Coleen Magowan is the owner of Eighteen Friend Street in downtown Amesbury. She recently celebrated her one year anniversary in the store and has moved forward with expanding the shop! Explore Amesbury had the pleasure to sit down with Coleen and get an inside scoop.
How would you describe your store and what you sell?
Eighteen Friend Street has things that are all locally made by small business people, so I guess I would describe my store as beach themed with a shabby chic kind of feel. It’s homey, happy, fun and lighthearted.
How has the store changed over the past year?
When we started out we were Eighteen Friend Street in a small 300 square foot space, and on our one-year anniversary we rented another 1500 square feet, took down a wall and expanded, which allowed me to bring in a lot more local vendors and work with a lot more people. I feel like the store changed because it just gives more people opportunity to bring their things in and share with the downtown.
What’s something you hadn’t planned on when you opened the store?
Expanding. I definitely didn’t plan on expanding. I said I was going to, but I really didn’t think I ever would, so it was a kind of a not-thought-through decision. I just said, “let’s just do it,” and we did it.
I also had a business partner when I started, and the store took her in a different direction so I didn’t plan on being in business alone. That was a huge change, and being in business alone wasn’t something I planned for, but it works.
What’s your proudest moment related to the store?
I probably have a few proud moments here, but I think my proudest moments are when people come in and they have something that they don’t think other people would want, and you’re able to give them the self-confidence that they need. It’s not just my vendors that are here, that have now become my friends, but also my customers. People come in and they have things going on in their life, and they’re not sure what they need or what they want, and it’s great when you can talk someone through that. At the end of the day, if I had one person that I put a smile on their face, that would be my proudest moment.
My vendors come in and they’re like, “I don’t know if you’ll like this.” I had one vendor that had gone to several stores and nobody wanted their stuff, and I saw it and said, “oh my God, it’s perfect. I want it.” And they brought it in and in one month we sold $1500, which that’s a lot for one item, and it was huge for that person. When I told them, the amount of self-esteem that you can build in someone doing something like that is incredible. It’s such a simple thing — I didn’t do it, they made it. I just sold it. But to give them that self-confidence and build their esteem like that, it makes me pretty proud.
What’s your most popular seller?
I actually have three, but Healing Touch Pottery is the biggest seller hands-down. It’s made in New Hampshire and it’s all Reiki charged with positive energy, and every mug has a healing stone on it. The idea is that when you drink out of the mug your thumb is on the stone and you get that positive healing vibe when you start your day. We sell a boatload of those mugs because they’re awesome, they’re good quality, they’re beautiful, they’re well-made, and it’s a phenomenal family-run business. I begged and kicked and screamed to get their pottery in my store. They said, “we’re not taking anyone,” and I said, “oh, you’re taking me,” so they did.
My other two — Holly Arthur makes all our driftwood art. Her stuff is a huge seller here. People love driftwood stuff.
The third one, which I absolutely am connected to is Useful Glass. It’s all recycled bottles made by an organization that’s grant-funded that only hire men and women who can’t get jobs. Their whole mission is to keep giving back, and keep giving back. And I love their mission so I promote it, and I love their product because it’s a good product.
How does working with local vendors contribute to your business?
The people who come in here all have a story and my favorite thing to do when I’m in here is to tell people someone’s story. Why they’re doing what they’re doing, where it came from, what their product means. I think it’s huge. When people shop here they’re paying for somebody’s — not just me and my bills — but they’re paying for my vendors’ dinner, and their kids to play sports, and school clothes, and horseback riding lessons, and they’re electric. I had someone the other day who came in and said, “I couldn’t have paid my rent this month if it wasn’t for your store.” The things that we sell here make a difference in everyone’s life. I have vendors as young as 13 that raise money for cancer. I think their stories need to be heard. I want everyone to know their stories — not my stories but their stories.
What else do you do in the store, and how do you connect with other businesses?
We do classes. My artisans have first choice to come in and host a class here. If we sell their stuff in the store they can promote their business through classes. We had a coloring night one night which went over huge. Everybody came in and colored a warmer, so that was for a woman in business in Amesbury, we did that for her which was so fun. We did some collage classes that went over well. We just did a sign making class. They were beautiful. One of the women that does refurbished furniture in here came in and did signs that said ‘Home’ on it. They learned how to sand it and prime it and use two color tones and add stencil letters onto it, and the ‘O’ was a little wreath, and it’s a home sign for your house, and they were adorable. We had a psychic here — another woman in business in Amesbury — and things were a little bit slow in January, so we posted on Facebook and we sold out three nights, so it was again, that tag-team kind of thing. It brought people into my store, so people were here and we were open a little bit later, and it was fun, and she had business too. I love doing that kind of stuff. I love tag-teaming with people.
Ovedia came up on the Thursdays in December when they do the late shopping night. We had a huge turnout here, and Ovedia is kind of out of the way and people didn’t know that she was open, so one of the nights she came up and we did a drink, because I served locally made drinks for the whole month to keep our theme, so we did hot chocolate made by Ovedia and peppermint schnapps. So she brought her stuff up here and we tag-teamed in the store on one of the nights, which was awesome, too, because people came up because they wanted Ovedia and they were shopping. We borrowed chairs from the Barking Dog the other night, and the Ale House posted a big thing on our candles.
I like tag-teaming with other businesses. I think it’s important that we do.
What’s to come in your second year?
There are a bunch of things coming: A bigger store with the new building. More vendors. More people — both in the store, and who are coming to shop here. Spending more time with my family would be nice. New beginnings. Happy is to come.
Sunday: 12 to 5pm
Monday – Wednesday: 10am to 6pm
Thursday – Saturday: 10am to 9pm
18 Friend Street, Amesbury, MA 01913