In love with Epona & Oak

11/16/2011 at 2:59 pm | Posted in About town | 1 Comment
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Leeann (left) and Cheryl Hynes inside Epona & Oak.

Leeann (left) and Cheryl Hynes inside Epona & Oak.

The Hynes sisters kick butt.

Cheryl, Leeann and Katie run Epona & Oak, my new favorite shop in Raleigh. Every single thing for sale is handmade, and the majority of the designers are local.

I stopped by Epona & Oak recently to chat with Leeann and Cheryl about what it’s like to go into business with family and why handmade rocks …

Suzanne: So, how did Epona & Oak come to be?

Leeann: Our little sister, Katie, is the planner of the family. She always wanted to do a family business. It was 2007. I had my own business making jewelry, Cheryl was working as a massage therapist, and we all realized we’re doing what we love. This is it. So Katie thought it would be good if we put it all together and have one business. I think I spent seven months working on the business plan. We really went over it. And when we decided to do this, nothing like it really existed here.

S: You guys are unique in Raleigh, if not the whole Triangle, right?

Cheryl: I think so. More shops like this are starting to pop up, but not with the wellness side.

S: What’s it like working with your sisters?

L: We love working together! We have fun.

C: But everyone kept warning us not to go into business with family.

L: We hired a lawyer, an accountant … everybody warned us it would end in tragedy (laughs). So we went to family therapy. It was really good.

C: We learned how not to push each other’s buttons and to take responsibility for ourselves.

L: To be respectful.

S: So, who does what?

L: I run the storefront and manage the artists, and Cheryl runs the wellness studio.

C: I book Reiki, facial and massage therapy appointments, and I help run the store when I’m not in session.

L: Katie teaches Reiki and yoga classes on the weekends. And we also have an esthetician on staff, Monica Shelton, who makes the Ablutions [bath and body] products.

Epona & Oak

S: Why did you choose City Market?

L: We really wanted to be downtown. We liked City Market, the history here. This was one of the first places I ever went when I came to Raleigh.

S: So, how many designers do you have here?

L: Over 60 now, and it’s still growing. I help put on the Handmade Market each year, and that’s where I would meet the artists. We also pick up at least one new artist with each new market … and I find artists at other craft fairs. When the shop opened, there were only four consigners and everybody else was wholesale. Now, it’s mostly consignment.

S: How does that work?

L: With consignment, they really can make and sell whatever they want. So we don’t own it; we get a percentage of it. I do monthly reports so they can see what and how much they’ve sold.

C: They’ll usually restock once a month. That’s another nice thing about being local … they can bring stuff to us if it runs out.

Epona & OakS: How do you keep everything straight?

L: I’m crazy for spreadsheets. I keep track of everything that everyone brings in with Excel. And with this fancy book (holds up a black composition book, laughing) … this tells me when it’s sold and certain highlights mean certain things. One of our friends once offered to put everything on the computer for us, but this is actually faster and just as easy.

S: Let’s talk about the Handmade Market. Leeann is one of the founders, right?

L: Yes, some friends and I used to work at Ornamentea. I used to be a buyer for them. We did the Boylan Artwalk and made a killing … we were all in shock. So we decided maybe we should put on a local market of our own.

S: How long has the Handmade Market been going on?

L: Since 2004. We do two shows a year, fall and spring. And we always support a charity … this year it’s Interfaith Food Shuttle. The artists donate items for gift baskets to raffle.

S: So, do you guys hang out outside of work? What’s it like?

L: Easter and Thanksgiving … (laughs).

C: We’ve actually been through a lot together. Our mom was very sick with cancer, and we brought her from Florida last September, and we were all caregivers. We lost her in March. But we spent a lot of time together … working together and seeing each other outside work every day. I think after that, we needed a little break. But we still see each other every day.

S: What’s your favorite part of all this?

L: I love our customers. They’re like an extension of our family.

C: I agree. We’ve met so many awesome people from having had this business that we’d never otherwise have met.

Epona & Oak

S: What are your dreams for this place?

Both, in unison: Employees!

L: I would like to offer more classes. They’re fun. And I’d love to add more artists.

C: And I always envisioned a whole wellness studio with different practitioners you can draw upon.

S: Why is the handmade movement so important to you?

L: We love supporting the community, our neighbors. These products aren’t mass produced; no one’s getting hurt in the production of these things. Our artists love what they make.

C: And I honestly think you can feel that when you walk in the door.

Epona & Oak is located in downtown Raleigh’s City Market. The shop is open Monday – Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Go check it out. You’ll be happy you did.

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  1. Great interview sis! I love that shop and what they stand for. It’s so neat walking in and seeing my neighbor’s and friend’s work on display. It makes me proud of the handmade movement and proud of our community. You automatically feel that connection and the Hynes sisters have done an awesome job keeping it strong. What’s icing on the cake is that they’re willing to share their insight in creating and running a creative business…it’s just so genuine and cool!


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