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Meet Molly Shaheen and Huw Collins of Wheat in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Molly Shaheen and Huw Collins.

Molly and Huw, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
We opened Wheat in the Summer of 2017 in a little town called York, ME. It is a very traditional, seasonal East coast town right on the Atlantic ocean, and my family has lived and spent summers there since the 50’s. My parents met in 1969 across the street from where we opened and just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, so it feels like there’s some magic in the air for us. About a month after we opened we had two lovely sisters (Meghan and Colleen) come in and pretty much say ‘we love your store and we’d like to open one’ – so of course we said ‘sure, let’s do it’ – roughly six months later we opened our second location in Newburyport, MA, another beautiful little New England town on the water.

Growing the business was fun and exciting so we started to look for our next opportunity and lucky for us, it ended up being Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica, CA. They had a space situated in the lobby that wasn’t being used consistently so we asked about trying out a store – eventually, we agreed to test our concept as a three month Pop up. That was January of 2019 and such has been the success of the collaboration, we plan to remain there for the foreseeable future. We are really pushing forward on the path to partner with more luxury hotels, bringing an elevated retail experience to these already beautiful spaces is something we love to do and we are seeing much success doing so. We are currently exploring an opportunity to open two more stores next year with luxury hotel properties, in addition to launching a clothing line & e-commerce website in the first quarter of 2020.

Has it been a smooth road?
There are always struggles with business, even good problems are still problems that you have to solve, so it hasn’t been completely smooth sailing but we are lucky to have a fantastic team that continues to grow which makes our problems less frequent and simpler to fix. We are very grateful to say that much of our growth has happened organically, but certainly not without hard work and countless long days/nights. After a enough time in business, you start to understand that it’s your ability to find solutions quickly (as opposed to hoping you don’t encounter any problems) that allows for a smoother pathway ahead.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Wheat story. Tell us more about the business.
Wheat is a luxury lifestyle boutique, which found its name whilst we were standing in Coco Chanel’s apartment in Paris (it’s a long story but a great one!!). Our brand aesthetic blends the relaxed, chic style of the West coast with the clean lines and sophistication of the East coast. Wheat carries everything from fine jewelry to stuffed animals for kids and everything in between. Ultimately, whatever the physical location of the store may be, we try to condense the best aspects of the surrounding environment into a very carefully curated store to best service our guest. Being in a high-end hotel at Casa Del Mar, we often experience people shopping because they are on vacation and forget a sweater, or on a business trip and want to bring something home for their children, or maybe just because it’s a Wednesday afternoon and a local resident happens to have some free time – we want to be able to assist any and all shopping intentions with a very specific edit of our favorite kids, home, and fashion lines.

We spend a significant portion of time considering our merchandizing and how people will feel when they enter our store, so much of a shopping experience is down to subtle, relaxing influences – seemingly innocuous things like making sure the music is just right, lit candles for a welcoming scent, or having the lighting adjusted based on the time of day or the season can create an environment that is subconsciously comforting to our visitors.

Within our wonderful team at Wheat, there is a great culture of working together, no job is too big or too small, and we really all have a lot fun as a group. We try to set Wheat apart by prioritizing strongly progressive and inclusive company values as well as a unique direction in an ever-changing retail market.

My husband Huw and I work together on every aspect of this business. We are growing this as a partnership and that has been one of most rewarding elements of Wheat, it means we get to spend more time together but also that we can play off of each other’s strengths and effectively support each other’s weaknesses.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
We believe the retail industry is currently undergoing a major shift. Customers either go between the very big (Amazon) and the very small (local boutiques immersed in small communities) and the retail options in the middle seem to be suffering the most. This factor, plus a few others, is a big part of the reason we want to meet people where they are, be that on vacation, traveling, on business trips or just locals coming in for dinner. Instead of relying on customers to find us – Wheat goes to where they are, so expect to find us in your favorite destinations before too long!

Pricing:

  • Wheat carries everything from Sundries to Custom Fine Jewelery, meaning the top end is pretty much an endless number depending on specific customer requests. However, by and large our pricing runs from anywhere around $3 for Sundries & small kids items up to $12,000 for non-custom fine jewelry pieces. One additional note is to say we stay very committed to MSRP pricing in our stores, whether they’re on Main Street or in hotels, we very much believe in fair pricing.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.wheatboutique.com
  • Email: info@wheatboutique.com
  • Instagram: wheatboutique
  • Facebook: wheatboutique

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