by Cindy Steele
Carol and Dave Derbyshire are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year—not their wedding anniversary, their 20th year in business together as Carol’s Crafts in Nashville. Their shop is located on South Van Buren Street in the Artists Colony Shops.
The business began as a craft supply store at the corner of Molly’s Lane and North Van Buren and later moved to a space up the street. They settled into their current location in the late 1980s.
The Derbyshires operated a craft supply business for ten years in Mooresville before they opened their Nashville shop. They sold mostly do-it-yourself projects and conducted craft classes such as tole painting, stained glass, and decoupage. They divided time between both locations for several years, but decided to sell the shop in Mooresville. They tired of the commute from their home in Mooresville and eventually moved to Brown County.
The business gradually evolved from craft projects and supplies to gift and collectible items when the do-it-yourself decorating craze lost its momentum.
Dave and Carol tried to change their shop name to “Carol’s Fine Gifts and Collectibles” a few years ago, but decided the confusion and frustration with suppliers and creditors wasn’t worth the trouble. Instead, they changed their sign to say “Carol’s Fine Gifts and Collectibles” and answer the phone as “Carol’s.”
Having worked together for 30 years, Dave and Carol attribute the success of their partnership to the division of labor. It is almost as though they operate two shops under one roof.
“We kind of divide the shop—his and hers. That helps us because he is totally responsible for his lines and I am mine. Really, it has worked out pretty well. Not only do we divide the responsibilities, but it gives our employees the knowledge that—okay this is Dave’s line so I don’t ask Carol. And vise versa,” explained Carol.
“When you are dealing with that many lines it is hard for one person. We have more than 18,000 stock-keeping items,” said Dave.
When I asked the couple to describe what they carry, the list became too long for the space of this article. There are many collectible lines such as Lennox china and crystal, Cherished Teddies and Precious Moments, Snowbabies, Disney Classics, Anri woodcarvings, bronze and pewter items, and a variety of collectible Santas. They recently expanded their line of Lang Graphic paper products. The Russian handmade boxes are popular and so are the hand-painted eggs and ornaments.
Recently they eliminated miniatures in order to expand other areas of the store. “You’ve got to change. You can’t stay the same. You can’t give the same look year after year after year. We thought it would be the thing to do at this point,” said Dave.
When I asked Carol how she decides what to buy she told me, “The answer to that is, you listen to the customers and also see what they are talking about at the gift and art shows.”
Keeping in close touch with customers is a big part of their business.
“We have an extremely large computer database of people who are collectors and who buy from us. We have somewhere in the range of 7000. One of the things we do with them is to communicate with them when we have something special going on in their line of interest,” said Carol.
Dave added, “We can target out marketing to a specific group of people instead of doing a blanket mailing to 7000 people.” The customer records have codes to represent purchased collectible lines.
Carol’s Crafts ship items all over the world. Many customers order from the catalogs and newsletters that Dave and Carol mail out. Some of their mail order business comes from their web site CarolsCrafts.com.
Mail orders are great, but it is the personal contact and good customer service that draw shoppers back to Carol’s Crafts.
“It is obvious to Dave and me that we have been blessed from day one with exceptional people on our staff. We give a lot of credit to those employees and their dedication, and their interest in how well we do. They have been a huge part of our success. We owe a lot of it to them. We don’t take that for granted,” said Carol.
The Derbyshires hold staff meetings to keep the employees informed. They discuss any new products and their plans for the future. “We talk with them about whether business is up or down. We try to include them. I think it really pays dividends because then they feel a part,” said Carol.
Carol’s Crafts will be celebrating their 20 years of success with the public on June 9th and 10th. They are sending out invitations to 2,500 of their customers, but everyone is welcome. Carol is very excited about the upcoming event. “We are going to have big, big, specials—some really attractive incentives. We will have free gifts for the first people that show up.” There will be door prizes throughout both days. Some of the artists will be there to demonstrate their crafts. For the kids, there will be Winnie the Pooh, Santa, and face painting. Refreshments will be served.
For more information contact Carol’s Crafts at 988-6388 or toll free 800-345-6388.