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Retail Retold Replay with Eli Gurock

Eli Gurock Headshot
Episode #: 235
Retail Retold Replay with Eli Gurock

Guest: Eli Gurock
Topics: Magic Beans, e-commerce


Chris Ressa 0:02
This is Retail Retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood.

I’m your host, Chris Ressa, and I invite you to join my conversations with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC.

First, I’d like to thank one of our sponsors Credit Intel, knowing the financial health of retailers is crucial for the success of your retail-related business. That’s what credit Intel is for credit Intel analyzes the financial health of hundreds of publicly and privately held retailers in different sectors. With a subscription to Credit Intel you have access to comprehensive analysis of retailers, financial condition, and their Expert Analytics team. Visit credit for more information.

Welcome to Retail Retold everyone. I am excited today because I am joined by Ellie girl rock. Le is the co owner of magic beans, a baby gear and toy retailer. He is also a youtuber with over 22 million views. He has some really innovative things that he’s done in his store. I’m excited for him to share with you. Welcome to the show, Ellie.

Eli Gurock 1:25
Hi, Chris. I’m so happy to be here.

Ressa 1:27
So Ellie, why don’t you tell the audience a little bit more about who you are what you do?

Gurock 1:33
Sure. I’m Ellie. I am like like you said the co owner of magic beans. We’re a baby guarantor retailer, we have two stores. We sell across the I live in Brookline, Massachusetts. I’m like a very proud father of three. I have a 19 year old a seven year old and a almost 13 year old and I yeah, I you know, I love what I do. And in my spare time I love to do handstands. It’s a very fun fit Chris handstands. Not everyone does a doing a handstand.

Ressa 2:08
So can you do handstand walks? Can you walk on your hands?

Gurock 2:12
So the handstand walks are I can’t a little bit they’re very scary. But normally, what I just tried to do is kick up to a handstand and do it in the middle of the room and do like shape to the my legs.

Ressa 2:26
Very, very cool. So for my workout regime, I do CrossFit workouts often. So one of the prescribed exercises is handstand push ups. So I do them frequently. It handstand push ups are super fun. Yes. Well, that is fascinating. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about YouTube. I have a 22 million views. We live in a social media world. I think it’s really unique that a regional Small Business retailer is so social media savvy. Tell us a little bit about that.

Gurock 3:00
Sure. Another fun fact about me is like not saying that I’m like the most knowledgeable person you’ll ever meet about strollers, but I probably am. misshapen that has to do with like in the early years, the magic beads, helping hundreds and hundreds of families figure out what stroller and car seats to buy for the family. I’ve just helped so many people. And back in the day, when we first opened, I would essentially have daily, like impromptu classes on strollers and car seats. I’m like, Gosh, I wish I could figure out some way to amplify this and sort of share my knowledge with more people. I’m also really into Search Engine Optimization. I love digital marketing. It’s something I love to do. And when Google bought YouTube, like a long, long time ago, I realized when I did a video on a product. Now when I Google it, the video would like jumped to the top of the search engine results. And I’m like, that’s so cool. Let’s do more videos. And I can share my knowledge and I can like ranked number one on YouTube and on Google sounds like fun, right? But lo and behold, people are loving the videos, I’ll just make more and more and more videos. I think we have like over 500 videos or something crazy like that. And essentially at this point, if you are thinking about a premium stroller, carseat baby products, etc. You put it into Google you put into YouTube, we’re probably going to be ranked number one, two and three. That is incredible. So it’s pretty cool when people watch the videos from literally around the world. It’s pretty neat.

Ressa 4:32
That is incredible. So I have a million questions from that before we even get to the clear the air segment. Question one. So I have a four year old, a two and a half year old. Yes. I think when I was a kid, I think you moved out of a car seat like Well, the one years old. Now it feels like you’re in car seats and boosters for a long time. My daughter’s for When am I done with car seats?

Gurock 4:56
You’re not done for a while. The reason is that those seat belts are really, really safe and they keep us safe and we drive in cars, everyone listening should be wearing their seatbelts. The way that the seatbelt falls on the child’s body is like not that safe. What happens is that lap belt, the thing that goes over an adult’s hips actually goes over the bellies of a little child. And if your god forbid, in a crash, the lap belt can like smoosh the guts of your child, which is not good. So just to raise the child up a little bit in a booster seat to get the lap belt to go across your hips is actually super safe. So you’re probably going to be there until your kids about eight years old. Wow, depending how big they are. Wow, don’t worry, don’t worry. And being psychometric beings. We have everything you need. You can just help

Ressa 5:39
with us. Perfect. Perfect. We’ll do from here. When we were using the strollers. It was the city gear stroller. Think familiar.

Gurock 5:47
You probably have a Baby Jogger City Mini Double stroller.

Ressa 5:52
That’s exactly what

Gurock 5:53
Yes, equity. If I told you that. All right. Good

Ressa 5:56
stroller. How am I doing?

Gurock 5:57
Very, very good. It’s real easy to fold. Sounds perfect.

Ressa 6:00
Okay, great. So the YouTube thing is incredible. You today have how many stores? Are you at today?

Gurock 6:09
We’re we’ve had we’ve had as many as six.

Ressa 6:12
And you’re also you’re an omni channel retailer, you are selling online. We are

Gurock 6:17
selling online. We also do virtual consultations via zoom. We are like super omni channel.

Ressa 6:23
What percentage of your business today is online versus in the store?

Gurock 6:27
At this particular moment? I’d say it’s like 70% 70 80%. Online.

Ressa 6:32
And wow. So you’ve converted a lot online? Yes, I hope I hope it’s significant. But I’m gonna ask a question that we didn’t prepare today. How important is the physical store presence to your overall operation, even though it’s only 30% of the sales today?

Gurock 6:47
Oh, it’s super important. It is like and we’re omni channel. So like I say in my business, like it all counts, as long as you’re shopping at magic beans. So if you come into the store, then you want to convert online through an email or just through coming through the website. Like that’s perfectly fine. And you know, we’re on the Shopify platform. So it’s very easy to have to go back and forth between being in store and being online. So like I said, as long as they shop with me, it’s important, but again, in terms of brick and mortar, like that’s where I am in my heart. That’s where people want to touch and feel the product. You know, how they actually end up transacting is very different. Do I like to email them an invoice and they pay on their phone? Is there a way to make that shopping experience easier for parents, like the idea of bringing your product up to a register to check out is just like one facet of the shopping experience. But we’re trying to like make this as easy as possible for people to transact with us.

Ressa 7:46
I love it. So we’ve been doing a lot of homework at DLC over the last few years on omni channel retailing. So my next question is, does the consumer have to pay for shipping? If they order online through you?

Gurock 7:58
Sometimes, I mean, we offer free shipping over $49 overflow and that and we’re most proud of that and testing that we’re going to be testing that more, but they will have to pay for they will probably not have to pay for shipping for most things that they’re buying from us.

Ressa 8:18
And does that cut into margins for you?

Gurock 8:21
Yep, it does. So you have to really look at that really carefully and make sure that you are pricing your shipping appropriately. It’s not that easy. Because you I know read people really struggling retailers really struggle this like do I lose the sale. This is this goes under the same category of like price matching and all this other stuff like so many things that come into your margin, and you have to make a decision as a business whether it’s worth to make the sale, even at a lower margin or not. And that is that is a very complicated question. Most retailers like are on the hunt and they want to sell and what if you also have to look at your numbers and make sure that you’re like not giving all of your profits to UPS or FedEx.

Ressa 9:01
I think what we’re going to see over time contrary to headline news is retailers will actually be able to provide the most affordable price to consumer and profit when the purchases made in a store over time, especially as shipping costs rise and oil prices go up and things happen so you need multi channels you need to be omni channel but the whole headline news that says it’s oh it’s so much cheaper online and there’s so little cost online is just completely

Gurock 9:36
that is not as that’s that’s that’s not true. It’s just the box cost something the if you’re drop shipping, you have to like send purchase orders into the manufacturer. You have to like provide the shipping you have to do the customer service. You’d have to ship the ship the box. I mean, there’s so many costs that go into it. Yes, the you don’t necessarily need to have 1234 staff people sitting in your store selling your items. Unlike your, your employee costs may be different. And obviously the, you know, this is life, life isn’t that easy. There’s always going to the grass always greener somewhere. But the idea that and also you have to like acquire the customer, the customer at a cost. So like that’s not free unless you’re like the biggest SEO is and you can just get it organically. That’s not happening. So there are definitely a lot of like, baked in costs. I think stores are really important. And I think people want to experience stores what like I said before, what they do in stores, and how you’re going to get them transact with you, when walking through your door is is changing. And you have to sort of play around with things test things out to make sure that the customer does actually like spend their money with you

Ressa 10:45
don’t even get me started on customer acquisition cost. I say customer acquisition cost is the new rent. So anyway,

Gurock 10:52
customer acquisition cost is greater than do rent. And it’s worse than rent because rent is a fixed cost. And your acquisition is going to like you’re giving a big to Google or Facebook or Instagram or Tiktok wherever you’re advertising every time you make a sale. And if you’re trying to scale your business with that, then you just need to again look really, really carefully at your numbers and it is complicated.

Ressa 11:13
Wow. That is one of the most profound things I’ve heard in a while about customer acquisition costs. Thank you for sharing that was incredible. Okay. I want to pivot to the next topic we call clear the air. I have three questions for you. Are you ready, Ellie? I’m ready. I hope so. All right. Question one. What is one skill you don’t possess but wish you did?

Gurock 11:34
The the skill that I like stuck out the most is like is proofreading. Like proofreading is my wife has never written a typo in her life. And I cannot write one email without having a typo in it so I wish I had like the skill to proofread.

Ressa 11:50
So for a small fee you can you can change the game here. Are you familiar with Grammarly?

Gurock 11:58
Grammarly has changed my life saying? I love Grammarly. I use Grammarly. I use great I have Grammarly on my phone. Like I checked my texts with Grammarly. I’m so like I’m like I My words are better on the video.

Ressa 12:10
I’m with you. Grammarly is Grammarly is great. Okay. And no one has said proofreading before I love that answer. Question two, what is one thing? Most people agree with that you do not?

Gurock 12:22
This is like a very business thing that like email is dead. My numbers will tell you that email works really, really well. I love that.

Ressa 12:31
Just curious how big is your email list? 22 million views on YouTube, you must have a big email we

Gurock 12:35
have 100 and 100. Like we call our list like we don’t like so we have 100,000 active users on our list. So we don’t bother with that we have I’m sure we have like hundreds of 1000s of emails in our system for 17 years. But we don’t actively as people don’t engage in our world. We don’t send them emails. We’d like to archive them.

Ressa 12:58
That’s big numbers for a small business for with two locations. Huge numbers. Last question. When is the last time you tried something for the first time?

Gurock 13:07
So I’ll go back to my like a handstand thing. I just did like a brand new handstand move last week that I was really scared to do because like it could have had me like fall over and like maybe get injured but like I did it. You can follow me on instagram you can see all my hands has basically my handstands I make my wife makes martinis I make drinks. And my kids like that’s my Instagram, my personal Instagram. But that is not do the handstand move really worked out well for me.

Ressa 13:35
so unique. Very cool. That’s great. Thank you for sharing about you. Let’s go to business a little bit. Obviously COVID changed a lot. You and I had talked before this show and you had told me some things that you had done. Why don’t you walk us through a little bit of pre COVID magic beans and now post COVID magic beans.

Gurock 13:56
Sure. So I so like I said we use have six stores and actually the beginning of 2019, we decided that we have to start Connecticut we had a store of like in southern Massachusetts that I wasn’t the concept that we were sort of like growing was a concept that was created in 2004. And we kind of needed to like take a couple steps back in order to like go forward. And I definitely think that they’re going to be more stores in the future. But like a kind of a different concept. So anyway, we closed our actually our original location in Brooklyn where I live in January of 2020. Good timing. And we ended up with two stores. So we used to like distribute merchandise from our centralized warehouse to our brick and mortar locations multiple times a week. And we used to that was a fairly fairly traditional situation. But again, we sell baby gear and if you shop for baby gear before it sounds like you have two kids so like you shop for baby gear or someone in a family shop for baby gear. There’s like a two step process. There’s the research phase and there’s the shopping phase. So because people who haven’t bought a stroller For have never bought a stroller before. So they have to sort of like take a stroll the test drive and check it out. So imagine beans, what would happen is we’d have people in the store. And we’d have to wait around to see if someone were to come into one that consultation to learn about their products and they’d come in, they’d spend like, an hour with us hour and a half of us 30 minutes, whatever it is, learn about the base year, we’d say thank you. And then they leave. And we’d hope that they would come back and actually transact with us now we are really, really adamant about like, following up with customers collecting their email, sending them thank you notes, keeping the engaging process a little bit of like a business to business relationship where you’re sort of like cultivating a customer over time to make a conversion in the future. Versus like, I need a pair of sneakers, I go to the store, I buy some sneakers, I walk out, I go for a run. It’s not how it works with baby gear. But the problem with us in terms of scheduling is we never know, when people would want to do that consultation, like Saturday morning. Sure, super busy, but like, it’s Tuesday afternoon at four o’clock in our Wellesley store, like is someone going to want to do a full registry like we’d always have to like guess and overstaffed in order to know and we’d never be prepared. But when the pandemic came in, a couple of things had to happen. We had very limited staff, we had limited people in the store. And we’ve been saying forever, would it be great if we could have some scheduling that if someone can go into the website, book a time like book like a restaurant reservation, choose what type of time you’d want with us. And, and you come in. And also, while we’re at it, that we would find that like, so there’s this two step process, people would come with us spend an hour with us like learning about products. And then the conversion rate was like fairly low, despite the fact that my staff is the most amazing staff you’d ever meet ever. They leave. And it’s not that the customers are like mean, but like they buy an Amazon or many of our manufacturers sell from their own websites, or some other specialty competitor or byebye, baby or whatever it might be. There’s so many different places to shop. So our conversion rate was like fairly low. So we said, here’s something if you’re going to spend time with my staff spending an hour with us, then what I want to know when you come in number two, I would like to collect the deposit form you like you can please pay him pay our for our time $50. And at the end of the consultation, I will give you a magic beans gift card for $50 You will be made whole. And when you spend that $50 on your $900 Stroller you’ll use trust me, you’ll find something to do with that gift card over the course of time with their children buy Lego for Christmas, whatever it might be. And so we started doing that. And of course, in the beginning, we got some pushback from customers. Like what do you mean, you’re charging me to come see your stroller that they told me this is the worst business decision ever. And like, all this stuff, and I’m like, It’s okay. Number one, we need to disinfect between consultations. Number two, like we have a very limited staff because it’s pandemic. And number three, it’s like if you’re going to show room, at least $50 in my pocket, right, move on. And so what that did was a couple of things. Number one, it really pre qualified the customer. Since he’s paid some money to come for the consultation, they asked more questions, wanting to maximize the value of that. And then the conversion rates skyrocketed. Wow, because you have your $50 deposit that you can spend on products in the store. So like, if very lucky, because for baby gear, we have something called Map pricing, which a lot of your listeners know about is that like the price is the same magic beans, it is on Amazon as it is on the manufacturers website. So it’s really not a price thing that they’re really comparing. It’s really a convenience thing. And brand and brand.

Ressa 18:34
You’re blowing my hair back the little that I have, how much did your conversion rate increase?

Gurock 18:39
Well, the funny thing is we don’t have like the exact numbers because before we didn’t have the scheduling system. So right now that data is so like, immense, because we know exactly how many people are coming exactly where they’re speaking to exactly how that converts, like all the numbers are right there before like a Tuesday afternoon, like on a random, like, how do I track that it was very hard to track. So I think it went from somewhere between the 30 to 40% conversion rate to like, close to 60%. I’m still losing like 40% of the customers to Amazon. But at least I’ve increased it from like a 40 to about 60% conversion rate.

Ressa 19:17
Unbelievable. totally unbelievable. What a really, really interesting business idea for a small business retailer. You don’t hear about this a lot. I think you are innovating in ways that headline news is calling on for retailers to innovate nationwide. So kudos to you anything else about the business that you’d like to share your experience through doing business in COVID, anything like that?

Gurock 19:43
It was and I think that it’s the I for better for worse. I think customers have have had a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety they unfortunately a lot of them have taken it up on my staff, it’s like has not been pretty. So just the matter of like deal dealing with people’s feelings. I mean, they’ve been lots of feelings. And that’s been a it’s been challenging. I mean, I think the I it’s it’s complicated because some people have been like, absolutely amazing and our customers have supported us like on believable ways I can’t tell you Chris that when March April May of 2020 when people were stuck at home and looking of where to shop, the our customers came out and for us, you know, we you know, it was so we will remember was so uncertain, like in Boston, that’s like, there was like, I guess we were like an early COVID Like listeners from all over the place, but in Boston, like, March was March April is pretty bad. But our customers reply, responded to our emails or reply to our did the curbside pickup, etc. So it was, it was pretty amazing to see. I mean, it’s important to like build your community. It really, really is. And it’s definitely about, like building that relationship and not being overly transactional. And if you sort of give your customers that type of support, like you hope that will come through, and our customers are amazing me that. Wow,

Ressa 21:07
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Okay, a couple more questions, and then we’re gonna move on the baby market’s interesting, right? Because there’s always new customers. But at some point, it’s not like paper towels were brought, it might have a customer forever. At some point, your customers change. And you’re always having to acquire new customers walk us through how that is so different than other market segments?

Gurock 22:31
Oh, yeah, it’s terrible. It’s like a leaky bucket. So like, you just said that you have a four year old and a two year old you are like, on your way towards video games. Right? So for me, the families so people, first thing is before you have a baby, you know, nothing. Like you could be like an aunt or an uncle with like, like 16 nieces and nephews. But when you have your baby, you know, nothing. That’s so right. So you do like, find out you’re pregnant, then you sort of like you’re in denial for the first trimester and nervous and all this other stuff, right? And then at about 20 weeks to 25 weeks, you know, some of the families like when you get to your registry, what are you going to order your crib, all that stuff, right, so now 25 weeks to 40 weeks, 15 weeks, to like sell them and to teach them from zero to brawny in a very, very quick period of time. And then they have their baby. So the main like big purchases, the high ABV items are like when they’re pregnant. And then hopefully I’ve done a good job and we sell toys for all ages. Hopefully I can like sell you like infant toys and toddler toys and preschool toys. But at some point, at four or five, six years old, I’m going to lose you to Gamestop and to video games and to other online digital stuff. And then the so then it then it ends right if I can if I’m if I’m a runner, and I like broke sneakers and I’m going to be running for 30 years, go to the same store, buy new sneakers Repeat, repeat, repeat. So for me the advantage for me is I can stay with my customer for a period of time. That’s why I sell baby gear and toys. But at some point I lose them after acquire a whole new group every single day. It’s a fight every day.

Ressa 24:18
Yeah. The other piece of this at least as I’ve learned as a consumer, even in my short time of four years of being a parent is the amount of new products that come to market is insanity. Yep. And you’re constantly have to educate yourself on the new products and you have to decide what skews am I going to carry which skews am I not going to carry walk us through how you think about that?

Gurock 24:44
Well the first thing is that like the fundamentals does this feel flimsy? Does this have good packaging? Does this like their basic check marks if you’re a specialty retailer to make sure this like looks good and as a quality product. That’s something that you can like eliminate a A lot of products like right off the bat, you know, if you people bring me strollers to try to like review on YouTube or sell in the store, like all the time, and I can tell from like 20 feet away whether something is good or bad and like I can reject some other stuff. But, you know, I think it’s really complicated right now, because they’re different factors that isn’t the same. What is your channel strategy? Do you have Amazon Marketplace sellers? Are there? Like, do you sell direct to consumer on your website? If you are on your website, do you offer coupons on your website, am I going to have to fight my customers against you my manufacturer every day, so we can like eliminate a lot of like options, like, all the time, but again, we’ve been doing this for a long time. And for people who’ve had retail stores for a long time, like me, I feel like an old like retailer now like 17 years. You know, once you know your customer and know products, you and you also develop relationships with manufacturers and your sales reps and things like that. You can like take good advice. But also you get like a sixth sense of these things over time. us earlier in the interview about stores, that’s the other good thing about stores, is stores is one of the best places to try products, get backup products. Also, when products don’t sell online, you can put them in your store and try that someone services a whole other channel for you to sell products. And I think you could put things on your shelf and like train your staff. And then if you you know, and they’re products that are gonna be dogs, like that’s just the nature of things, but you have to, like try things and you tried conservatively and you can make the ways you just hope for the best. I mean, that’s like, pretty fundamental.

Ressa 26:43
Right now, the products that I’m seeing the most at least get advertised and my wife and I are the sleep products, whether it’s hatch and all these things. There’s a million sleep infant toddler baby products that are wild right now.

Gurock 26:58
Yep, that’s right, that we hatch baby. It’s a good example. I mean, it’s, it’s a really that’s a great example, we actually just brought hatch baby into the into magic beans a couple of weeks ago. Really popular, they’re really good at digital marketing themselves. And they are selling on their own website, and they’re selling on Amazon and like they are just they’re old, they’re all over the place. And consumers are coming in. They want to see the store the products in person and how do you convert the customer to shop with you? Or how do you leverage the manufacturer to, like work with you to sort of for that shelf space? I mean, I think that we do that pretty well. You know, do you want to is there a way like I was like, basically like Co Op advertising. But it’s like a weird type of Call of advertising because you used to in the day, right? Like you want to do like a magazine article, or magazine ad, hey, I’m gonna put an ad in a quarter page ad and parenting magazine, whatever that is. And it’s going to cost like $1,200. Manufacturer, I’ll promote your thing you give me 600 I’ll put in 600. And we’ll advertise to circulation of 500,000 people that’s our we’ll do a billboard together whatever, or radio commercial. This is like, anyone who’s listening to retail stores remembers what this is the old type of cold advertising, I’m sure I’m sure we’re still doing this, that by and large. But now, it’s different. Like basically, you are by having a hatch product in your store. You are showrooming you are advertising, not even for Amazon for like half And if you’re listening to this right now, I love you. You’re my partner, you’re amazing, but it’s just an example. It’s also just true, is it’s just that there’s so many different places to to buy. And also that means that like your sales staff needs to be like super, super amazing.

Ressa 28:51
Totally. This was great. Enjoyed really learning about your business. I want to move to the story part of the show. You have a story about how a magic beans location opened up. What location are we going to,

Gurock 29:06
I think we should go with I think I’m going to do the one of the stores that still exist. It’s my Cambridge location. And you’re in village in Cambridge, Massachusetts. So Cambridge is a big city, you may have no Cambridge like Harvard University is there a lots of people are in in Cambridge, and there is a another specialty toy chain in the area called Henry Baris Park. And in that and in the location where my store is there was a handy Baris Park toy store for 30 years. And she, the owner of the time, moved her store from her own village to another area of Cambridge in like September of I think it was like 2009 or two doesn’t like a long time, but if you’d have a nine I think it was. So it is. There’s a toy store, you know, location for 30 years and they leave in September. So you have 30 years of people who are going to be coming to this place for Christmas shopping, right a couple of months later. So October of 2009 I think the year was the landlord calls the people own toy stores in the area of Austin and said hey Ellie, here with a toy store in this location. For 30 years it is October. If you can open a store by Christmas, people are going to come to this location to buy their toys and you will get this customer and from that conversation I think was 45 days later we are

Ressa 30:35
open Holy Cow How did you get open so quickly?

Gurock 30:39
We moved fast he was ready this is like a local local landlord he’s still my landlord like he was ready to do it on a handshake he’s like forget the lawyers read the lease is just open just do just do it. Just Just do it. Let’s go and we you know busted our tails and

Ressa 30:55
so first thing you clearly didn’t do a ton of construction at least immediately because you were trying to get open for the holidays you didn’t have to get permits and all that stuff to do construction did oh you did read it I mean it was it was

Gurock 31:10
the Cambridge is a fortunately a more laid back city. Like not every like Wellesley is new or Brookline where I live there’d be so many hearings and all this other stuff to get your permits all your stuff in Cambridge, it was pretty laid back back in the day. So that we did have to have some basic electrical instruction permits. It wasn’t like out of control and that was really helpful. Like how many times like you’re waiting there for the building instructor to get your CFO and their merchandise it it’s like, I’ve gone through that so many times. But this is pretty so yes, it was pretty. It was a low key permitting process.

Ressa 31:44
Wow. And did you crush it that

Gurock 31:47
Christmas? Totally. Just as expected the people we were opened by I think December 4 So we didn’t open by Black Friday. But early December we were opened the doors and people like just as we expected. Hey, this is an enterprise mark. This is magic beans like Bolcom. Can I like gift for a pet for you?

Ressa 32:07
What can I show you? So did you ever hear why that retailer left the location in September? What an odd time?

Gurock 32:14
It it isn’t it isn’t, you know, we all tell ourselves stories about why our sales are declining. You know, if only I was in his bedroom, they moved to it and they’re still there. This other location in Cambridge, it’s a really nice new like shopping center. Like us like a strip mall area strip center. knew there was parking there was I guess, I don’t know why they left and I think they’re successful new location. I’m sure the rent is a lot more there. But you know, we all tell ourselves stories about why we want to leave and they told themselves a particular story and they you know, followed their numbers, their guts, etc. and moved on. You know, sometimes it’s easier to to start like a fresh new store than to like renovate. Like that store needed a lot of renovation, even though it was quick. We didn’t have to do a fair amount of renovation.

Ressa 33:05
Yeah, going back to the beginning. Yes. If you didn’t get this call from this landlord, would you be in Cambridge today?

Gurock 33:14
Probably not. Probably not.

Ressa 33:17
What a great lead in for the landlords in America the you never know. And you should you have an opportunity to

Gurock 33:23
make the guy tell you. I know that landlords listen to this to the show. And I would just say that if you want to have a more like, like a more exciting downtown in your area, you need to call the interesting specialty retailers in your area and see if they want to store in your space. Like I know that there are some layups, you know, you can get like a services you can do like a nail salon, or like a hair salon, or like a GNC or whatever it might be. But there are like so many like interesting retailers like me who are looking for good locations, and it’s going to make the communities more vibrant. In the long term, your rent is going to move in the right direction. But they again, I understand it’s, it’s an investment in but if you own property in that area, you want the numbers to go up and like understand that you might get I don’t even know if you’re gonna get a lower rent from someone like me, you might get a good rent, but I just wish that landlords would look to, like, do a little bit more research to find the more interesting specialty retailers because that’s what communities want.

Ressa 34:33
Kudos to you, Ellie. Kudos to you. And I agree, going back such a short timeline, when you were making this decision to open up in Cambridge. How many stores did you have at the time?

Gurock 34:46
We had three was our fourth store.

Ressa 34:49
You had to move quickly. What other factors went into the decision making to say you know what, I’m going to try and rush and make this happen.

Gurock 34:58
I had the benefit Not not the benefit of, of ignorance and being it’s kind of new to the game. Like, I think that I was. I don’t think I was even 30 years old, maybe I was 31 This all happened? No, it was after? No, there was a little bit older that was in my early 30s. And and I don’t know, necessarily think you didn’t know going through, I was like really going on instinct. Wow. You know, and also, the basic economics of the store were pretty good. It was like not so tyrant. You know, and I also, like, had a sense of the numbers of the press, I didn’t know exactly numbers of the previous retailer, but like, it’s pretty cool to like, have a toy store in an area. And then have like, to put your same exact like format in the same location. Because like, as you’re looking for, like real estate, one of the rights anyone everyone knows this, the one thing you can’t know, is what are your sales gonna be? Like, you could guess based on like, your dollars per square foot in a different location. This is similar and like, basic foot traffic counts, but you’re never really going to know until you know, unless someone if someone like knows the secret to how to figure that out by the dog by the exact thing, please let me know.

Ressa 36:17
Well, there’s a lot of different software programs out there that people use to try to dial in,

Gurock 36:21
I’m sure they do. And I would be skeptical if they are accurate.

Ressa 36:26
I hear you. One of the things you mentioned about the confidence and location based on the prior tenant, I find that interesting, because there’s that, to me is an interesting confidence because there is a certain entrepreneur that might say to themselves, hmm, that used to be x use, that’s what I do. If they couldn’t make it there. Are They’re leaving? I don’t know that I want to go in that location. I’m gonna choose a different location. But you said the opposite, which is they left toy sales on the table, I’m going to get them. Yep.

Gurock 37:03
Oh, there’s an art form that’s a little bit different from theirs, since we sell this, the whole baby category, which most they sell toys and books, we sell toys and baby gear. It’s like a whole different format. And I’m and it’s the baby businesses like just a very different business, and it’s a good business. And that’s not to say that toys isn’t. You know, I think that in terms of finding locations, the other thing that people didn’t think about is like CO tendency, like for me, I don’t really want to rely on the community, the landlord or the CO tendency, like it’s my job to market my business,

Ressa 37:38
your family law, you’re betting on Ellie

Gurock 37:42
Yes, um, we’re betting our selves or team that we can like market really hard and like offer that great experience to people to tell their friends like really, like I’m a person who’s like, kind of like into fundamentals is that if you give a great experience, they’re going to tell 10 friends, and the opposite is true as well. And if you can get that the you know, get that base of customers that come through your door that you can, like grow from there. And I again, I think having good co tenants are, are good. And they’re like, it’s also a little bit of smoke and mirrors because people might come out of their car or go into the store go back to their car. And like I think about where I buy my dog food. I have a great like local Polka Dog Bakery. In Boston, they have a number of locations. They’re fantastic. I go into the pet store, I buy my dog food, I see their stores next door left and right. I don’t go into those doors, I go back to my car when I go home. I mean, I’m busy. It’s I have the same mentality for my own stores is that I got the best neighbor in the world. But they can be going in and out like, Oh, next, the Apple Store. Great. They’re not coming into your store for sec.

Ressa 38:52
Yeah, it’s it’s a really interesting concept. Because that dog food store that you mentioned, there are tenants in that shopping center, where part of the decision making process was Who else was here. And what you’re talking about is a little bit in making that less of the decision making process and more about what’s just right for you, not necessarily relying on others to generate your business, rather focus on your marketing and the things you can control.

Gurock 39:22
Sure. Also, it’s like a it’s also a matter of rent. You know, I think that that landlords who sort of merchandise a really impressive group of CO tenants, like you’re probably going to pay for that. And you have to make the decision whether the overflow from left to right is going to be worth the amount of rent that you’re going to pay for that premium merchandising and also taking a look and seeing our people. Is this a place where people are going to spend the afternoon I’m going to wander into your store. What is the foot traffic going to be? You know?

Ressa 39:55
Totally, I love it. Thank you so much. It was so insightful. Really appreciate you taking the time. You’re a busy man with two stores in the Econ business and a tremendous YouTube following parent, you got a lot on your plate. I really appreciate you taking the time to come and talk with us today. I have three final questions for you. We call this section retail wisdom. Are you ready?

Gurock 40:18
Sure. Let’s do it.

Ressa 40:19
All right. Question one. What extinct retailer Do you wish would come back from the dead?

Gurock 40:24
I have such great fond memories of Borders Bookstore. I loved going there. I love seeing it. I thought they were trying to do some cool things with technology when they were going out and trying to make the personalized experience and I just have very fond memories. And it’d be really fun to just like, go around and see that store again.

Ressa 40:46
It was a good store. I agree. Question two. What is the last item over $20? You purchased in a store?

Gurock 40:54
Oh, does each drum count? Sure. Okay, cuz I just I have, like, talked about a good specialty retailer. And there’s the Rama quarter for my house place called the wine press. It’s like a husband and wife, like team. They’re amazing. They’re also fantastic customers of magic beans, like a really good quid pro quo. And I just like love supporting their business. And I bought like a great aged rum, which I make like old fashioned drinks with and it’s so good.

Ressa 41:24
Who doesn’t love a good old fashion? Exactly. Last question. Ali. If you and I were shopping at Target, and I lost you what I would I find you it?

Gurock 41:36
You would probably find me in the that is such a tough question. Like there’s so many like fun things at target that I love. I would probably like I kind of want to be like lame and say I want to check out like the baby products to see what kind of manufacturers are there. But I probably would be looking at like, different like home goods and cooking stuff. Like I love to cook and just, you know, grab a new like cutting board or something like that.

Ressa 42:07
Fantastic. Well, Ellie, this was great. I really appreciate you coming on today. Next time I’m in Boston. I’m stopping by and we have to connect in person. Oh,

Gurock 42:18
I love that. Absolutely. All right. Well,

Ressa 42:20
listen man, this was great. Thank you so much. Thank you for listening to Retail Retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at Retail Retold at DLC This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to Retail Retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode.

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