EM Bradley in Roanoke, Virginia

EM Bradley is Roanoke, Virginia’s newest retail establishment, with a great story and a very confident start during this 2010 Holiday season.  We are so pleased to share with you below an interview with the owner, Brad McClure, about the store’s beginnings and his plans for the future.

EM Bradley at 108 Church Ave SE , Roanoke

1. EM Bradley is located in lively Roanoke, VA. How long have you been in business and is there a story behind the name of your store?

EM Bradley opened on December 1…with the intent of introducing our shop to Roanoke throughout December in the “Dickens of a Christmas” events each Friday in December.

EM refers to our children – Emily and Mitchell – and my name is Bradley. Emily is a senior in high school and we share a passion for paper, journals, color…and coffee. Mitch and I share a passion for marketing and interacting with people…and he also helps us in operations during school breaks. Our common bond is music and laughter…

Leichelle, my lovely wife of 25 years, has a passion for children and teaches pre-school. My hope is that Leichelle will be able to lend her eye for decorating to help select EM Bradley’s product offering as well creating the look in our retail store.

2. How does being in a southern city influence the types of products and services you offer?

My first thought to this question was that I do not necessarily consider Roanoke a “southern city” per se – but I guess we are to an extent. We certainly have a southern heritage and gracious hospitality and wonderful food. However I would expand a description of Roanoke to include a growing blend of people and cultures…both nationally and internationally.

EM Bradley is located in downtown Roanoke – where down-town dwellers are on the rise (big time) – with loft apartments, music, art, etc… This definitely influences the type of products that EM Bradley will carry – as my goal is to bring products from larger cities (heavily from New York) to our city.

Recently a customer (who moved here from Philadelphia to play in the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra) said that he thought it is great that we are just buying cool products and not worrying about the connection (as in a theme) between the products. I appreciated that because I have been following my own personal tastes and hoping to connect with folks who will want make EM Bradley a part of their lives.

This is great fun – going to market and looking for things that connect with me so I can share them with others. That’s exactly what happened when I walked past your booth at the Javits center in August when Wooster & Prince notecard wallets jumped out at me and I stopped to inquire. Because I connect with your products I am able to convey that enthusiasm to our customers and they are definitely connecting with Wooster & Prince products already…

3. Tell us about Roanoke’s annual “Dickens of a Christmas” festival and how it affects how you will decorate and highlight merchandise during the holiday season? Does the theme of the festival influence your choices?

“Dickens of a Christmas” is a great series of events in downtown Roanoke celebrating the holidays, cold weather and mixing with people…the three Friday evenings before Christmas. Each evening offers a variety of events throughout downtown – with rides in horse-drawn carriages, caroling, and outdoor venues for performances.

We have enjoyed taking part as a new retail location in downtown Roanoke for these festivities – and have been offering free Espresso and Coffee (we also market Nespresso machines!) to our guests…which allows them time to become acquainted with our products and the feel of EM Bradley.

We have a good selection of Christmas bags and boxes (Punch Studio) and gift sets of coffee/tea mugs, napkins (Paper Products Design) that people seem to enjoy…which was key in trying to open by Dickens of a Christmas.

4. How does the festival affect your customer base? Do you anticipate primarily regular in-town customers, or do the holidays bring an influx of new visitors from outside Roanoke?

We anticipate a blend of local customers and visitors not only through the holidays but year around. In the heart of downtown (across from a tall Norfolk Southern Office Building) we have business visitors in town who are starting to stop by to browse.

Another example is that our first Edwin Jagger / Razor sale last week was a guy from Atlanta visiting friends (one of whose sister lives in Amsterdam…). So we anticipate a broad variety of folks visiting our shop…and we hope to continue our relationships via embradley.com and social media.

Clearly we hope to become a new source of product choices for a strong local customer base – and we are already grateful to have returning customers. Roanoke is a great city – we love it – and so a strong local presence will be key for us.

5. In a challenging retail market, it can be tricky to anticipate demand at any time of the year. What are your strategies for managing inventory during and immediately after the busy holiday season?

Since we are just getting started – we brought in a nice selection of products with a little bit of depth in each – but nothing crazy. I’m already seeing how I would like more of some products but I needed to gauge the response to the whole idea of EM Bradley.

One area that I committed to somewhat heavily is that of cool Storage for Home and Office. We carry Resource International – which is great line of eco-friendly storage boxes made in the Czech Republic. I met Michael Reiner of RI at the same show in Javits Center last year (a great guy) and I stocked up on all colors and box types for three of his lines. This will be a staple year around – and so I’m heavier on this inventory than others…

I can’t wait to move inventory so I can enjoy going to market in January and finding fresh ideas.

My goal has been to identify with a handful of great companies / product lines – and let their innovation and creativity shape new product offers seasonally…and add products that “catch my eye” when I see them.

Along with the visual appeal, however, I’m looking for product quality and gauging the strength and reliability of the manufacturers with whom I will build the EM Bradley brand. Put another way – I may like the look of something but if I can’t rely on stable quality and supply I will certainly take that into account.

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We are so thankful to Brad for taking time out of this incredibly busy month to talk with us.  Be sure to visit EM Bradley on your next visit to Roanoke, or shop today at:  embradley.com

EM Bradley

108 Church Ave SE

Roanoke, VA 24011

540.525.9929

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