Dream Alchemy- Stay Golden
"Turn things you’ve always wanted to do into things you’ve done.”- T.S. Eliot
Sometimes, the way forward is unclear; sometimes, you go anyway.
As Felding Co. prepares for its grand opening, it seemed like as good a time as any to reflect on the journey thus far. Luke Lanzoni, the founder of Felding Co., acknowledges that where you’re going is usually informed by where you have been. In that vein, here is the tale (to date) of this particular store in this particular city.
What to do
In November of 2016, Luke lost his job. There is a another story in that statement that could be unpacked, but that is not the subject of this blog post. Suffice to say, it was a difficult experience that sent many parts of Luke’s life into a tailspin. Shortly after the Christmas holiday, Luke and his wife Sandy hit the road, traveling to El Paso and Los Alamos to visit family. The long road trip was welcome adventure from a life event that had now dotted the future with question marks. On the long days of driving, many of the questions were entertained: should Luke stay in his current line of work and move to a new developer? Or should he go back to school and get an advanced degree? Or maybe he should pursue a job that involved travel? Most of these ideas began to sound hollow or ill fitting after cursory sessions of questioning. While the road trip did not end in the grand epiphany they were hoping for, it had given space for eliminating other options, and sweet time with family and exploring cities had provided hope moving forward. Sometimes, really unpleasant realities are just enough to make it worth trying something a little crazy.
Interest turned Obsession
Bit of backstory: Luke had enjoyed fashion and craftsmanship for years leading up to his starting the store. Moving to Berlin in 2011, Luke was exposed to fashion and personal style on a level and breadth that he had not experienced before. He was inspired by the freedom and variety expressed by people he passed on the street each day. Living abroad also meant opportunities to test and try out his own fashion interests. There was safety in numbers; in a huge city like Berlin, no one cares if you want to try out new ideas or try on new looks. That kind of anonymity makes for great practice fields in personal style and creativity.
When he came back to the states, his interest in fashion did not diminish or dissolve. He became more interested in denim and American goods, watching countless videos and reading anything he could get his hands on, specifically concerning selvedge denim. The store had been an idea he had kicked around right before getting married. A job opportunity led to Luke walking away from the idea of starting the store in favor of stability and regular hours. Over the next year, as Luke and Sandy would travel to various cities, they would try to visit the local menswear shops (opportunities for Luke to find clothes he enjoyed) and would wonder afresh why Knoxville didn’t have a store of their own yet. These thoughts became the foundation for the next step Luke was about to risk.
Upon returning from the road trip, Luke began to really consider the possibility of a opening a store. He didn’t want to wonder anymore about it; if it wasn’t a good idea, there were enough checks along the way to stall it out. As Luke met with friends and advisors in the Spring of 2017, he began to outline his business plan and contact brands about carrying their products. The business plan went through several drafts, getting various people to look at it and discover what holes might exist. Luke said the learning curve was straight up, and he would have to go back and back again each time he met with someone to revise pieces of the business plan. Curating items and building relationships with brands was also a nuanced process; many months of emails and phone calls led to a combination of products the store would one day carry. And the path was not always clear. He would have ideas for brands to carry only to discover that there was a minimum for what he could purchase that eliminated that brand as an initial option. Staying open and flexible was crucial, if this dream store was going to turn into brick and mortar one day.
In Good Company
Throughout the process of curating items and crafting a business plan, he was fortunate to have support in the form of praise and questions. Luke found it helpful to meet with people along the way who had valuable advice or perspective and were willing to meet with him. You can’t turn lead into gold without council and people willing to risk right alongside you. Sometimes, comments were made from experiences; at other times, comments were made from instinct. Over the months, while Luke worked various side jobs for extra cash, his meetings became less theoretical and more practical in terms of advice and strategies, and Luke became encouraged as he neared the store. The dream was closer to brick and mortar than ever before.
Experiments in Real Time
As the store’s opening gets closer, the element of risk is not lost on Luke. There is no handbook for this store and its success. Each day, he works to turn something that was a dream or idea into a reality. This is akin to working with highly explosive material or high wire acts without a net. We are out in the deep, and the stakes are high As the beginning draws near, Luke looks forward to working with clients and being a part of the community of business owners seeking to contribute something positive to Knoxville and her citizens. The team at Felding Co. is so thankful for all the love and support thus far. We are incredibly humbled by the positive responses and reactions from social media and pop-ups. It’s almost go time, and we couldn’t be more excited! See you out there!