Shop ‘Till We Drop: Wholesale

Behind every item in your home is a rich story. At least, that’s how it should be. And that’s exactly the concept behind The Storied Table, our online EC Home Store. It’s a collection of bold, carefully crafted dinnerware, tabletop and textile items curated from around the globe. Just like farm-fresh food and produce picked right from the garden, products plucked right from the place they were made carry a uniquely artisanal flair. To maintain that special aura within our shop, we actually travel to these cosmopolitan vendors ourselves, visiting wholesale markets in India, Iceland, Germany and other cities around the world. We interviewed our crazy-creative founder, Wendy Pashman, about how a startup plans an international retail buying trip and about her experience in her favorite Indian marketplaces.

When and where are wholesale markets and what can you find there?

“Wholesale” refers to the distribution of mass quantities of goods to retailers for costs that are ultimately lower than if one were to purchase those same goods in individual quantities. For those in our industry, these types of markets or bazaars take place all over the world year-round! One of the largest of these is the IHGF Delhi Fair, a biannual affair in India.

Because Entertaining Company places such an emphasis on bold, global cuisine, we collect objects for the home store that complement our style of cuisine, which means Asia is the perfect place for us to shop. Wendy loves the lush, cross-cultural vibes of the English-Raj style and is typically drawn to Anglo-Indian-inspired serveware and tabletop.

When products are made by hand, there are imperfections that are coveted by some American buyers but would be rejected by others. We like a Wabi Sabi aesthetic and in fact, thinks it adds to the value, so we just try to describe the products so there’s transparency.

For example, on her last trip abroad, a particular brass tumbler flower vase/container caught Wendy’s eye, and she knew she had to have them in the store. Some of the etching is imperfect and the vessels themselves are not “cookie cutter copies.” This only increases the value in Wendy’s eyes.

“We like to ‘see the hand.’”

How does one plan for an international retail buying trip? How do you structure your shopping and what do you look for?

Before embarking on any buying mission, Wendy likes to collect her thoughts, ideas and plans in her travel notebooks. While it’s important to have a strict itinerary and solid understanding of budget constraints, it’s also important to know the colors, textures and styles for which you’re looking. As a creative, Wendy finds one of the easiest and most useful ways to organize her style inspiration is in the form of collage art.

In any buying situation, having a good “eye” and creative outlook forces you to make connections and see products in other contexts. We found textiles that were initially being sold as shawls in the market but we saw their size and design as perfect for table runners. These were women who had never sold outside India and we got them set up with the proper paperwork so we could import their products.

As the founder of a startup company, Wendy is always searching for showrooms that carry a wide range of products—metals, bowls, trays, candlesticks, etc. This way, she can buy a large volume from one vendor (an ideal for the seller) and come away with a range of items for the store. However, some of her favorite objects and most unique products came from smaller, single-purpose showrooms.

We initially walked by a showroom where all products were marketed as “wall hangings.” We then realized some of those “wall hangings” could be repurposed into passing trays, which we now sell them for. They look great on the table!

Even greater than the actual objects found on her international buying trips is the experience of shopping the chaotic, colorful, one-of-a-kind markets. One of Wendy’s standout moments from her last trip to India occured in the metal market of Varanasi, as she haggled with the stall owner and vied with local shoppers for his attention.

We had a great time...although the negotiation seemed never ending! When the store owner orders Chai you know you are going to be there for a few hours. My favorite part was after all the negotiating, the owner said he would call for “conveyance”...we naturally thought it would be a cart or rickshaw at least, What happened instead was a man showed up and put the merchandise on his head and walked with us to the hotel.

That’s the story behind our table. What’s the story behind yours? Click over to our EC home store here to check out these products.