(photos courtesy of Brian Bruner photography)
Palo Santo, essential oil candles, and freshly cut wood are the three olfactory delights that greeted me upon entering a little store called Yore in Longmont on a wintery day in February. The store smells warm, grounding, and soothing, feelings that are elevated by Yore’s minimalist design, and the store’s name itself.
Merriam-Webster defines “Yore” as “time past and especially long past”. The word “Yore” conjures a sort of bittersweet nostalgia for times gone by; for evenings spent by the fire communing with family, for a simpler way of being in the world. As such, the store is aptly named.
Yore has a definitive “vibe”, and I dig it. It’s a tiny store with a big ambition; to bring simplicity and utility back into vogue. I sat down with its owner, Ryan Johnson, to get to know another young entrepreneur in our community, and to learn about his journey into small business.
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My wife grew up around Baltimore. We met in Georgia, moved up the east coast and lived in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and then moved to Longmont about four years ago.
We were ready to get out of Philadelphia. We had just had our first daughter and a job opportunity opened up in Boulder, so we jumped on it. We came out here sight unseen, with our six-week-old, everything in our truck, and it happened to coincide with move-in time for CU. We were looking for a place to live and couldn’t find anything. We saw an ad for an apartment in Longmont, so we decided to check it out, even though it was a little further than we wanted to be. We ended up getting a spot over by the Pumphouse on Main Street, and we ended up falling in love with Longmont. We bought a house in Longmont about nine months later.
Have you always wanted own a retail store?
It was always on our radar. My wife and I both worked corporate retail, and though we were good at it, we were never really satisfied with it. We started to shift our focus to intentional consumerism; making sure that we weren’t just buying things to buy them, but that what we bought was coming from a good company, and that it would last. We started being really conscious about not buying as much and we were becoming really aware of the items we were bringing into our home. Then on top of that, we started thinking about ideas for a retail store. Since we have been married, we always knew we wanted to do something on our own, and when we were back in Philadelphia we started getting more serious about a concept for a retail store. Then when we landed in Longmont and we saw the Main Street, our vision solidified and we could really picture ourselves owning a little shop downtown. That’s when we got serious and hashed out a business plan.
What products and services do you offer?
Our main concept revolves around intentional products, which for us meant useful, well-made, and responsibly sourced. We wanted to create a design-oriented general store, so we strive to provide things that people actually need on a day to day basis, but also elevate that with things that look really nice for the home. We don’t really offer any services, but we participate in the occasional maker’s market.
What is a creative way you interact with our local community here in Longmont?
Along with the maker’s and holiday markets, we started a little group called “Colony.” We teamed up with a friend of ours to go around to local businesses and do sort of what you are doing, by photographing them and getting to know them. We’ve had meetups and done some photo stories of a local print maker, a furniture maker, and trades like that to try to figure out a way to bring all the local talent together. We also participate in 2nd Fridays, which is a local Longmont event that features art, and we open our store up to feature local artists in the community.
How can we learn more about “Colony”?
There’s a website. www.longmontcolony.com
How do you promote your business?
We are committed to slow and steady growth, so for these first few years we are really honing in on our product assortment. We’ve done better this year than last year, so we feel like we’re getting more on point with our products. The only advertisements we have run are a few little advertisements on Facebook and Instagram. Instagram is our go-to platform to push our brand.
For a Longmont business, you have a very respectable Instagram following. How did you build it?
When we were first starting out, we sought out Longmont businesses and started engaging with the local community. As we established the store, we started bringing in brands, and then those brands would repost our content. Now it’s much more organic, as people find us through other people’s comments or likes. There’s a woman in Boulder named Andrea Sanders and her Instagram handle is @bezerowastegirl . She has a really large following and she’s been a big supporter of ours. When she posts about us, we see a surge in followers.
Who inspires you most?
I don’t think I have a particular person per se, but I’ve always been drawn to people who have a passion and who pursue that passion at the highest possible level. I’m intrigued by people who have a vision, start with very little resources, and then through their hard work turn it into something beyond their imagination. Topo designs out of Boulder is a good example. They just had a simple idea and they kept growing it and now they’re doing amazing stuff. It just seems that passionate people end up inspiring the people around them, and I’m into that.
How has Longmont changed since you’ve been here?
When we got here, we knew that there was a lot of untapped potential. There were like minded people who couldn’t afford Boulder or Denver and were starting to settle in Longmont. We’ve noticed a slow trend of new businesses popping up, and Main Street has started to fill out a little more. There are a lot of young families coming to town. Every weekend it seems we’ve got a family or two stopping by that mentions they just moved here.
How did you meet your wife?
Well, I met her in Georgia and a month later we eloped.
(He blushes slightly and a big grin spreads across his face). Yup.
How did you know she was the one for you?
We met when we were both working at Urban Outfitters in Savannah, Georgia. I was immediately infatuated with her. I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. One of the first times she came over with some friends to my apartment, I had a hip-hop playlist on, and we connected over the music right away. I think she would say that was a defining moment for us.
What is your end game goal?
We both have always wanted to turn whatever we do into something big that lasts, whether that be a brand, our own product, or a few stores. Along with the store, one of the things we’ve tinkered with is the idea of a campground or lodging space. Whatever it is we do, we want it to be something big that people enjoy experiencing, and that we can pass along to our girls. We want to feel like we’ve made it. We don’t need a lot of money, but we want to feel comfortable and be able to pass something of value on to the next generation.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me Ryan!
For those of you who haven’t popped into Yore, you can find them at 381 Main Street in Longmont, CO. If you’d like to browse and shop their goods online, you can find them at yore.us . To see new product arrivals in the store and to get a feel for the Yore aesthetic, you can follow along on Instagram at the handle @yore.us
Until next time………