Salty Home: Bringing the beach to Bridgehampton all year long
In Bridgehampton, New York, one shop owner is helping shoppers keep summer alive throughout the year by offering upscale, beach-inspired gifts, designs, and décor.
Jess de Kerillis, owner of Salty Home, spent her summers at the Hamptons and at a young age fell in love with the ambiance and energy that so often defined her time there. It was an inspiration and soon became a passion as she prepared to open her first business venture: a home décor shop that would pay homage to her summers on the shore. She first opened her doors near her then-home in Florida, but when it became time to re-evaluate her lease, she took a fresh look at what market would be best for her business and her family life. Enter Bridgehampton.
For the past four years, de Kerillis has leased a storefront in Kimco’s Bridgehampton Commons shopping center where she manages to capture and sell the essence of a beautiful beach town to the Hamptons’ residents and many visitors.
We spoke with de Kerillis to learn more about her boutique brick-and-mortar business, and what it’s like operating a small business with a strong seasonal component. Here’s what she had to share with us.
What is the concept behind Salty Home?
Jess de Kerillis: I started Salty Home with my sister, Tricia, back in 2005. We wanted to open a home decor store that evoked a happy energy and also brought about a relaxing atmosphere letting people be creative and feel at home. We really wanted a business that our customers got something out of just as much as we did. I was always intrigued with fashion, clothing, and home décor and I grew up in the summertime in the Hamptons on the water, so I really wanted to combine all of those. When we got started we decided to focus primarily on homes. The name, Salty Home, came from the love of the ocean and that aesthetic. From there, the shop evolved over time, depending on what people liked, and what we liked, and what the customers needed and wanted. Then and now, we focus on high design and quality items at a great price.
How do you attract customers to visit your store?
de Kerillis: Word of mouth is by far our number one way we attract customers; that’s just how it works to get people inside the store. We have so many customers who come in and say something like, “Oh, I got a gift from here and wanted to come and see the store for myself.” We also try to get involved in as many charities as we can.
In addition to word of mouth, we do a lot of print advertising in local magazines and newspapers. We do some internet advertising on websites and also on Facebook by boosting our posts. Right now, I think that Facebook is our best platform in terms of advertising and getting people here into the store. We do a lot of local print advertising in the newspapers and magazines. I also have used Constant Contact for years.
Salty Home is known for its customer service. How do you and your sales team go above and beyond to help clients get in touch with their creative side when purchasing furnishings for their home?
de Kerillis: Anything we can do, we will do. We’re a friendly bunch, and the whole point is just to make people happy with their purchases and ideas, so whatever anybody needs, we’ll try to get. If they don’t see what they want here, we’ll try to find it for them. Of course, we’re not always 100 percent successful in that, but we’ll certainly try our best or come up with an alternative idea for them. If they need design help, we’ll help them with that, too.
We always gather as much information as we can from the customer as to what they want — although sometimes they have no idea. They might even bring in a dinner dish and say, “Design a room around this.” We search many different manufacturers to try to find what will work well. We will do whatever possible to try to get the customer as involved — or not — in the design process, depending on their level of interest. We also stand by everything we do. If the customer is not 100 percent satisfied we will do whatever we can to rectify the situation.
Who is your typical customer and how does it influence the inventory that you feature in your store?
de Kerillis: Our typical customer profile has changed over the years. Today, our everyday customer is a gift buyer; the dollar totals are smaller and more budgeted. I stock our store with a lot of gifts and smaller home decor items. Oddly enough today was a big day for candles (I should probably throw out a candle email blast!), so I always have a huge inventory of those, just so we don’t miss the great opportunities.
However, I need to be fully stocked in home furnishings for when someone comes in and needs to get there entire home furnished in a weekend. That’s not very common, but it happens and so we have to be prepared for when it does because if we don’t have the products, then we obviously don’t have that ability to sell them. It also makes the store look really nice, as well.
There’s no rhyme or reason, that’s why we really have to be prepared for everything!
Why did you choose Bridgehampton Commons for your retail location?
de Kerillis: I actually started this store down in Florida but when our lease was up, we really had to decide where we wanted to be, so that’s when we came up north. I chose Bridgehampton Commons because I thought it would be a great year-round destination versus being in a village, which I knew could be more boutique-esque. I would prefer to have more year-round business than a big seasonal rush, so this seemed a better fit. I also thought being by King Kullen would be great for foot traffic. At the time, Banana Republic was also next door which would overlap our customers.
I also wanted it to be easy for people to get to. In certain areas, parking can be an issue, and deliveries can be an issue, too. Here, I felt like we got the space that we needed. Everybody was so kind and I got to know the landlords. Everything happens for a reason, and this is really the place that we were meant to be. Everything just ended up fitting together so nicely.
What’s your personal favorite item in the store?
I have to say my personal favorite thing in the store is my son — he who comes to work with me everyday. But in terms of inventory, there is a buffet that I will be very sad to see leave. Thankfully, I do know I can always reorder!
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
de Kerillis: I suppose just how much I love what I do. Salty Home is really so much more than a business, it’s a part of who we are, it’s a passion.
There have been some new challenges — the Internet has really taken a lot away from mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar businesses. So in turn there have to be creative ways to keep businesses alive and thriving at brick-and-mortar locations. I’m not sure exactly what they all are, but I would love to see groups of businesses come together, whether in a shopping center or not, and get the community excited for what they have in front of them.
This has been an installment of StoreFront, an interview series with leaders of successful retail businesses. For more interviews, visit the StoreFront page. To learn how you can be featured, email us. We’d love to hear from you.