Lake Life Chelan
As seen in Waterfront Living
Kelli Rynd, owner of Lake Life Chelan, provided some great insight into her store’s success in the Q&A with Gift Shop® Plus in Waterfront Living.
Describe how your business started and how it has grown over the years.
Swim World Chelan has been in business for over 40 years serving our community, so when the owner walked through the doors of our real estate firm in 2017 ready to retire, and asked if we wanted to take it over, we were a little surprised but intrigued by the potential. My husband and I hadn’t branched into retail before, but I have personally always had the dream of owning my own shop one day. With so many decades of success in our corner and a little bit of madness — we decided to take the leap and flip the store within a month!
Over the years, there has been a lot of learning, blood, sweat, and tears … a global pandemic … and then the eventual separation of the HotTub/Service business and making our storefront solely a gift shop with the creation of our own lifestyle/clothing branding “Lake Life Chelan,” along with a couple more retail acquisitions downtown as well within the last couple years. It has been quite the journey, but we have nearly tripled our business and are so proud of the name we have created within our downtown sphere being a women-owned and operated business.
Tell us about your community.
We believe Chelan provides a unique lifestyle opportunity that is rare and unique in the Pacific Northwest. Not only are there 300 days of sunshine, but you truly do get to experience the best of every season wrapped by our gorgeous pristine glacier-fed lake. We boast some of the most world-class wines in our dozens of beautiful wineries while still having the small-town remote living aspect. Chelan offers the ability to live every day like you’re on vacation and that’s what we wanted to encapsulate with our storefront.
What makes your store unique?
Our store is the largest in the downtown sphere offering a wide variety of vacation lifestyle home goods, gifts, clothing, and more for everyone to enjoy.
Tell us about your product mix.
You can find anything from a new trendy outfit, the perfect gift, floaties for lake days, souvenirs commemorating our gorgeous lake town, that accent piece you’ve been needing for your home, an amazing smelling candle, or even shopping our fantastic assortment of stickers! Oh, and you should see us for the holidays … our selection of unique curated pieces is unmatched for the best of holiday decorating.
How extensive are your product offerings that are tailored to the coastal/lake lifestyle?
We carry everything from lake-themed napkin rings to stunning art pieces. We’ve had several clients buy vacation homes and be able to decorate their entire homes with our selections. We have also offered special ordering and consultations to help you furnish your spaces.
How do you source your merchandise— do you attend shows, use online marketplaces, or other? If you attend shows, how often do you go and what are the must-attend markets?
We do an assortment of marketplaces, both online and in-person, to cultivate the best range of products that match our vision of our space. We attend about 3-4 shows a year permitting and I’d have to say our favorite is probably Dallas Market Center for the variety, but also who doesn’t love some good Texas food options occasionally?
What are your best-selling categories and who are your go-to vendors?
Our best-selling category has definitely been our range of apparel both in our lake-specific merchandise and our more trendy fashion pieces. One of our newer brands we’ve been loving is RVCA for some of our fashion apparel and then we have a handful of vendors that have helped us create our vision with custom designs on really quality pieces.
What is the TOP seller currently in your inventory in the lake or coastal category?
Our top sellers are hands down our custom embroidered lake hoodies and sweaters.
Where do you find inspiration for product displays, and how often do you rotate them?
In-person markets really help us find things that speak to us and drive our inspiration for the year, but we have also done some different outings with our team and management to take notes on other shopping experiences and find things we might want to apply to our own space that works. Our store is really a constant flow of tweaking and new inventory to keep things fresh and meet demand.
Tell us about your busy season and how it impacts your overall buying schedule for the year.
Summertime brings in about 2 million tourists, so we do have to frontload a lot of inventory in the Spring to keep up with demand during that time period. For the rest of the year, we really focus on capitalizing on the needs of our home community while still providing the best range for all who visit and providing some great gifty options, which is a hard balance. Holidays are also so near and dear to us, so we really try to make a full experience when you walk into our store. Christmas time we have set up a good 9 decadent Christmas Trees every year to provide a little extra holiday magic. We also do things like pre-assembled Easter baskets, new home gift baskets, and stocking stuffer packs.