Coffee With...Liz Martin of The Charleston Weekender

Liz Martin is the founder of the Charleston Weekender and co-owner of the Cannonborough Collective, a local Charleston, South Carolina balloon shop.  I met Liz last year at Palm Springs Modernism Week. We were bicycling alongside one another on the inaugural Palm Springs Style Door Tour and traded off doing Instagram husband duties for one another as we made our way from one colorfully, iconic mid-century door to the next.

 Liz Martin. Image Credit: @Rachelredphotography

Liz Martin. Image Credit: @Rachelredphotography

I learned about Liz's lifestyle blog, the Charleston Weekender, during the post-tour cocktail cool-down at the Sauguaro Palm Springs. With my interest in history and architecture my ears instantly perked up at the mention of Charleston (it's a city I've always wanted to visit!). We kept in touch in the interviewing months, and I watched as she brought her whimsical spirit and colorful take to her newly-opened balloon shop in Charleston. I recently sat down with her over coffee (me in LA, Liz in Charleston) to chat about Charleston's local maker community and ask Liz what it's like opening a retail store nowadays, and much more.

What’s your favorite coffee shop in Charleston? What do you love about it?

Yikes, there are too many to name, but I like different ones for different reasons; The Harbinger for European ambiance and Mixson Market for a quiet place to work with a great dirty chai latte.
Here is a blog post I did about some favorites: here.

 The Harbinger via  @newmanhaley

The Harbinger via @newmanhaley

Since you are the Charleston Weekender, tell us, what does the the ideal Charleston weekend look like?

Charleston has a lot of different settings to offer, from the beach to plantations to a charming historic downtown. It’s great to get to experience a little bit of everything. I’d recommend Sullivan’s Island for some great beach brunch spots. Middleton Place is perfect for a romantic plantation stroll followed by a memorable southern meal at their restaurant.  The rest of the time can be spent shopping and eating anywhere downtown. The street our shop is on (Cannon Street) has an awesome restaurant, bakery, and some really cute stores, so it’s fun to shop it from end to end with some nibbles along the way. Can you tell a good Charleston weekend involves LOTS of eating?!

What inspired you to open a balloon shop?

I met my business partner at a market and she and I had seen the same vacant building that was just begging to be a cute little shop. I didn’t really want to be tied down to a store, but I was also seeing that selling my products in person at markets and pop ups was so much more successful than my online sales.  One thing led to another, and she was already making cute tassel garlands and tassel balloon tails so balloons were a natural fit for us. I’ve always been obsessed with balloons because they just always make everyone happy! We also saw a void in the downtown market; lots of store owners were driving over the bridge for balloons, so now we’re able to offer balloons to the downtown area.

Your store carries locally made products. Tell us about the local Charleston artisan and maker community.

This community is the only reason I am doing what I do!  I would be such a small fish in a big pond in any other city, but Charleston is a tight knit community where it’s easy to connect and thrive if you put yourself out there. We really are all about sharing the love and supporting each other, and a lot of my current friends are people I have met through being a vendor at Charleston markets. This is such a creative town where almost everyone has a side hustle.

Your brand’s aesthetic has a lot of vibrant colors. Tell us what kind of influence do vibrant colors play in Charleston?

Charleston isn’t exactly a place where you’ll find people donned in all black, ha!  We are all about color - there are colorful doors everywhere and we even have a section of town called Rainbow Row. Personally, color has always been an aid that I use as a way to evoke happiness. My brand mantra is to make every day feel more like the weekend, which means consciously doing little things to add some doses of happiness into your day.  Nothing helps me get out of my own (often anxious) head more than sporting some hot pink and a smile and heading out into the world.  

 Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row

What advice would you offer someone launching their own retail establishment?

Get a great partner! I don’t think I could have done this without my partner Mimi from The Tiny Tassel. We honestly didn’t even know each other super well when we opened a shop together, but I just kind of knew we balanced each other out in terms of our strengths.  It would have been WAY too daunting for me to handle without her!  

I also would say that it’s not a great idea to start your business by being in debt on day 1. My mom has always taught me not to live beyond my means, and I think knowing I haven’t taken out a loan takes so much pressure out of business ownership. I think some would argue that the bigger the risk the bigger the reward, but brick and mortar retail can be a tough area to succeed in right now. Start small with rent you can afford and grow from there. We were inspired by the ladies of Skinny Dip, who rent out spaces to vendors instead of the traditional way of stocking your store by buying products up front at wholesale. Our vendors walk away with a bigger percentage than they would at traditional wholesale, and our rent is already paid before we have a single sale.