Business of the Week: Blast From The Past
Doing what you love makes all the difference.
Kevin Juaire, owner and operator of Blast From The Past, has had plenty of experience running his own business. barnstable
“I actually started my first business in 1982 back in Attleboro, when I was 21,” Juaire said. “It was a comic book specialty shop. I did that for 17 years, and then I came to Falmouth to take over the camera store that my father had purchased a few years earlier. My brother and I ran that for several years.”
Juaire discovered a stark difference between running a business of his own choosing, and one established by someone else.
“I never enjoyed that business,” he said. “Partly because I found cameras and processing pictures incredibly boring, but mostly because it did not feel like it was really mine. The business had been started 50 years before we got there by someone else. We were the fourth owners. I felt like a caretaker.”
Juaire took steps to change all that, relying on his own tastes to ensure that the business really belonged to him.
“I needed to do my own thing,” he said, “so I started Blast From The Past as a second business within the camera shop and eventually phased out the photography business completely. I always had a fondness for nostalgia. I loved old black and white TV shows and fifties music. I assumed others would share my fondness for the past. I certainly didn't follow the traditional approach of doing studies and research before choosing my business model. I always tend to just go with my gut feelings.”
Juaire's instincts have paid off, making for a selection with broad appeal.
“Our demographic is much more diverse than I had anticipated,” he said. “It seems to be an even distribution. We often get entire families where each member finds something to buy. Dads like the tin signs and car stuff, while the moms get a kick out of the sassy housewife cards and magnets. The teens gravitate towards the classic rock items or for the young girls Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn are still popular. The real young ones aren't as captivated, but even they will find a super hero sticker book or toy that they like.”
Blast From The Past became a big hit with many summer visitors, although it has been slower to catch on with year-round residents.
“Ninety percent of my business comes from visitors,” said Juaire. “It was never my intention to become primarily a tourist destination, it just seems to have worked out that way. We get an overwhelmingly positive response from visitors, yet the store does not seem to resonate with the local population, much to my disappointment. The biggest challenge is making the summer money last all winter. These days I'm lucky if I can make it last until Columbus Day. I'm not sure if there is really any advantage to working in a seasonal community. I would prefer a more steady year-round clientele.”
As with many businesses, the pinch has been tighter in recent years, especially since Blast From The Past's offerings can hardly be considered necessities, as Juaire is the first to acknowledge.
“I sell useless crap in the worst economy in 80 years, do the math,” he jokes. “There has definitely been an attrition due to the economy. People don't buy as much for themselves, but rather make purchases for gift giving. I'm often hearing one spouse or another (usually the wife) proclaiming, 'You don't need that,' in which case I have to remind them that I don't sell anything that anyone needs. The main way I cope is by keeping my inventory tightly controlled and keeping overhead down by my wife and I working without any outside help.”
Juaire says all the fluctuations are worth it, since he's not running someone else's business, but his own.
“I've been in this endeavor for 11 years now,” he says, “and honestly, not too much has changed. For me, it still boils down to finding something that makes me smile and placing it on a shelf and hoping someone buys it.”