Hi Jaimie, how would you describe Woodland Mod?
Woodland Mod reflects a passion for minimalist and modern, Nordic influenced design. Nordic design masterfully combines calm, crisp clean lines that don’t leave you cold. Consisting typically of a neutral palette, it creates a perfect backdrop for a pop of colour, or the opportunity to connect with nature using plants (which you can also get here!). At Woodland Mod, we’ve curated a collection of items with a timeless style that can be passed on through generations. The hope is that people leave both delighted and inspired.
What’s the story behind the name?
I sought to find a name that embraced modern minimalism, but also reflected the warm Scandinavian roots of our brand. When I was brainstorming what that meant to me, I started thinking about snowy woodland scenes of Sweden or Finland, coupled with timeless modernist design and after some wordplay, Woodland Mod emerged, and I just knew that was it! We also incorporated those elements into our logo design as well.
What did you do before setting up your business?
I was working as a sales and marketing executive in the corporate world. It was a part of my journey that taught me a lot of the skills I use daily in running my business. Although I’d never go back, I’m grateful for the opportunity it gave me to learn valuable business skills, travel the world and save up for my dream.
What inspired the idea of setting up Woodland Mod, and how did you then develop it?
My parents were both small business owners, so it was in my DNA. I knew that one day I would have a store as it’s something I have been dreaming of since I can remember. I never went past an empty space for rent without contemplating what could go there. Which is exactly what happened on a snowy winter day during the pandemic – I passed another ‘For Lease’ sign in my neighbourhood, but this time I made the phone call. Another significant factor was my life partner, an architect of modern design, and business owner of his own firm Mwworks. He never doubted my ability to make this dream a reality and was a true champion in pushing me forward and helping me create the framework to bring my vision to life.
What’s the ethos behind your business?
My approach with customers and employees is to be humble, transparent, empathetic, and adaptable…to listen. To care. We’re all in this human experience together, and if my store can bring someone a moment of peace, a feeling of being connected to their community or inspired in some way, then I have done what I set out to do! Additionally, it’s very important to me to always introduce something new to the portfolio – to surprise and delight!
Where do you find creative inspiration?
Ultimately, travel brings me the most inspiration by submersing myself in the culture and surroundings of a city or country. It totally expands the mind and opens you up to new ideas. I love to go where the locals go, talk to them, listen, and observe, and of course find all the best small, independent shops!
How do you source and curate your items?
I’ve been curating for decades, long before the store was even open – I had so many lists! It was sort of a hobby for me, perhaps knowing that one day I would be here. My curation is a mix of organic discovery, such as encountering design or an object or brand as you go through your day-to-day life and letting it lead you down new paths. Coupled with that is a dedication to carving out time for intentional exploration.
Any favourite makers or products that you sell?
The brands that have been with us from day one and continue to be some of my favourites include Scandinavian brands Humdakin, Hetkinen, Meraki, OyOy, and we absolutely love Fischersund fragrances from Iceland. As for some of our independent artists: Byun Ceramics (Portland, OR), Flavia Bennet Jewelry (US) and Megan Collins Jewellery (UK/Belgium) have been mainstays at Woodland Mod. We recently started carrying some works by Sophie Alda and added Dook and Legra Soap to our body care, all out of the UK!
How did you approach the design of your space?
My partner is an architect who designs modern homes that embrace both minimalism and a connection with the surrounding nature (www.mwworks.com), so he was the perfect person to collaborate with. He and I combined our vision to design a 2000 sq ft retail store that is uncluttered and simple, with white walls to emphasise light (we’re lucky to have two large skylights in our space), a neutral-heavy palette with pops of colour, natural textures such as Nordic pine customised tables and accents, combined with plants and stone – in a simple, no-fuss layout. We just wanted to create the perfect showcase for our art and objects, but also a space where people can come to find some calm in the middle of their day and not feel intimidated. Sound is also an important element in our space, so we take great pride in the curation of our music as well!
Could you tell us about your location and community?
In Ballard, you’ll find a microcosm of Pacific Northwest history, tradition, and architecture. Bordered by Puget Sound, Shilshole Bay and Salmon Bay, Ballard has a rich history filled with maritime connections. Originally home to mill workers, fishermen and boat builder – many of whom emigrated from Scandinavia – Ballard was a separate city until annexed to Seattle in 1907. Today Ballard maintains its character as a small town within a big city, with varied architecture, indie shops and restaurants, coffee shops, and home to the National Nordic Museum. It’s now the hottest shopping and dining destination for locals and tourists alike.
Has your business evolved since you began?
Given we have only been open for a little over a year, our evolution has looked like incorporating more design objects from Japan. We have found Japanese design to be both exquisite and harmonious with the Scandinavian design principles that we originally based the store on.
Is the online community important to your work?
Connecting with design, makers and customers through social media has been important. I admittedly have a soft spot for brick and mortar. It has been so vital to our core success and of course you get immediate feedback from your customers. Now that we’ve opened the online store my goal will be to bring as much of our in-store personality to the website and create some unique experiences there too.
How do you approach marketing and PR?
We are just in the infancy stage in that realm – mostly visual marketing through social media. But this year we started doing some in-store events and have many more planned for the holiday season. It’s such a fun way to take advantage of our beautiful space – the acoustics are great, and it’s just another way to add a spark of something new into people’s shopping experience. In addition to music, we are also going to be booking some author talks and food demonstrations. I just love connecting with customers in new ways. For me, this space is a lot like my second home, so it’s rewarding for me to be able to host guests since I never have time to entertain at home anymore!
With that said, we just launched the first iteration of our e-commerce website! With so many out-of-towners visiting our store, there was a huge demand for us to go online. It will be interesting to learn how to reach people who have never been in the store, but communicate our story and what makes us special.
As an independent store owner – what are the joys, and what are the challenges?
Luckily, the joys always outweigh the challenges for me. But I would say finding any sort of work/life balance has been my biggest challenge – kind of like having a newborn. You eat, breathe, sleep, and wake to the needs of the business. My workouts have fallen behind in a big way! But the joys are never ending – the positive and immediate feedback you get from your customers, seeing the reactions of people as they come into the space and are introduced to new and exciting designs, and connecting from visitors from all over the world. It provides me with purpose and delight. It’s everything I knew it would be, and more (except for the lack of sleep).
What have been your business highlights so far?
My daughter, Maria, joined me this year to help run our social media and build out the new website and ecommerce experience. It’s been so awesome having her here to share this experience with me and develop our digital persona. She gives me the honest feedback that only a daughter can give (which may or may not include an eye-roll from time to time). Another highlight is the surprising number of people that take the time to tell me how happy they feel spending time in the space and how meaningful it is to them that we are here. It’s really much more to them than just a store – and that has been an unexpected and amazing reaction that is both humbling and touching.
What does your ideal day off look like?
I would get up early to take advantage of every hour – no appointments, no obligations. A long walk with my daughter or a shopping day – just something low-key that doesn’t require any serious decisions. The end of the day would entail a date night with my partner at a restaurant we haven’t been to and would end with something chocolate and a movie!
Any good advice for aspiring store owners?
Find your supporters and don’t be afraid to ask for help – use all the talents available to you.
What does the next year hold for you?
I never expected the incredible response we received this past year, so it might be crazy to say, and I can’t imagine finding the time, but… a second location? Maybe someday.