Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Q&A: Yvonne and Jeremy of Little Otsu

Names: Yvonne & Jeremy
Find us: www.littleotsu.com, www.littleotsu.com/blog, facebook.com/littleotsu, twitter.com/littleotsu, Little Otsu, 849 Valencia St., San Francisco!
Location: J- We're located on Valencia Street in The Mission District in San Francisco which is a good place to: eat a burrito, buy a book, shop for janitorial supplies, visit a pirate store and eat vegan Japanese food among many other things.

Tell me a little bit about your store and how you decided to open it?
J- We are a small press publishing company and store where we sell our full line of books & paper goods as well as items made by companies we like. These would include: small press art books, letterpress greeting cards, handmade mini-comics, weekly planners, limited edition prints, hand-drawn bookmarks & postcards among many other things made of paper. We opened our store 7 years ago and basically have tried to sell things we like and hope other people like them as well.
For someone who hasn't been lucky enough to stop by in person, how would you describe the style of the store?
Y- Kind of like visiting our living room. Our style is pretty casual and friendly with a lot of colorful products on found/family furniture.
J- It's like a hand-drawn stationery store meets a small press art-book shop with some handmade crafts thrown in.

How do you decide what products to carry?
Y- We look for things that appeal to us aesthetically, are more unusual or hard to come by, priced reasonably, and that feel like they are a fit with little otsu and something that our customers would love.

What are some of your current favorite products or artists?
J- We often say our most current project is our favorite project and so to that end the Annual Vol 4 by Dan Black and Nine Ways to Disappear by Lilli Carre would be our current favorites. That said, it's too difficult to narrow it down to who our favorite artists are (although Lart C. Berliner will probably always be topping the list). We also just saw the Kandinsky exhibit at the Guggenheim and he was pretty amazing!

Did you have retail experience or did you figure out how to make Little Otsu a success simply by doing it?
J- I worked some retail, mostly in coffee shops but otherwise we were totally fresh to running retail stores. We did jump into it in a way but tried--and continue--to learn from our mistakes as much as possible.
Y- I think we took a lot of our different experiences that weren't traditional retail (like from running a zine/label or selling merch at shows), but could be applied to a retail setting and just our sense of how we wanted to do things and it luckily worked out.

Where do you find your inspiration?
J- We find a lot of inspiration from working with such amazing artists on projects. Some of the best ideas we've ever had were from sitting around brainstorming with Lart or Martine (both LO artists). We also find inspiration from all the normal places like old books, websites, friends, museums, and our favorite bookstores.

Do you make things yourselves?
J- Yvonne has made a few things including the Film Diary and several notepads and a postcard flat. On our other LO projects we base everything on collaboration so we are always involved in some way large or small.

What do you hope customers experience when they visit?
J- We hope they find things they've never seen before that they like and get to enjoy for a long time. Also we hope it's good weather outside.

What's the best part of your day?
J- Drinking coffee and talking about project ideas.
Y- The satisfaction of getting our day's orders out the door.

If you are ever in San Francisco, you should definitely make a visit to Little Otsu. They were on my list of things to do when I had a free afternoon there last summer and what a treat. I came away with a small stack of cards and postcards, some of which were thin wood and were so pretty that I never could bring myself to part with them. Their planner, shown above, is delightful and I particularly enjoy that you get to fill in the dates yourself. And, of course, also the fact that it's so darn cool to look at. Definitely excellent motivation to stay organized, of that I am sure!

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