Los Angeles, CA — If she had a $100 for everyone who walked in the doors of Cultural Interiors and raved about how wonderful the shop was; how they had passed by for years and never noticed; or how they lived in the neighborhood and were just now discovering it, Lorinee Jackson might not be in the process of closing the upscale home decor and fine arts gift store.
But after seven years, that is exactly what she and store owner Gail Hawkins are doing.
“We’re closing partially because of what is going on with the economy,” said Jackson, who manages the store which is located near the intersection of Slauson Avenue and Overhill Drive.
“We’re not getting the business we had in past years. It’s been very tough throughout the (last) whole year. And it’s not that people don’t come in. It’s that a lot of people come in but don’t purchase.
Sales for this December were down 50% over the prior year, which was not that great a year either, admits Jackson.
“We’ve held on this year . . . but we are just not getting enough customers to continue to hold on,” she added.
Among the things that have hurt business at Cultural Interiors are the closing of Jordan’s Cafe several doors down, and the fact that from 4 to 6 p.m. people cannot park on the street in front of the store.
“We had a lot of traffic from there (Jordan’s), but I never realized (how much) until it closed. People would order lunch and come into the store; they would order dinner and come into the store,” said Jackson.
Unlike many small businesses, Cultural Interiors advertised repeatedly in newspapers and on radio as well as sent out regular e-mail blasts.
They also held exhibits monthly to draw people into the store, and that will perhaps be one of the biggest losses to the community, when the store closes this month.
“. . . there are not enough places for African American artists to show their work,” pointed out Jackson. “We did a show every month, and I have artists send in other artists. I have a whole list of people I want to do a show with but . . .” trailed off the store manager, who also noted that a number of people who have shown their works at the store have been first-time exhibitors.
While Hawkins and Jackson are struggling with the emotional and business baggage of change, technology is allowing them to keep a presence by facilitating the transitioning of their bricks and mortar store into an online retail shop.
“Gail has been working on that feverishly for the last two months, and hopefully it will be up in the next two weeks,” Jackson said. “Hopefully we’ll get new customers. We’ll also get the customers we have who want to come in and find things we’ve offered over the years,” added Jackson, who said online retailing is a whole different process that she, as a people-person, must get used to.
“When people come in here, it’s something like coming into a bar. They come in to talk about what’s going on the world; what their worries are. It’s a place for them to come and unwind, relax, look around and talk with me or talk with Gail. We’re going to lose that part,” lamented Jackson, who thrives on the nurturing given clients and considers them “family.”
The Web site (www.culturalinteriors.com) is not new, but between the hustle and bustle of trying to keep the doors open, putting up and taking down shows and handling the design services Cultural Interiors offered, the two women did not have the time to really make that retailing technology work for them.
But that is about to change. Now online retailing will be the main event, and if all works as hoped, the flair that made Cultural Interiors such a distinctive store front presence will seep into the cyberspace version.