Last month, I was introduced to the Black Ink Store and theMUT.com. If only I live in Boston or at Harvard Square or anywhere near these cities, I would definitely visit these stores. Apart from offering an array of unique, well-designed and functional items for the home and the office- perfect for organizing stuff- the stores also display a vintage collection of tools, decor, etc.
On this week’s Q&A, let’s get to meet one of the co-founders and the owner of Black Ink, Susan Corcoran.
What’s the inspiration behind your shop’s name?
Black Ink on Charles Street in Boston is our original retail store, opening in 1994. When we first opened we had a large selection of rubber stamps we produced ourselves, many were vintage images, all were a bit unusual. As black ink was my favorite color to stamp with, we named the store Black Ink. At this time we sold a lot of rubber stamps and a few select personal accessories/gifts – times change and we now sell a lot of gifts and accessories and just a few rubber stamps…
Change has been a constant at Black Ink, we have always experimented and tried products that would not ordinarily be found in a retail store. We purchased many industrial and vintage industrial products to use in the store as fixtures and props, as our customers commented and asked about purchasing these pieces, we began to source industrial items to add to our product selection.
We sold industrial canvas baskets, steel lockers and stools, and many restaurant supplies pieces that were functional and beautiful. From this collection came the inspiration to start our first website, the Museum of Useful Things. theMUT.com sold pieces that were fun and satisfying to use, like the giant woodshop dustpan, a spinning restaurant order rail, and a kraft box filled with oversize paperclips.
As interest in these products was keen, we opened a brick and mortar store to display our vintage goods and sell the currently produced items. Although we are back to a website only for the Museum of Useful Things, theMUT.com still provides those hard to find useful items, and, as our tagline still reads “the beauty of function.”
Behind the cutter – some of Susan’s many industrial tool catalogs,
which are a treasure trove of great images and duo-tone printing.
In the interim, a new, larger Black Ink was opened in Harvard Square, Cambridge. And we finally succumbed to a Black Ink website: BlackInkBoston.com. We currently operate out of these two stores, running the two websites, and I keep an office/collection at home.
What was the toughest challenge you faced so far?
The toughest challange of our store’s history was losing our co-founder, Timothy Corcoran, to cancer seven years ago. We continue in his spirit, bringing a bit of wit and humor to our friends, staff and loyal customers.
the things I do when not busy in shops:
Travel! This is where much inspiration hits, visiting other cultures, seeing how others live and work, and getting a fresh perspective on my own businesses. We recently spent time in Tokyo and are headed to Iceland next.
Work on my house. My home’s design has a symbiotic relationship to the design of the stores. I have incorporated many retail fixtures and elements into the house I share with my two kids and our pets. Like the stores, it is a functional and utilitarian space with lots of unusual and idiosyncratic pieces. The design is quite minimal, but is full of the vintage industrial pieces I collect and books and products found in our travels.
Reading is another source of inspiration. We sell many architectural and craft titles in our stores, so I try to keep up with what’s new and try some of the crafts (amigurumi is a current favorite.)
The shelves were originally used in the Museum of Useful Things retail store.
stuff inside your bag you can’t leave home without:
My MacBook goes everywhere, as does my iPod touch – need to have music and images available, and a camera. (My kids and dog are usually with me, too)
in the front window of the Harvard Square store.
your favorite shops:
Tokyo is a shopper’s paradise, loved Tokyu Hands and the original Muji and the Ginza Ito-ya and all the small quirky fashion boutiques. I can get my Japanese shopping fix in New York at Kinokuniya Bookstore, Takashimaya, Uni Qlo and Muji…
your top 3 picks from Black Ink:
What tips would you want to share for aspiring home based entrepreneurs like you?
Best to find what you really love to work with, as it can and will be all-consuming in terms of time and energy.
Don’t be afraid of change once underway, businesses must continue to morph and respond to changes in the business, economic and taste/style environments.
Have fun with it!
co-founder and current owner of Black Ink, theMUT.com and BlackInkBoston.com
Your message to customers and friends of Black Ink:
It’s been fifteen years since the first Black Ink opened, thank you for a wild ride, looking forward to more and different!
Now for my picks.
I really want to get myself these utilitarian things to help me get organized.
Just been over at Liana’s blog called Mixedplate. If you have never been there, I suggest you take a peek:) It is such a lovely blog, it would be worth your time visiting.
Liana blogged about this shop called Fighting Eel – weird name for a clothing store, don’t you think? It has some pretty cool collection though. I love the simplicity and the sexiness of the pieces. Very feminine and yet not overly revealing. Here are my favorites from their Fall 2009 Collection.
Fall 2009 Collection
romantic and whimsical jewellery by Three Birds Designs
Tea Pots at Pats Pottery
romantic jewellery from Lisbon Sky
These felt keychains and necklaces by Kaleidoscope Style are so cute!
Beautify your beauty kit with these adorable handy mirrors from flirt buttons!
Each time we browse the internet, our computers are threatened by viruses, worms, malware, spyware, and other malicious programs that can destroy or hack files in our computer systems. If you have a computer, one of the important things you must invest on is an anti-virus software.
Today, we can find so many anti-virus software from different manufacturers that choosing one can be confusing. Here are tips on how to buy the right one.
Make sure the software is compatible with the operating system you use. Yes, not all anti virus applications will be effective running with your OS. Check the specifications and requirements before making a purchase.
Choose an anti-virus program with automatic background protection. The application must be designed to run in the background , continuously scanning and protecting your PC for possible viruses.
Choose a software that provides a file recovery feature. This can be invaluable in case your system is attacked by a new and destructive virus.
Choose one that recommends automatic updates. Since viruses evolve and hackers continuously create more sophisticated viruses, it is crucial to keep your antivirus program up to date at all times.
Check the manufacturer’s credentials. Buy only an anti-virus system that is tested, certified and recommended by trusted organizations such as the International Computer Security Association or ICSA, Virus Bulletin 100% Awards, PC Authority, etc.
Buy the whole package. Buying the complete suite will give you better internet security. The package must include a firewall protection, anti-malware, anti-spyware, e-mail protection, spam filter, phishing filter and rescue systems.
Make sure that you can enjoy free and reliable technical support. From installing the software, configuring, and maintaining the system, you must be able to get assistance from your manufacturer at any time without the hassle.
What’s the inspiration behind your shop’s name?
I was inspired to start my business because of my experiences teaching English to young students here in Vienna, Austria. I often use flashcards as a vocabulary aid and couldn’t find really cute ones to replace the cards I was using, so I decided to design my own! Unfortunately, they have not yet been produced, but the name English Muffin came out of the original idea of designing English teaching resources – food is my second love after design, so including the word muffin in my company name just made sense!
Read the complete interview at Beautiful Handmade blog.