This home decor business in Crystal Lake may have started with a simple “Why not?” moment, but it’s the determination to succeed that kept this business going strong through a tough economy.
The No. 1 lesson Mary Meyn has taught her staff is to have a “why not?” mentality.
Meyn, who owns Yours & Meyn, Simply Designed – a two-in-one home decor retail store and interior design studio in downtown Crystal Lake – is well-known for providing McHenry County homeowners with just the right furniture, home furnishings and accessories to fit their taste and lifestyle.
She has a gift for “seeing” how a space should look, which, combined with her friendly attitude, has kept customers like Janice Selden coming back for years on end.
“It’s a talent she has, and she’s doing the right thing because she can look at a space and make great suggestions. For instance, ‘Why don’t you try putting that chair over there instead, or turn that table this way?’” says Selden, a Lakewood resident. “She’s able to do this because she has such a good eye and a good vision for what a space should look like.”
Talent aside, it’s Meyn’s “why not?” attitude that prompted her to open her store in the middle of a recession, expand it to support 15 employees and, most recently, open a second store – in suburban Denver.
“Any time I go to her with an idea, she thinks about it, shrugs her shoulders and says, ‘Why not?’” says Lynn Reckamp, store manager. “She’s very open to expansion, and new ideas and changing it up.” Case in point: if you walk into the retail store at 33 N. Williams St. in downtown Crystal Lake, it will look completely different three weeks later.
“Mary doesn’t like to order anything more than twice,” Reckamp says. “Our look constantly is evolving so it’s always fresh when you walk in.”
To Meyn, change is important because it sustains growth – personally and professionally. “When I sat down a couple of years ago, I thought, ‘I want to walk out of my store and know that my store is in good hands,’” Meyn says. “I spent the past couple of years putting those people in place.”
Just a few months ago, the timing was right to incorporate one of the biggest changes of her professional career: opening a second location, in an entirely different time zone no less. With Reckamp and others providing a firm foundation for her longtime clients, Meyn is forging ahead.
“I have 8.5 years under my belt,” she says. “I think I know what works, what doesn’t work, so why not?”
Meyn, who is in her early 50s, has always had a close connection with the home industry. Her father was in the homebuilding business, and when Meyn was small, the two spent weekends walking model homes and construction sites, with Meyn collecting the “nickels” left behind from the electrical boxes.
She worked retail in high school and college, worked as a model merchandising and marketing manager, started her own staging business, and designed interiors from the comfort of her home for years. She and Bob, her husband of 25 years, even gutted their 100-year-old house in downtown Crystal Lake to the studs.
“I have a very nice balance of what it takes to build a home and what it takes to remodel a home,” she says.
By the mid-2000s, Meyn’s keen eye for design had helped her accumulate a healthy clientele for her own design business. But one aspect of her work troubled her.
“I would go and spend a day shopping for furniture and accessories, and I literally had to drive my clients everywhere, or I would drive everywhere, from Schaumburg to the city, to find the right lamp,” she recalls. “I got tired of that, and I thought, ‘I could open a shop.’” So, in 2010, even though the economy was still turbulent, Meyn and her husband had a “why not?” moment.
“My husband and I thought, ‘Now is the time,’ because all of those big furniture stores stopped carrying that kind of inventory,” she says. “It is difficult to carry lamps and art. It’s much easier to sell one sofa instead of 40 smaller items.”
Yours & Meyn started as a retail store half the size of Meyn’s current location, but Meyn had the foresight to offer a design studio as well.
“Most successful small retail businesses have two elements to their store,” she says. “It almost becomes a necessity for a small business. My retail benefits from my design, and my design benefits from my retail.”
Today, Yours & Meyn can furnish entire homes from start to finish. And that’s exactly what Meyn likes to do: utilize her design studio to decorate clients’ homes and model homes for builders.
“We’re here to help people create beautiful homes, with any budget,” Meyn says. “We make home design something our customers can access by taking a little of yours and a little of mine so that you get a lovely product, a lovely home.”
Meyn’s “why not” attitude has trickled down to her employees in many ways, including with a new shopping service launched last fall. The team came up with the idea of creating a subscription and personal home decor shopping service, which they dubbed Decocrate.
“The theory is, it’s home decor in a box,” Reckamp says. “We do it four times a year, one for each season. For Christmas, there were a couple of ornaments, a Christmas sign and a mug. There are always five items, together for $59.95, but they’re worth more than $80. It’s a perfect hostess gift.”
When the project was ready to launch, Meyn was headed out of the country, but she gave the green light. “She said, ‘Why not?’” Reckamp says.
Similarly, when Wendy Rice, one of Meyn’s former designers, moved back to Colorado, the “why not?” spirit moved with her. Meyn had long been thinking of opening a second store and had targeted three areas: Tennessee, one of the Carolinas and Colorado. But when Rice, who had been scouting commercial real estate for Meyn, contacted her about a location in the Colorado town of Louisville, things started to fall into place.
“I got a call from Wendy, and she said, ‘This sounds crazy, but I saw a space on Craigslist, right on Front Street,’” Meyn says. “It’s small, there aren’t tall ceilings, it’s not on the front of the building – it’s everything you don’t want, but I think I should look at it!’ … And it’s nothing like what I would have wanted, but the rent and the lease term made it tolerable. So, that’s what we did. On Oct. 15, I signed the lease; I went out there Oct. 17; and we opened Nov. 15.”
After just one month, Home by Yours & Meyn surpassed its sales goal. That’s great news for Meyn, who may be interested in opening additional stores in the future. For now, however, she’ll wait before venturing into any more “why not” projects and enjoy the new set of challenges before her.
Meyn notes that “small” is a good place for any prospective business owner. “I think there are too many people who think they have to take out these huge loans,” she says. “But that’s simply not the case. Just understand your market and prepare for what it will take to survive.
“I knew I needed two businesses in one because I just knew it’s very difficult to run a small retail store, and I knew it was lonely doing design,” Meyn says. “My brother was a restaurant owner in the area – he ran a successful business for 14 years – and they always had catering. You work twice as hard with two businesses, but when one is down, the other is up. It levels that playing field.”
The best advice she has for entrepreneurs, however, is to follow your passion.“I really like what I do,” she adds. “And that’s the biggest thing: you have to love what you do.”