Battle Ground couple gathers products from region’s craftspeople to sell online and in Clark County
When sending gifts to friends and family, Jim and Carol Greenlee always tried to choose items that reflected the Northwest. And they realized that there may be a market for others looking to do the same.
"Starting a business together was something that we always wanted to do," said Jim Greenlee. "And we love the Northwest. It has so much to offer, there is incredible talent and ingenuity."
More than a month ago, the Greenlees opened Northwest Only in the Westfield mall, featuring products from local artists and craftspeople throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho. They had been operating the business online since the beginning of the year. Initial results have been positive at the store, and both parts of the business have increased steadily, they said.
In 2002, in preparation for launching their business, the Greenlees, who live in Battle Ground, bought up domain names incorporating "Northwest Only" in various ways. Jim Greenlee left his facilities and maintenance manager position at SEH America a year ago, and their Web site was up by early 2005. The Greenlees began seeking out original Northwest products. They visited farmer’s markets and bazaars and performed research, which included a lot of arduous taste testing, to find the best and highest quality products. From artwork and apparel to health and beauty products and food items, they gradually added items to their inventory each week.
"We look for products that have the character and flavor of the Northwest," said Carol Greenlee. "The more it embodies that, the better the chance we will sell it."
Much of their merchandise was offered through consignment early on, but now all except artwork and apparel are purchased wholesale.
The Greenlees decided on the 750-square-foot mall location because "this type of business needs the traffic that malls generate," said Carol Greenlee.
They are now focused on getting the word out about their store location through signage throughout the mall, advertising and direct mailing.
The Greenlees say sales for Northwest Only are running according to plan. Retailers such as Northwest Only experience eight months of steady business between March and October, with a low period in January and Febuary and a spike in sales in November and December, they said.
In preparation for an increase in business, the Greenlees expect to begin a round of hiring in the next few weeks. They will soon also have a Northwest Only cart elsewhere in the mall to increase sales and expand its presence.
If all goes well, the Greenlees would like to move into a larger location in the mall and explore opportunities to expand into other regions in the Northwest.