Tell us about Simple Goods, in a nutshell…
Simple Goods is a curated lifestyle shop offering unique items with a minimalistic aesthetic, and a commitment to sourcing better quality goods. Our shop is in a sun-filled, window clad corner, nestled within our restaurant, Simple Cafe.
What inspired the idea of opening Simple Goods?
The inspiration came from my travelling, exploring both my love of the culinary arts and design. When opening the restaurant initially, I felt a piece of my story was missing so I began collecting unique, meaningful pieces to bring home as mementoes for both myself and my customers. Simple Goods has now been open for 5 years, but our restaurant has been open since 2005. I was born in France, and decided to leave 23 years ago to pursue my dream as a chef. My parents are Algerian, so Algeria is also very much a strong part of my culture.
Is there an ethos behind your business?
We believe in uniting and elevating our community, as well as making home a sanctuary that reflects each individual’s originality. Our concept is about offering one of a kind items so that our customers can create something truly unique for themselves. We source from designers and artisans found both from my travels around the world as well as local makers.
Tell us about your neighbourhood and community…
Simple Goods is situated on the south side of Bedford Avenue, in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I am fortunate to have been able to see the neighbourhood expand and grow over the past 14 years. We have a strong local community, and at the weekends, the area has become the spot for many tourists to explore due to the gentrification.
When I chose this neighbourhood over a decade ago, it was because of the community – I felt connected not only to the potential of the space (it used to be a dark and run down bodega), but to the people I met while I was looking to take over the premises. The community here is what has allowed me to stay in business for so long, and I am thankful for them believing in my story and what I have been able to build.
Who are your customers?
Our customers are mainly local people living in the area, and the weekends are filled with more tourists and people travelling from here Manhattan for something more unique.
How important is social media to your business?
As we are focused on offering a unique aesthetic, Instagram is a valuable way for us to showcase what we are about to people who are planning a trip to New York, or locals looking for something new.
Do you have any creative hobbies?
My hobby and passion is to travel to any UNESCO World Heritage city. So far, I have seen a lot but there are still so many more places I look forward to exploring! And I love to cook – my ideal day off is to be cooking at home with my family.
How did you design the space?
As Simple Goods is inside our main restaurant, it made sense to have it on the corner because it has beautiful natural light. I think the space was about creating a place where people could have their own moment. In all my travels, I have found there is a certain unique balance of elements which make a space something that ignites inspiration and captures attention. Even if people walk out without buying anything, the idea is that they leave inspired.
The space itself is made from raw elements such as a custom welded metal and a glass doorway, reclaimed wood floors and our centrepiece, a French 1920s wooden butcher’s block, which I painstakingly imported from France when I first opened. The other important aspect is that the space is filled with natural light, which is really important to me.
What is Simple Goods best known for?
Simple Goods is well known for our own candles, and our goods created in Morocco by artist and designer Mika Cali.
How has your business evolved?
I think everything truly came together with opening Simple Goods, having established Simple Cafe. It was a way to share my passion for travel, bringing it all into one space and telling a story. Growing up in France, I only ate home cooked meals that were my mother’s blend of classic Algerian dishes, mixed with French cuisine. When I came to America, there weren’t any restaurants representing these flavours or sensibility that I’d grown up with, so once I had enough experience in the restaurant industry to open my own place, I knew this was my path.
Opening Simple Cafe was about recreating the vibe of being in my mother’s kitchen. Its success allowed me to see the world, so Simple Goods came later as a way to show my own evolution and aesthetics from travelling. Many times, I’d return from a trip and add some new decor to the restaurant and people would try to buy them off the wall! That is when I realised that dedicating a separate shop would satisfy my customers, while also honouring my own story.
Are there joys, and challenges, in being an independent retailer?
Being an independent is part of my personality, and Simple Goods allows me the freedom to do what I want with purpose. I love that by giving others a chance to showcase and sell their work, it allows my business to grow as well, which adds to the joy of providing our customers with something unique and beautiful. Our biggest challenge is to be able to adapt and grow as the industry changes.
What has been your biggest highlight so far?
Launching our own range of handmade products – which includes our candles along with our co-branded collaborations made in Morroco (wall art, clothing, rugs and more…). Also, our designs by MIKA CALI and our range of bags and textiles by Maria Romero – which are all naturally dyed using our own restaurant food waste.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It never feels like I am ‘going to work’, rather getting to do what I love. Each day starts with a simple coffee at home and then going straight to the shop.
How do you manage the online world alongside a physical shop?
We don’t focus a lot online because most of our artisans create in small batches, and we prefer our customers to experience the story around the art and designs in person.
How do you approach marketing and PR?
We don’t really do any PR. We get a lot of walk-ins naturally within our local community, plus word of mouth and kind writers who believe in what we are doing really help.
What are your favourite products or bestsellers?
Mika Cali’s rugs and art, Maria Romero’s naturally dyed textiles, Alex Diamond jewellery and Camille D jewellery.
Any advice for aspiring independent store owners?
Believe in creating from your heart and soul.
What are your plans for the future?
Our goals focus on continuing to expand our own brand and range. We are in mid-launch of a new candle range (more scents, and offering a bigger size in a new vessel). A project that we have been dreaming of and working hard on recently is our new rug designs made in Morocco by Mika Cali – she is such an inspiration.
Find Simple Goods at 346 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY.