were already great sellers. The couple has worked to bring in other items as well including jewelry, paintings, ceramics, carvings and even glassware.
A customer who was enthralled with the place and lingered for 45 minutes finally said, "It’s more than a gallery, it’s more than a gift shop." That quickly became their slogan.
"We feel we’re in our own category," Rathburn said.
They don’t want to compete with fine art galleries on price points, and therefore strive to keep offerings affordable enforcing an unwritten rule of nothing over $1,000. But everything in the store is chosen to look great in someone’s home or on their person.
To someone who hasn’t seen the store in the last year and a half the biggest difference are the walls. Done in three different treatments, the interior is designed to help clients imagine the pieces both inside and on the outside of their homes.
A strategy that has worked well is to recruit art from vendors at local shows. All around the shop Croce and Rathburn can point out pieces they first saw at the Park City Arts Festival, the Park Silly Sunday Market and Midway Swiss Days.
Everything else in the store is from a regional artist if not a local one, Croce explained.
And they try to guarantee you’ll see things that can’t be found anywhere else in Park City. They even went so far as to purge popular items solely because they could also be found in two or three other Main Street stores.
That guarantees repeat business, Rathburn said.
A surprise to the owners has been how popular special requests have been. Someone asked for a metal snowflake. Another asked if one of the metal artists could replicate the design on a wood piece. Now they have 20 of them in stock, they said.
"We get awesome customer feedback," Rathburn said.
That’s also how they settled on what jewelry to carry, Croce said. American-Indian-themed pieces are popular in Park City. But there are plenty of places on Main Street to buy traditional Southwest jewelry. So they carry contemporary-looking pieces that hint-at or give homage to the Southwest style. Other pieces give a nod to the mountains or Park City itself.
Livin’ Life Park City
577 A Main Street