Local Heroes #10 - GROOS

GROOS is a shop that sells products from Rotterdam makers and designers. The shop opened its doors in February 2013 and was an instant success. Tjeerd Hendriks (31) and Joost Prins (30) are the driving force behind GROOS, or as Tjeerd likes to call it “I am the face and Joost is the engine”.

Published by Guest on 07/07/2014

Welcome to the Local heroes #10 interview. What’s your background? Joost has a background in business administration and legal. He has been working on entrepreneurial initiatives from a young age. I come from the art academy, which I never finished. I was that type of artist who is very protective of his work and especially the process. I did not want to show my work unless I was 100% satisfied with it, so it was never really finished. But I was also partying a lot. For ten years I did all kinds of stuff in Rotterdam as long as it wasn’t a permanent position. groos_closeup How did GROOS happen? By looking around. After doing art school and working in the catering industry for 10 years, I knew quite a lot of people making cool stuff. Joost and I were neighbours and one night we were sitting on the sidewalk talking, when we realised that we have many talented makers in this city creating beautiful products, but no one really knows they're from Rotterdam. Besides that we missed a nice spot where you can walk in as a designer or customer to find beautiful products; a place with products that are not too expensive and where you don’t have to be a full-blown professional company to be able to sell your stuff. And when you feel something is missing, you should make it yourself. So we figured we could start a shop and it might just work. Slowly but surely we polished the idea and waited to for the right moment. In the end you need a suitable space too. Initially, I would take care of the shop 5 days a week and Joost would help out on Saturdays and do administration during the evenings. I guess it just got out of hand a bit [smiling]. groos_gevel Who was the first designer that was for sale @ GROOS? I remember we received the keys in November 2012, so we just started working on it. Everyone came to lend us a hand, just like in a new house. We did not have a budget, so we asked friends and family to make a contribution. Everyone put in a few pennies. We ended up buying lamps, paint and wood from it. These first 3 months, in between renovations, I’ve been drinking lots of coffee with everyone. Both Joost and I had quite a network, so we started calling makers we already knew, like Venour and Alfredo Gonzales. And every time I came out of a meeting with at least 3 other names to approach. Eventually we opened with about 50 suppliers. I remember, in our enthusiasm, we put up a window sign that said “opens in February”. But we had to work around the clock to pull off the 28th of February. We started furnishing the place the night before, which was actually the best part. At one point the five of us were writing labels downstairs, while upstairs a visual merchandiser that we knew via via was arranging the store. At one point I walked up and saw the shop was half filled. I remember thinking “wow, we knew it would be good, but I did not expect it to look this great”. We are up to 200 suppliers right now and we still work with designers that were there from the start, but we add new ones on a regular basis. groos_winkel3 What kind of customers shop at GROOS? A wide range. The largest part is the cultural middle class, aged between 25 and 55 years old. But also day trippers, tourists and groups doing what they call an “inspiration tour”. We were lucky to get quite a lot of promotion through media coverage. Do you remember a special or memorable story of a customer that bought an item at GROOS? I remember this guy fitting a T-shirt by Le Gout c’est Moi. He really liked it, but was looking for a size smaller. We’d run out of Medium size, so I took the customer next door to BAR, where the designer happened to be working. So I asked her if she could make this shirt in a size M and she said: “sure, it will be done on Wednesday”. When the customer came to pick up the shirt on Wednesday he was quite surprised: “I have never experienced this in a shop, that you are able to ask the designer if he can make an item in a different size”. I can honestly say that it happens regularly that I am dealing with a customer over a product when the designer walks in. People think that’s really remarkable, and I guess it is because it’s quite rare. Groos_winkel Where will GROOS be in 5 years? We won’t be here at Schieblock area anymore, because the building will be taken down. In 5 years GROOS will be at a bigger and better location, with a shop that makes Collette and Dover Street Market scratch their heads thinking “how the hell did they pull that off?!” And there won’t be any Marc Jacobs or Comme des Garcons, but only Rotterdam makers like Daisy Kroon, Susan Bijl and The Boyscouts. We don’t necessarily need more suppliers, but we would like to offer more high-end products as well which is difficult at our current location. Are you now rich doing what you love most? I am definitely not rich, but I can make ends meet by living economically. For me it is the ideal job because I am working for myself. I could work for a boss as long as he listens to me [laughing]. And it’s nice to be able to live from it, but that was never the main goal. The most important thing for us is to offer others a platform. What is the most important lesson you have learned as an entrepreneur? To work hard en to focus. To really believe in what you are doing and working on it 24/7. I am lucky to have a great business partner who is able to work with me and manage the business behind the scenes. I could not have done it alone. I guess you could say I am the face of the store and Joost is the engine. Groos_winkel2 GROOS is an old-Rotterdam word for “proud”. How did you came up with this? Joost’s former girlfriend actually came up with it. We were talking about the store and our ideas, and when that word came up we were all like “ok, that’s it”. And in English it sounds like “gross”, which we thought was pretty funny. What do you like about Rotterdam? I was born in Zwijndrecht, which is not far from Rotterdam. But as a little boy I fell in love with the big city when I saw them putting the Erasmus bridge in place. I remember going with my sister once and arriving on the futuristic station called Blaak. Drinking a Fristi at the V&D looking over de building site of the Koopgoot thinking “these guys are nuts, breaking open the square where we used to celebrate our national football championships to build an underground shopping street”. I guess I can still be amazed by this city. I was cycling over the Coolsingel recently on a hot day with blue skies. Suddenly I felt something on my face that I thought was rain. But it turned out to be construction dust from the building renovation on the corner of Kruiskade. Somehow those little things can make me really happy. I think our city has something exciting. It’s a calm city, but also dynamic. You feel there’s a buzz, but without thousands of people crawling the streets. Somehow the city feels effective; most people are walking the street with a goal in mind, instead of strolling aimlessly. Also, I think Rotterdam keeps you with both feet on the ground. In Rotterdam we don’t like people that walk with their head up in the clouds, but when you are successful they give you credits for it. And when you fail, they feel sorry but won’t hold it against you. It’s a down to earth city. How do you select your suppliers? Do you accept all Rotterdam makers? No, we choose consciously. To give an example: we have had over 15 applications for bags. I could fill an entire shop with Rotterdam bags. But “first come, first serve” plays a role and we also check if the product fits the store and what we want to project. And it has to be a quality product. Susan Bijl and Imke de Jong make completely different designs, but they are high quality bags and the design fits our shop. We also look at potential and growth opportunities, because we like to help build stronger brands and people. Groos_founders What is your favourite travel destination? I can really identify with a quote I read at ikrotterdam.nl a few years ago: “I don’t have to go on holiday, because I live in Rotterdam”. Though I have been to London recently, which was cool and inspiring. England is the cradle of many subcultures in arts, music and fashion. You can feel it’s happening there. I liked the fact that the people are polite, but not necessarily friendly. Brick Lane was nice too, I feel anything is possible there as long as you do it right. And I can really appreciate the diversity in people mixing together in London. Rotterdam could learn from that; here you can almost connect every spot to a certain subculture. People that go to Stadhuisplein would never go to Witte de Withstraat and vice versa. Some say “Rotterdam does not have a heart”, but that’s not true. Rotterdam has a really big heart, it just has multiple heart chambers. Who do you think is a local hero in Rotterdam? So many cross my mind. I really respect the guys doing Biergarten; they have really created something good and proved to the city that large scale events like the World Cup viewings are possible without any problems. I also think highly of the girls doing Rotterdam blog called ‘Hotterdan.nl’. Femke from Picknick is a good entrepreneur, and Paul from Man Met Bril coffee. Also creative agency Venour by Uriah and Noel. And Arno from Barrelproof. Thank you Tjeerd & Joost for the great insights and story. We hope to visit you soon again! - Cathalijne -

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