Exceptional Retailer: Mellow Yellow Novelties

01
Feb

MELLOW BUT MOTIVATED

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Mellow Yellow Novelties in Texas changed up its shop a few years ago, refocusing its product mix and making a point to stay ahead of the curve. That move has paid off in a big way.

A savvy business owner knows when it’s time to flip the switch, when it’s time to freshen things up and re-focus the brand. It’s not necessarily an easy decision to make nor is it easy to execute once you realize it’s time for change.

But with hard work comes reward, and that’s certainly the case at Mellow Yellow Novelties in Laredo, Tx.

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It’s been five years since owners Mike and Monica Reyes decided the shop needed to be re-evaluated, re-focused and revived. Today, Mellow Yellow is on top of its game. It’s transformed into a glass-heavy shop that’s in tune with the latest trends. Gone are the items that don’t sell or that are easily purchased elsewhere. Instead, the shop has invested in what it knows its customers want and, maybe more importantly, what they don’t know they want yet.

“What we did was, we re-evaluated all of our inventory and really focused on what we were selling,” Mike Reyes says. “We basically moved our location, repainted our place, worked with a local artist to do some artwork on our walls. We really started to focus on trade shows, trying to get ourselves as involved as we could. I feel like that’s been essential.”

Let’s take a step back: Mike and Monica got married in 2012, which is when Mike joined Monica in the business. She’d owned it since 2006. When Mike came aboard, he took over the daily managerial duties, overseeing every aspect of the shop, while Monica remained more of a silent owner.

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He was a longtime glass fan, but running a smoke shop was something new for him. He proved a quick study, though, and the pair went to work making sure Mellow Yellow was its best possible self.

The changes weren’t huge, but not every upgrade needs to be a full rebuild. They moved, but within the same shopping center. They pared down their inventory, but kept the best and most essential items.

“We really focused on what we were selling,” Mike says. “We re-analyzed the market. It was an evolution. I’ll give you an example: We used to sell rock T-shirts and posters. When we switched up, we got rid of those and we picked our best papers, vaporizers and glass.”

He points out that a customer can buy rock T-shirts at Target and Walmart these days, so his shop’s best move is to stock things that are specific to its clientele.

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“When we switched it up,” Mike says. “We positioned ourselves to be able to bring in more of the latest trends to our customers. It was neither selling out or buying in. We just focused more on the industry and the leading trends.”

The most important part of the overhaul was having a strong vision. There are plenty of smoke shops out there that try to be everything to everyone, and end up struggling because of it. Instead, Mellow Yellow listened to what its customers wanted and put a premium on what worked for its community and its shoppers.

“That’s what differentiates the people who are there for a quick buck and the people who truly love the industry and the community,” Mike says. “Our customers are very content. We keep them up to speed.

“That vision is very necessary,” he continues. “That takes a good love of the industry and a good love for the business.”

Relationships are key, Mike says, whether it’s between Mellow Yellow and its customers or the shop and its vendors. Mellow Yellow is the type of shop that won’t stock glass unless ownership has a good relationship with the artist or distributor.

“I don’t just pick up a random glass line and bring them into my shop,” Mike says. “I have some great relationships with people, they keep me in the loop for a lot of things.”

Mainly, staying ahead of the curve, which is never easy in our modern world, where the trends and technology are changing all the time. A lot of stores monitor social media closely to see what’s new and cool, but for Mellow Yellow, it goes beyond that.

“My primary line would be the shows,” Mike says. “You can definitely develop some great relationships that can keep you ahead of social media.”

These days, Mellow Yellow has a modest staff of four, which is enough because Mike is so hands-on with the shop. His crew takes good care of people, he says, and he stays on top of every aspect of the store.

In five years, it sure seems like Mike has found his niche at Mellow Yellow.

“Some people may define success by basic numbers,” Mike says. “But to push that over the edge and thrive, it definitely takes that extra push. It almost takes a full-time energy.”

“It’s best,” he says, “when your heart is in it and you can wake up every day and you don’t feel like you’re going to work. It’s not work. It’s paradise for me.”

 

 


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