by Joey Phoenix
When you’re a small business owner, moving to a new location can be harrowing enough. Doing it in the midst of a global pandemic adds a whole new level of difficulty. But for two Salem small businesses, it’s been something to look forward to.
This summer, Kate and Jess Moody of Moody’s Home and Gifts and Matt Smith of District Trading Company will be moving into their respective new locations on Essex St., giving themselves the space that both of their brands need to expand and show off the work of local artists.
Moody’s will be moving into the location formerly occupied by Essex Dry Cleaners across from the Hawthorne Hotel, and District Trading, formerly on Artist’s Row, in a game of delightful Salem Tetris, will take over the location currently occupied by Moody’s.
Making Room for New Experiences with Moody’s Home and Gifts
Sisters Kate and Jess Moody opened Moody’s Home and Gifts in downtown Salem in 2017. With Jess’s business background and Kate’s interior design background, the two of them were confident about opening a store with a focus on pieces made by local artists and fair trade items guaranteed to catch the eye of everyone who stepped inside.
I always wanted to open my own store,” said Kate. “And we always knew it would be a combination of worldwide Fair Trade and local artists that would be something unique, that would stand out from other souvenir shops downtown.”
Some of the artists who have been represented in their shop include the illustrator Jake Cassavoy, wardrobe stylist Lisa Ann Schraffa Santin, jewelry designer Creative Cinderella, and candlemaker History by the Sea. With the new space, they plan to expand their collections even more to include more clothing, kitchenware, and to be able to host workshops and live maker events.
The one thing that the two of them weren’t planning however was to be forced to close their shop in mid-March of this year over concerns due to COVID-19. However, luckily for them, they had already been moving some things into place so they could have an online presence, and so when this all happened, they were able to continue that process.
“Luckily for us on the top of our 2020 list of goals was to improve our website,” Jess said. “In February we switched our hosting service and had started really diving into making the website the way that we wanted. We felt like we couldn’t really do email campaigns to send customers to a website that we weren’t really proud of.”
So, because of this, when they had to close their doors earlier this year, they had the tools in place that enabled them to pivot to online sales, and that sustained them through March. And then in April, when things weren’t changing, they decided to donate 10% of their online sales to the American Red Cross – a move that helped them keep the digital lights on.
The plus side for all of this too is that even when their new retail location opens up later this year, they’ll be able to keep the online store as an ongoing source of income.
“Although we had to quickly learn how to do Facebook and Instagram sales,” Kate said.
Originally, they were meant to move locations in midsummer with the goal to open their new location on August 1st. But with everything as it was, the timeline got pushed forward considerably when the owner of Essex Street Dry Cleaners decided to retire a few months early.
“Instead of losing two months, we’ll lose one month,” Jess said, “so in light of everything that is another positive. And not only that, it’s like two or three times the space, and we’re really excited to have found a larger space to be able to do things that we always wanted to do.”
Designing a New England Coastal Brand with District Trading Company
Matt Smith, the designer behind District Trading Company, spent the market season of last year running a storefront on Artist’s Row in downtown Salem. His hyper-local designs, including great puns like “I Believe in Ferries” and a tribute to Salem’s Waikiki Beach, have delighted locals and tourists alike.
“I honestly was having a really hard time finding a space that worked,” Matt recalled. “So I was actually going to just do the online model and then festivals in the summer, but then through the grapevine I heard that the Moody’s were moving.”
Sporting a P-town vibe, District Trading has a summer feel to almost everything, and Matt took the bulk of the winter off to make designs and think of new products just in time for Memorial Day with a plan to open the store in June.
And then COVID happened.
“It’s so unknown right now. And, but the reality is, over time, it’s going to be a new normal, and we’ll have to think of things differently,” Matt said. But people are still going to want to get out. they’re still going to want to come to Salem. And they’re still going to want some locally inspired things.”
More than anything though, Matt is looking forward to being in a spot with more activity and foot traffic. Plus, with a bigger space, he’ll be able to expand the side of his business to include more pieces from local artists that also fit with his brand in addition to new coastal and North Shore designs.
He’s always been really inspired by the things in Salem that aren’t just Halloween and is transforming his brand to meet that inspiration.
“I’m trying to focus a little bit more on the seaside elements of Salem, including a new design with little sailboats and rainbow colors,” Matt said. The idea is to represent all types of diversity, and to be more inclusive, which I think will be really fun.”
His collaborations with local artists in the shop will include an ongoing photography exhibit and work from local jewelry makers.
“I really want [the store] to be a launchpad for those who are trying something new.” Matt said. “So it’s not just the District Trading brand in its new updated version, but also as a place for local artists doing their own creative pursuits to sell what they’ve got.”
Both Moody’s and District Trading have a lot of work ahead of them opening new brick and mortar locations during a global pandemic, but with summer in the air and hope on the horizon, and a great online presence just in case, things are looking up.
“This has been my dream forever, and it’s just time to do it. The future is uncertain anyway, so it’s time to be brave.” Matt added.
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