I love flea market shopping. But I can also be the first one to admit that I’m not very good at it. I get overwhelmed, I’m really bad at bargaining, and I cannot buy anything unless it’s perfect. Yes, you can laugh at me… because with this attitude, I know I’ll never find anything at these markets.
But really, flea market shopping is a talent. There are lots of good stuff to be found but you also have to be very creative – meaning you need to think outside of the box (a lot!) and see how you can give a piece a new life! I really admire people who can do this really well, and I happen to know two fabulous ladies here in SF who know how to do just that! In fact, they know how to do it so well that they recently launched their new online shop called “Le Cart”
Meet Mary Graf and Jenny Moore (the two co-owners of the shop and in the picture above.) I went to their launch party recently and was so impressed with what they have done. I cannot believe the pieces I saw were all from the flea markets. The colors, the fabrics, and the finishes they used to refurbish were all so perfect!
While my taste are usually more on the contemporary side, I also like to make room for ornate and decorative pieces from time to time and the pieces from Le Cart are just right up my alley. I was so blown away and inspired by their passion for this that I just had to do some Q&A with them! Check out what these two young entrepreneurs and new mommas have to say:
1. How did you two know each other?
We grew up together in Nashville, TN and have been great friends since we were about 3 years old. We both randomly moved to San Francisco after graduating college, Jenny just after college and Mary a couple of years after that and now we are lucky enough to live 4 blocks from each other. It’s the best and we wouldn’t have it any other way!
2. How did you come up with your shop’s name?
At each flea market we’ve been to we wander from booth to booth picking out what we want to buy, then we’d grab a cart to haul our finds away. We were always obsessed (still are) at looking at other people’s carts to see what they had found and like to think people were also looking at our cart to see what we scored. It was a natural progression when thinking of a name since we are essentially now bringing our “cart” to other people. The “Le” came about since we both are drawn towards French style and French inspired pieces….hence, “Le Cart”!
3. Were there any chanllenges starting the business?
We started talking about doing this in January of 2011 and launched in March of 2012 so it took us over a year to get it together, and in the meantime Jenny had her first baby in July and Mary is busy with her two little girls so keeping the momentum up was and is the biggest challenge. Once we set hard deadlines for ourselves it became easier to stay on task. Another challenge is working in spurts, since neither one of us has full time childcare, we never have a full day to work. It’s been an adjustment to go from focusing on your children, then switch to work mode then right back to “mom” mode, when needed. We are both still trying to master that skill, if that’s even possible!
4. Since you both have your own children, how do you juggle being a mother and run a business together?
Nap times are a god-send and we actually share a babysitter. Jenny has her on Mondays and Fridays and Mary on Tuesdays and Thursdays so we each have few hours of uninterrupted time by ourselves on those days. We talk on the phone constantly and have meetings once a week at night at one of our apartments after the children are all asleep, which is pretty much the only uninterrupted one on one time we get unless we can sneak in a 5 minute conversation at the playground. It’s crazy but we’ve managed to make it work so far!
5. Which flea market(s) do you go to?
Pretty much all of them in the Bay Area. You never know what you’re going to find so we love to try and seek out treasures at the most unexpected places. We are planning on going to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in August. We are so excited to see what it has to offer and we dream big so one day would love to hit the Brooklyn flea in New York and maybe, just maybe the Paris flea?!
6. How do you know what to buy? In other words, any tips or secrets on scoring that perfect piece? What qualities do you look for?
We truly buy what we love and generally speaking we have the same aesthetic and agree on most purchases, although Jenny errs on the side of more modern and Mary on the more traditional side. I’m sure there’s some marketing strategy that we’re not using as far as having “x” amount of accessories and “x” amount of lighting and “x” amount of upholstery but if we love it we buy it and hope that our passion for each piece translates in our descriptions on our website and people can easily picture each item in their home.
7. Top three vendors in the city Le Cart uses to refurnish its goods.
We love to use local vendors and even try to stick to the neighborhood we both live in. For re-wiring lighting we use Phil’s Electric on Lombard. We LOVE Fredericksen‘s on Fillmore. The guys in the paint shop specifically have been so helpful with any questions we’ve had about refurbishing a piece and for reupholstery and pillows we use Trish at R-Space in Sausalito, while not in the city is just a quick jaunt over the bridge.
Thank you so much to Mary & Jenny for sharing their insights! Many congrats on your beautiful new shop!
(Images via Le Cart)