Handmade pottery coffee mugs, carved wooden cutting boards, shiny metal trinkets, and hiking gear are just a few of the things that make up the interior of Domestic Domestic on Kavanaugh. If you happen by on-foot, you’ll likely want to step in and stay a while, examining the endless treasures lining the shelves.
The vibe is laidback, only made more apparent when owner Heather Smith describes the store, “We’re your weekend place, not your nine-to-five, we’re your have-a-beer-and-hangout-location.”
One glance around is enough to know that Smith is not new to business ownership, especially when it comes to owning a small, local operation.
The Northeast Arkansas native has owned previous small businesses from catering to housewares to kitchenware in the past, and as she says, “Retail is certainly my calling.”
Before opening Domestic Domestic, she was not far down the street with Eggshells Kitchen Co., her first small business in Little Rock. She and her partner, Sarah Ort, opened up in 2008.
Smith says, “We opened in literally the armpit of things going horribly wrong with the economy – and we always figured if we could make it then, then we would be ok.”
After the economy began to slowly straighten out, Smith noticed a change in people’s spending habits. “There’s certainly a movement,” she explains, “I caught myself doing it personally, even … I was trying to find more American made and higher quality products.”
Searching for a higher quality and supporting local became the two driving factors for what would later become Domestic Domestic. Funnily enough, she points to local company PK Grills as a jump-start to the idea. “We credit them with the inspiration behind the store because we had such a great relationship with them. No one brings a PK grill back in because they break – in fact they don’t break. Plus, the company was located here in Little Rock. It was just a very seamless, easy, and transparent relationship.”
With this in mind, Smith and Ort sold Eggshells to Lindsey Gray and moved to Asheville, NC, a place where Smith had already spent a lot of time. With that move, the two took the opportunity to open up Domestic Domestic online while they waited for an available brick-and-mortar space.
Rock City has a way with people, however. Smith remembers, “While we were waiting for a storefront to happen, we then realized how easy and nice life was both from a business perspective and a personal perspective here in Little Rock.”
Thus, they moved back, and in the process they began talking to Eggshells’ owner Lindsey Gray, who had by that time become a close friend. “That’s actually how we found out about the space we’re in now – through her,” laughs Smith. “It was just a really cool coincidence that we were able to open this shop up in our same neighborhood where loyal customers were already aware of what we do and what we stand behind.”
Thus, in the Spring of 2014, Domestic Domestic opened its doors in the Heights. Staying in the Heights was a very deliberate decision as Smith says, “We wanted to be somewhere that was really known for its Mom and Pop shops. … We’re a small business – and by small – I mean we’re smaller than small.”
Before opening, Smith really narrowed down the profile of what Domestic Domestic would look like to customers. “We started to put it together and we noticed that because Americans don’t make a ton of plastic – things aren’t nearly as colorful, so things are made out of wood and metal and leather. Our stock definitely had more of a natural feel to it, and through that, we went in the nature direction.”
Also, the shop began to take on more of a guy’s lens. She continues, “In Little Rock we noticed that there are a ton of great feminine boutiques … but there really wasn’t a weekend guy shop – and that’s what we dub ourselves as.”
The shop has a little bit of everything. Think general store for the nature enthusiast in your life, or just anyone who wants a quality-made mug or shirt. Smith adds, “We don’t have everything that you’re ever going to need, we have everything you’re ever going to want.”
Part of the fun in the endeavor is keeping up with American made products and vendors. Smith explains, “This industry is not as cutthroat as others are, there is a lot of communication between makers and companies and … we tip each other off. If someone has found or stumbled upon something cool or great … we’re going to share with other each other.”
This also ensures that Smith is able to constantly change what’s in the shop, and means she’s always looking for that next thing. “It keeps me interested and it keeps my customers interested. Eighty percent of the stuff is going to stay the same throughout the year, but that changed 20 percent is going to be what you’re looking for,” she says.
If you haven’t had a chance to pop into Domestic Domestic, give it a go. Their current plans are to “keep plugging along,” but you never know if an expansion is in their future. Don’t have time to stop by? There’s a link for that.
- Becca Bona, Rock City Life