Leclair’s General Store is new to Fayetteville and to LIT. It’s a great place to get coffee, meet friends, and buy cool stuff. I talked to Patrick, the proprietor of Leclair’s, to find out what makes it special.
Where did the idea for Leclair’s General Store come from?
It came from the old fashioned general store: you know, the Norman Rockwell kind of scene of old-fashioned Americana, which used to be around in the early 1900s through about the 1950s and sort of went away.
But I started to see a lot of photos of these really cool general stores. If you Google “general store,” you see lots of photos of these really cool stores with just a mix of products. And I said, “Well, what if I could pick out the products that still felt relevant but had that charm and that vibe. And then we were like, let’s put things in that we know people like. The old-fashioned general stores might have carried medicines, soaps, feed, seed, but the new general store would have the stuff that people love now–your favorite products from today, and then some from yesterday.
It started with coffee, because that was an obvious one. But just doing a coffee shop wouldn’t have been my dream. It gets a lot of people in, and it’s the biggest piece of our business, but the other things that make it special are the local craft beer, the wine. So you’ve got this hybrid of a coffee shop and wine and beer. Then you’ve got antiques. I love antiques, but doing an antique shop by itself is tough because you can get those things online. So how do you make it an experience that people can’t get online? Everything’s online, but you can’t get this online.
What made you decide to host a LIT performance?
Meeting some of the people who are involved in bringing the show together. Just the idea of doing something that crosses over into the arts. Everything in here is some form of art to me, and that’s a neat way to bring people in. We love to do any kind of event that can bring in a great crowd, because for us it’s really about the crowd that we bring. We’re selling a product but also an experience that then brings in a specific type of customer because they enjoy the experience.
What are some of your favorite items in the store?
I’ll talk about categories rather than specific items, but I love the books. When I first started collecting antiques and vintage items, it was books, so I brought a lot of vintage books in and appropriated a lot of new books. I’m looking now at three stacks of brand-new books that I just bought that have a relationship to some sort of art or design.
I also love the handmade products. I’ve got pottery, some stationery, hand-painted original watercolors, jewelry that was handmade, even some salves and skin products that were handmade. Our t-shirts have a hand-drawn logo; our gift bags were hand-stenciled and hand-painted.
What draws people in, and what keeps them coming back?
The uniqueness of the store. There are some basic products that keep people coming in daily, like the coffee. Some people come in to get their bottle of wine at the end of the day. Those are what we used to consider a luxury, but now they’re pretty much like a grocery. That keeps people coming in, but what keeps them coming back and sitting and staying is the environment–you can use it for work, you can use it for play, an event, bringing in loved ones that are visiting from out of town. I had that happen just five minutes ago, and they bought coffee, wine, a jar of local marinara sauce, and two vintage records. That sums up everything I was just talking about.
How do you envision the future of the store?
We’ll continue to layer in new products, products that maybe we haven’t thought about yet, or just don’t have the physical capabilities of setting up yet. What goes with wine? Cheese. But we’ll need a separate setup. That probably will be in the store in a year, or six months. But you can’t start off with everything. You don’t want to do a lot of things average; you want to choose what you’re good at and do that great. Then slowly work in new things. We started with one t-shirt, and now we have about 15 different t-shirt designs. Same thing with books: we started with 6 or 7, now we have around 40 new titles and hundreds of vintage books.
The biggest thing people ask is, “Is everything for sale?” It’s a living, breathing, ever-changing environment, where everything is able to be bought. Things do get bought every day, so you see a different store. The plants that were on the table yesterday–every one of them sold. I always have something I’m working on.
Leclair’s will host LITsummer on November 10. Get your tickets here!