At Slow North we’re fortunate to work with incredible stockists worldwide. Not only do these shops carry our products, they serve as inspirational guides, showing us in practice how Slow North can exist in a range of experiences. Scout & Arrow of Atlanta, Georgia is a stockist after our own heart. With the tag, “Connecting the thoughtful with the thoughtfully made,” shop owner Katie Savage carries only U.S.-made, small batch goods and highlights the process and makers behind the products that make our everyday a bit more enjoyable. Katie was kind enough to tell us a little more about herself and her shop. We hope you’ll walk away with the same warm and fuzzies that we did.
When did you first think of opening Scout & Arrow, and is it what you expected it to be?
I first dreamt up the idea for Scout & Arrow about five years ago. I was in the midst of moving from New York City to San Francisco, so change was on my mind. I didn't take the idea (or myself) seriously, though, until about 2-3 years ago when I settled in Atlanta. Owning a small business just felt more attainable in Atlanta, perhaps because of the cost of living or where I was in life.
What were you doing before you opened Scout & Arrow and how did your journey lead to the shop?
I worked in college admissions for The New School in New York City--more specifically for their small, progressive liberal arts division called Eugene Lang College--for about 6 years. I traveled a lot for work meeting with prospective students, which was amazing as a young, poor twenty-something. I got to see a lot of places in the U.S. and abroad that I likely wouldn't have made it to otherwise.
I moved to California in 2012, where I worked as a regional rep for my office. Living on the West Coast cut down on my cross-country travel a lot, but I was still exhausted. I think I could have eeked out another 2-3 years at that job, but I missed my family on the East Coast and desperately wanted a more creative outlet. In 2015, I finally took the leap I'd been afraid of taking. I put in my notice without having anything else lined up. A large part of me was terrified about the instability that would follow that decision, but I knew if I didn't take a chance on Scout & Arrow, the opportunity might just pass me by.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
When I traveled for work with The New School, I would make it my mission to seek out small businesses (boutiques) in whichever city or town I was visiting at the time. It was a great way to push myself to get out of my hotel room and experience the local economy. In doing so, I fell in love with discovering new boutiques and the artists or goods that they carried. That discovery process is what ultimately drove me to launch Scout & Arrow. I loved the idea of curating my own space with artists whose work I appreciated and wanted to share with others.
I love supporting local Atlanta artists. There are several other boutiques in Atlanta, though, that already carry some of the more recognizable local makers. It's been a fun challenge to curate lesser-known local artists along with a bevy of makers from West Coast to East Coast (and everything in between). I cherish those moments when a customer says, "Oh, I've never seen this before."
What is the most rewarding thing about owning your business?
I love curating and promoting the work of artists and crafts people, many of whom I've admired for years. I consider myself lucky to be a part of their journey just as they are a part of mine.
What is one thing all of your products have in common?
My general mantra for Scout & Arrow is, "Connecting the thoughtful with the thoughtfully made." All of the products I carry are handmade in small batches from recycled or locally sourced materials or ingredients by artists across the U.S. The thoughtfulness that's poured into each item, whether it's a wooden spoon, candle, or bar of chocolate, is evident from product to packaging.
How is your personal aesthetic the same or different than your store aesthetic?
The shop tends to err on the side of Scandinavian minimalism. I have a mix of black and white metal display pieces with natural wood accents. Having a relatively simple canvas makes it easy to update the look for different seasons, and it allows the products to remain the focal point.
I personally love the "California Cool" aesthetic, although I'm not 100% sure how to translate that to my own house (a Tudor-style home in Atlanta). I'm a little fearful of color (gray is my favorite color), which can be bland if you give in to it completely. I love the lines of Mid-century furniture, but I also love natural textiles and accents. I'm really drawn to the work of Sarah Sherman Samuel, Amber Interiors and Studio McGee. They all feel like a nice balance between streamlined, functional pieces and subtle colors or textures.
What do you hope people feel/experience when they shop at Scout & Arrow?
As a small business owner, I'm heartened by the return of the "shop small" mentality. I think what keeps customers shopping small is feeling some sort of a connection to a business or its products. I display "maker cards" for all of the artists I carry so customers can learn more about the process and the people behind the goods they're buying. When you know more about the time and skill it takes to make your necklace or mug, you perhaps appreciate it a bit more. That's my hope at least. I consider it my (small) contribution to influencing conscious consumerism.
What encouragement/warning would you give to someone opening their own shop or small business?
Do ask other small business owners for advice. Chance are they've made some mistakes (and learned from them) that they would be more than happy to share. I remember when I was about to open my brick and mortar shop, a fellow shop owner in Atlanta reached out to me to share her experience and offer up some encouragement. I was so blown away that she took the time to invest in me as a person and professional and didn't view me strictly as competition. It really set the tone for how I engage with the community and other small business owners.
And I would say don't quit before you've even begun. I almost abandoned ship so many times when I was first starting out with Scout & Arrow. I was scared about finances in particular. It's a big gamble to get a business off the ground while still having to contribute to your family's monthly living expenses. I was scared about failing. What if no one wanted to buy what I had curated? It's all too easy to give up before you've even tried (and potentially failed). I knew I would regret not trying, though.
How do you wind down after a long day of work?
Ha! My version of "winding down" looks a lot different these days than it used to. I have a five-month old son, who I keep up at the store with me most days. We'll close up shop at 6pm and then head straight home for bath and bedtime. Once baby is asleep, my husband and I make dinner (or phone it in and heat up a frozen pizza), catch up on the day and maybe even watch an episode of The Great British Baking Show. We're super tame.
If you had one wish, what would it be?
I wish I could say "yes" to every artist or maker who reaches out to me to partner. I love that my job allows me to showcase the work of independent artists, but I've found that I have to be a savvy business owner, too, if I want to stay afloat. I often have to turn people down because I'm already flush in stationery or skincare products for instance. I have to keep a close eye on how my inventory moves and recognize where I may or may not have need for more product.
What is your most memorable vacation, and what details make it so special?
My most memorable vacation to date (aside from my honeymoon) was a trip I took to Scandinavia for "work" in 2014. (I use quotes because nothing about it felt like my typical work travel.) A good friend of mine joined me on the trip, which made it even more special. We visited Stockholm, Copenhagen and Reykjavik over the span of about a week.
It definitely wasn't long enough to feel fully immersed, but I had the absolute best time. Some favorites included the Fotografiska museum in Stockholm, Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhegan, and, of course, the Blue Lagoon in Reykjavik. I want to take my husband there some day for a re-do.
What would you do if you had a full day off and could do anything/go anywhere?
If I could go anywhere, I would teleport to my favorite vineyard, Scribe Winery, in Sonoma, California. There's nothing better than sitting outside on a blanket, drinking wine and hanging out with your people on a crisp afternoon. We'd maybe stop for dinner afterwards at Farmshop in Larkspur before heading back to San Francisco for a night time walk along Ocean Beach. Just a slow-paced day of food, family and fun.
What do you love most about your city?
I love that Atlantans are so welcoming of new people and businesses. I am constantly amazed by the outpouring of support from friends, neighbors and other business owners. It really does feel like a tight knit community in that regard (despite the sprawl). Maybe that's Southern hospitality beating back big city anonymity?
What small actions/practices make a big different in your day?
I worked in retail/service throughout high school and college (and even a bit after I quit my job in admissions), so I know what it feels like to be treated poorly by the occasional customer. As a consumer myself, I also know what it feels like to be ignored by the occasional sales associate. I always try to be mindful that you never know what kind of day the other person has had, regardless of which side of the counter they're standing on. Kindness can feel more like a practice than a given when you're the one who's having the bad day, but it sure can make a difference in someone's overall shopping experience.
What else should we know about you?
There was a time where I was largely motivated to go to the gym because I could watch HGTV fixer upper shows while using the treadmill... What can I say? I have a soft spot for home renovation and remodeling.
Photo credits: Scout & Arrow and Jake Gee.
Jessie Collins is a content writer in Austin, Texas. With a heart for small business, Jessie has long worked to support local makers and business owners through feature writing, branding and all things communication.