Chairloom’s founder shares how she’s been able to evolve her vintage textile business since 2006.
Beloved for its bold graphics and colorful textiles, Chairloom has been keeping Molly Andrews Burke quite busy since she launched the business in 2006. Now a mother of three, Burke runs Chairloom from Ardmore and Narberth.
MLT: How did Chairloom come to be?
MB: We’d moved to Ardmore from New York, and a neighbor introduced me to thrift shops in the area. I found a Schumacher outlet in Delaware, and I connected with independent textile artists in New York. The idea was to buy cool furniture and cool textiles and combine them to create one-of-a-kind pieces. We launched the business by piggybacking on a jewelry design show I was having at my house.
MLT: And your first big break?
MB: The blog Daily Candy did a story on Chairloom. That created an idea that Chairloom was national—or at least something bigger than it was. Then, in 2008, I was invited to be a vendor at Brooklyn Flea. Because of that, the New York Times put me in its Style section. Even though I really didn’t have inventory or assets, I started to build a client base. From there, House Beautiful, Country Living and Martha Stewart Living wrote about us.
MT: How has your business model evolved?
MB: When I started, I sold finished pieces. I learned quickly that when someone is staring at a $3,000 finished piece and wants a different textile, you change your business model. Now, clients pick their own fabric. One of the things I enjoy is bringing clients into the process.
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MLT: Has COVID-19 impacted your business?
MB: I’m really lucky. I always had online sales, and that increased. I FaceTime with people and send fabric choices in the mail. If the client is local, people leave their chairs in their garages. We go get them, then deliver the finished products.
MLT: What role does reclaiming/recycling play in your business?
MB: A lot of people have family pieces or unique pieces and are looking for guidance on what to do with them. They come to us because that’s what we specialize in. We update older pieces to look modern.
MLT: What marketing advice can you share?
MB: Instagram has been particularly critical. I had 300 followers in the beginning, then Instagram highlighted my business and we went from 300 to 10,000 in one day. Post every single project. One great project leads to another.