Liz Walberg and her daughter Cari Luchau own c.lizzy’s in Fargo, North Dakota. These artists keep business all in the family.
ABI: How did the two of you get into business together?
LW&CL: We are a mother/daughter team who started this business by going to arts and crafts shows in the upper Midwest in 2003. Long story short . . . we were both at crossroads in our current careers at the time. Liz had worked in the dental industry for 25 years, and the dentist she worked for was retiring. Cari worked in the software and telematics industries and was facing a big move decision. We had also experienced some personal losses close together with losing Liz’s mother and husband within two years of each other.
Combining one of life’s lessons that life can be really short and can go by really fast with having success at the first few shows, we decided it was a “now or never” move to start our own business. Through many outdoor tents, hot days and a well-traveled conversion van, we decided to house a “studio-store” in our Downtown Fargo. One year later, we moved to a bigger location. Another year later, we moved to a bigger location. Another year later, we expanded into what we currently have as an American Handmade gift gallery and a 1400 sq foot studio.
Another year later, we started wholesaling our core creations. Forward four more years, and customers in our store have been known to catch awesome aromas from Liz’s home-cooking as we have a fully functional kitchen in our studio for those sometimes long days.
ABI: Tell us about the store that you own next to your studio in Fargo, North Dakota.
LW&CL: Our store is 1000 sq ft and is an American Handmade Art & Gift Gallery located right on Broadway of our fabulous downtown Fargo. We do show a variety of c.lizzy’s work. Liz is known for her stylistic wall collage art and metal wall art, and we carry several of her wall pieces. As a whole, we focus on pottery, jewelry, metal art and gifts suitable for weddings, showers and hostess gifts. Some might be surprised to learn that entertaining is big in our area! Our store carries 95% handmade products with cards making up the remainder. Downtown Fargo is a trending downtown in the United States, and we are excited to be part of that continued growth.
ABI: Since you also have the perspective of a buyer, what do you think artists and craftspeople most need to know?
LW&CL: This is a hard one because the “rules” are always changing in this day and age. One rule that remains though is the 80/20 rule. It can be applied virtually anywhere. Know your top 20% of customers/stores/buyers that bring you your 80% of the business. Nurture them. We ourselves as artists know this takes time and effort, and we certainly need to do a better job of it so we need to listen to our own advice!
However, we really remember those artists who remember us and how we do with their line. Also know what 20% of your product line sells the best to what type of galleries and stores, so you can have better information on hand to provide prospective and returning buyers. If their first order is a home run, then you have done a good job collaborating with the buyer on a good fit. And always be nice, smile and truly enjoy your time with the buyers. You never know when the big deal or next great friendship might evolve.
ABI: What is your best advice for families working together in a business?
LW&CL: Families working together bring many, many dynamics to the table. We believe the best pieces of advice we ever received on this topic are:
1. Separate areas of responsibilities.
2. Learn to forgive and forget – especially because of the family dynamics.
3. Be grateful that you can work together.
4. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work — and that is OK. Keep the family first.