From Tech Start-up to Old-School Shop on the Corner

by Debbie Monterrey dcmonterrey@cbs.com

In an era when the business focus is all about high tech start-ups getting venture capital, one St. Louis entrepreneur who has “been there, done that” is going old-school–trading in her award-winning commerce start-up for a brick-and-mortar neighborhood store.

Meet Lauren Thorp. Her Bonboni Home & Gift Company is scheduled to open this month on Klemm Street in the Shaw neighborhood of South St. Louis.

“First and foremost, it’s a home and gift boutique,” says Thorp, “Our style is farmhouse eclectic.”

 

untitled From Tech Start up to Old School Shop on the Corner

Photo courtesy of Bonboni Home & Gifts

Thorp knows firsthand what the world of start-ups and venture capital is like. Her venture-backed subscription commerce start-up was named Best of the Web in 2013 by InStyle and was mentioned in Forbes, Real Simple and the Washington Post.

“It was really fun,” says Thorpe, “It was a blast.” But it was a lot of pressure, moving wherever her funders needed her to be.

She thinks those in the tech start-up community can understand the “eighteen hour days, the crying in the fetal position on the floor because you can’t raise your next round of investment. You don’t have to take venture funds. It’s OK to build a business slowly, that supports your family without ramping up in six months. In my current life stage, I’m not interested in doing the fast paced grow, grow, grow.”

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Bonboni Home & Gift (Photo by Debbie Monterrey)

Thorp, a South St. Louis County native, met her husband while living in Washington, D. C. They moved around to Las Vegas and Los Angeles with her business. But when she became pregnant, she said she just felt this overwhelming urge to move back home. Her husband, a Michigan native, readily agreed.

They found the perfect place in Shaw where she could open her shop and they could live next door, where her husband could work from home and she could pop into the store or run back home easily if the kids need her.

bonboni3 From Tech Start up to Old School Shop on the Corner

Photo courtesy of Bonboni Home & Gifts

But if it seems like a precarious time to be opening a shop, at a time when stores all over are shutting their doors for good, Thorp sees it differently.

“We provide an experience for the customer,” she explains. “They walk in and, like you said, ‘Wow, it’s like a magazine in here!’ You rarely walk into Wal-Mart and have that feeling. People are excited to come in and want to spend time in here and have that experience of a unique find.”

As far as the choice of locations, Thorp says she and her husband are very excited about Shaw.

“The day we moved in, we had six different families stop and introduce themselves and bring us bread and cookies. It’s like, I joke it’s like a little urban Mayberry in Shaw.”

Certainly a new way of life for Lauren Thorp and her family. And a new life for the shop, which sat vacant for years after serving long ago as the neighborhood’s candy shop. Thus, the name Bonboni–a tribute to its sweet, confectionary past.

 

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