Should we start with the origin story of Made?
RICO: Yeah, we could start there. It’s crazy how the things in your life that you never thought would add up–this little one, this little one, this little one–put you in a position to feel like you can tackle this other big thing.
In 2012, my father-in-law and mother-in-law started making benches to sell at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Rheiana was a stay at home mom and I was a union ironworker doing structural steel and we agreed to help. Then we started getting antiques and selling those at the Market too. I had collected a lot of scrap steel that usually gets thrown away at job sites, and my father-in-law talked me into building a table. So I started building and we kept selling.
As we were doing these markets, I always thought about how there’s never been a place outside of these markets for people to sell things like we were. There’s antique stores, but there’s no maker’s spaces or artist’s spaces. There are galleries, but if someone makes a table, or makes something functional by hand, there’s not really a place for that.
We started kicking that idea around in May of 2015. We ended up renting this place in July, and by September, we opened Made Shop.
So this whole thing went from idea to reality in just a few months! How did things go at the start?
We opened with seven makers. I went around to some of the people I met at the Rose Bowl Market and brought them in. There were a couple of local makers, but not everyone was convinced it was a very good idea. So we went out, and we fought for it. I’d go to all kinds of events and invite people to show their work and we started growing.
Today we are at 150 makers selling in the shop and still growing.
Did you know other makers in town who would want to sell at the shop?
Not really in town, they were just ones that I would meet at the Rose Bowl or at Long Beach. After you show up at 4 a.m. and set up, you’ve got time to kill, so we would take turns walking around and seeing what other people brought. You start seeing the same people, you strike a conversation. Obviously, you start a conversation with people that do similar things. I asked, “do you sell anywhere?” “well, no, just the markets.”
So what was the first day that you actually opened shop like?
RHEIANA: It was empty. It felt weird…
RICO: We had benches. It looked like a gallery in here. But then, within a month, I think we were up to 20 or 30 vendors. The ball started rolling from there.
How did things pan out that first month? In terms of just the risk that you guys were taking.
Oh, we put everything on the line. Luckily, I was doing iron work still. I did that for two and a half years after we opened.
RHEIANA: We didn’t really, really start growth until last year. When you look at the year over year, it was a slow climb. But last year, it just cranked.
Do your parents feel like grandparents to the space or something like that?
RHEIANA: Yeah, but my dad died in November. The weekend after we opened the second side of this shop.
RICO: He poured the concrete for that ramp over there, he finished that ramp. And now those are his footsteps right over there from when we were cleaning the floor. We came in here. We buffed it, but for some reason, we didn’t clean it up right here.
RHEIANA: Yeah, his footprints are sealed in the concrete. He was here every day, building this place.
You’ve been running the Magnolia Marketplace for a few years now, how did that start?
RICO: When we launched the shop with this location on Magnolia we thought we were going to be killing it once we put some stuff in the window. You’ve got people driving by all the time; everybody’s going to see it and want to stop, but it didn’t blow up that way.
We had learned about doing markets from working them for years. We did Farmers Markets, festivals and flea markets. We sold donuts for two years and then furniture and tangible goods for a couple of years. We had about four years’ worth of market experience under our belt. So we reached out to the city, and they were really helpful about what we needed to do. We opened the store and about five or six months later, we started the marketplace to get people here into this area.
RHEIANA: We have usually about 65 vendors out there on market nights. But the work is constant. It’s every day. It’s answering emails from vendors, it’s working with the health department… it’s a whole other job.
How did you guys come up with the model to bring these vendors into your store?
RICO: When you look at it, you pay $275-300 to be at these big markets, so if you sell one or two pieces, you make your space fee. Then, you’ve got to sell two more to make a profit. Then, you’ve got to unload all that stuff and load it back up. You’re making way less than what we charge on consignment.
RHEIANA: It’s the same thing with antique stores. They typically do space rental or a booth rental. They’ll charge you $200-300 a month, and then, by the time you pay your rent, you get a check for $100.
RICO: So we don’t do it that way… and maybe it’s a bad business model, but we’re big on “we all rise together.” We could probably kill it if we charged space rentals, but then we wouldn’t have the uniqueness of what we have in this shop, because some vendors can’t afford it.
RHEIANA: And then it’s not beneficial to them. And it’s not a beneficial thing for the community.
Are there any makers you’ve sold who have really built their businesses through Made?
RHEIANA: Oh, gosh… Valerie opened a store down towards Van Buren and Magnolia: Dreadful Curiosities. Then, Ursie just opened up her spot on Nelson: Ursie’s Apothecary. Valerie started at the Magnolia Center Marketplace. We were Ursie’s first store, then she was doing the market, then all the markets, and now she’s opened up a store of her own.
You guys are really seeing this vision begin to pay off, and not just for you, but for the makers you’re hosting in this space.
RICO: We’ve just been chasing the idea of the dream. And we’re willing to go through the trenches and battle and battle and battle, and go, we’re not quite there yet. But, now we’ve got three businesses; we have Made, we have the Magnolia Center Marketplace, and we have Alderette Designs. Each of those are chances for us to make the lives of our makers, our customers, and even city of Riverside a little more beautiful.