Third Friday evening in downtown Durham and the wine is uncorked and drinks flowing and the dance music is popping. Exotique is jamming this evening. Everyone just relaxing
Our summer pants have arrived. Many of our customers love the baggy Loose pants with elastic leggings.
Today is the final day of the spring two day art walk in downtown Durham. One of the highlight of our day was a lovely family visiting from a town we had not heard of - ninety six. Yes. That is the name Ninety six. So here they are : jerry , Deon, Madeja,Ian and Autumn. Madeja is studying political science at NCCU. What a privilege to meet them.
It was November 2005. We closed on a downtown space. We were going to be business owners. But downtown Durham was at a cross road. There were orange construction cones everywhere. Buildings were boarded up. It was dark. Characters lurked in the alleyways. There was no one in sight. How were we to succeed?
Especially in an economic downturn. But we did have enthusiasm and a great deal of faith. So we started, and it was quite exciting. A furniture here and a furniture there. The space looked so big. How can we fill it? What will sell? Who will our customers be? Lola birthed the name "exotique". We created a logo. Its still on our front window.
OMG. this item will fly off the shelves!..... Its still here. Who in the world will buy this.... How much is this item,its beautiful! We have learnt that the customers are completely unpredictable. No doubt - Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Over time we grew our business. Took advice. DDI was very encouraging and so supporting (kudos to Matthew, Melissa, Bill Kalkhof). And then, a milestone - our opening ceremony.....
This was so special. June 30. Even the Mayor of our city was present. Friends, family, fellow business owners all gathered to celebrate our store. A riveting speech by our city mayor, a ribbon cutting, splurge on good food and drink, and even some background musical accompaniment and the store was officially opened. It was a truly thankful day. And Lola was resplendent in her white attire
Lola and Yemi
We opened this store in April 2006. We are sure you can attest to this. After many years, you look at yourself and simply want something new and interesting, something different. You know it will be disruptive, uncertain and maybe even risky. But what is life if we do not explore the tangents, eh? So here we are, a couple who have traveled to many distant shores saying "why not?" And whatever it may be , it must involve engaging people. We are a people couple. We love meeting people from all walks of life.
America gives such opportunity to venture out and with our background, we thought bringing all our experience, culture, enthusiasm to bear, we could actually create a worthwhile project. By the way, that is us high up on the mountains, by the glaziers in northern Chile. At 5am!!
We arrived in the US in 1999 from England. Actually from Southampton. And before that , Nigeria. Did you know the Titanic left Southampton on its ill fated journey? We have been so blessed with travel. So many sojourns to so many african countries. Seeing so much culture, diversity, colors and uniqueness, it simply spurred a thought - why not bring this over to the US, where folks have always wanted to acquire something eclectic? Our travels have allowed us to gain so many contacts. Its funny, you know, but America has allowed us to learn one phrase - "win win". Yes, its a win win for everyone - America gets to acquire wonderful items, the artists and producers get to sell their wares and we go along for a wonderful ride of adventure. Not bad at all. And if you are out there simply reading this, we would suggest to you - Venture out. As a famed man once said "You live life once, but if you live it right, Once is enough"
Every one reading this MUST recognize the blessings in their lives, as we have. A story is told of two prisoners, both looking out of the prison window. One saw the mud in the street, the other looked up and saw the stars. Same situation, different perspective, different attitude and certainly different outcomes. We are truly blessed. We continue to look at the stars.God bless each of you.
It is 2009! Its a difficult time for many currently and for those in the retail industry as well. The future is never guaranteed. We are hoping that despite the downturn in the country, that our customers continue to do well. When you do well, we do well. Please drop in to say hello and support us also. Remember the "exotique" gifts for all the birthdays, anniversaries and celebrations are here. We also continue to strive to bring in items that you deem of great worth.
It continues to be challenging for small businesses with regards to the economy. But we are still standing. We really want Exotique to be a destination for visitors and local folks who want to simply enjoy their shopping venture or have a place they enjoy visiting. This year we support more non profit and atruistic causes: Freedom firm (freedomfirm.com) that helps restore women rescued from sex trafficing in India, Global Mama ( globalmama.org)which helps women have jobs to feed their families in Ghana ; Forests of the world ( forestoftheworld.com) that sells to support peoples who live around endangered forests; the effort of Catherine Todd who is helping to build towns in Guatemala (www.facebook.com/catherine.todd2).
We also have our new sign so y'all could see where we are located. And we have a gallery now which serves as a place to pause and take in the beauty of the arts.
Exotique is now a destination site within downtown Durham and we are very proud of it. We’ve grown and so value our numerous customers and friends who return just to say hello or purchase a unique gift and support some of our causes. This year has been particularly remarkable. Lola and I are not experts in retail business and though we believe in the product "Exotique", we were struggling making it a solvent business. Along came Andrea and Leon, on loan from above, and they have really been God sent and helped us so much. We needed the store to be self-sustaining but not lose its soul either. So far, we are on the right track. Chicken and waffle next door has also been a welcome site. Chicken and waffle??? You better believe it. We've even been nominated "Best in Durham" in three catagories by Durham Magazine. Eventhough we didn't win, for us it was a milestone - maybe next year.
What we really want is a place where people can buy, chat, rest, pray, laugh, linger, pause, wonder, learn, grow, find friends, have meetings, listen to non-mainstream music, enjoy art, be inspired. Exotique wants to be part of your lives.
For the first time since our inception as a business we made a profit for 2011. You can say that we were in the black for the first time (no pun intended)!! That is a great accomplishment and for which we are extremely grateful to the Lord, especially in the economic climate we have faced. We now want to build on this and ensure everyone embraces our presence and what we offer. We want to maintain Exotique as a destination for downtown visitors who want to take away a treasured memento of their visit. We certainly want to retain the personal touch, interactions, and engagement inside our store. We also want to be an established outlet for local artisans. There are really talented folks out there. We also want to continue to support peoples and organizations that are non-profits.
Downtown is also really reviving and we are proud to be part of the landscape. You must come see the artists we promote and visit during some of our evening celebrations, usually on the third Friday of the month. Please signup (go to Guest Book) to get regular information on the events we host. Lola and Yemi are very excited.
We look forward to more exciting ventures with our customers this year. A little secret – Yemi turns 50 this year……Shhhh. Mark April 7th down. Come celebrate with him on that day at the store. The picture below is our family. Tosin our daughter graduated from high school and her brothers, Tobi and Tomiwa were also celebrating with her! Yemi is wearing a Batik shirt and Lola a gold plated adinkra symbol bangle, both from West Africa and both items available at Exotique!