January 12, 2022 •
Store portraits add dimension to shop branding as they build custom sales.
Since 2008, Rebecca Meixner of Rebecca Illustrated has made a big name for herself in paper designing highly coveted custom invitations, artwork and keepsakes. Her glorious watercolor renderings of venues, the couple themselves, their crest or other personal details have led to top-shelf collaborations with and coverage in Martha Stewart Weddings, Anthropologie, Cosmopolitan, New York Magazine and Sweet Paul Magazine.
Although COVID-19 instantly halted Meixner’s wedding and invitation business, fortunately another income stream found her, she recalled. “Surprisingly, people started asking me for custom pieces of their homes or vacation homes. It was almost a way to cope. People find so much comfort in nostalgia during isolation and uncertainty. And then the next thing I knew, my home portraits started really taking off,” she said.
Thinking quickly, Meixner approached a few store owners that she was already working with to share this craze of people searching for something original. “My shop owners also felt that their customers were leaning toward more of the ‘Walton’s General Store’ feeling to make a connection in their purchases,” she shared. “People are seriously searching for something unique!”
Recalling wedding invitation albums building custom sales, Meixner wondered if retailers displaying a store portrait could spark orders for customer house portraits — to say nothing of the images being used for holiday cards, art prints and other social stationery. “This brings back the affection for the past and a desire to return to a place of purchasing with intent,” she explained. “Thankfully a few shop owners agreed, and we have had beautiful partnerships since.”
While she is currently partnering with five shops, it is enough to keep sales steadily flowing. “I work on a piece a day and have lost count,” she described. “I have completed hundreds of custom pieces.”
Meixner has worked so closely with one of her retail partners, Gray Apple Market in York, Pennsylvania, that she now feels part of the community. “I sketched their business as well as the owner’s home, and it just made such a connection with their community. Folks already love the cozy, Hygge-style that they sell and the events that they hold for the community. When we offered custom Christmas cards together, it was an immediate success.”
While stores can certainly utilize the portrait to brand themselves in myriad ways — e.g. merchandise tags, shop bags, social media profile icons, letterhead — Meixner hasn’t yet seen that. “So far, it’s been a very simple framed example with pricing on the counter in the store. Also (when they make) a mention or two on the shop Instagram, people seem to react quickly!”
Meixner has been thrilled to see her house and shop portraits so deeply embraced first by her wholesale clientele, and then by its customers. “As an artist, I assumed for a long time that people prefer to pay for small ticket items,” she finished. “I’ve since learned that these illustrations are powerful and everlasting. They help all of us cope, and people are happy to pay for art. It’s really been a silver lining on a gray cloud for my shop owners and myself.”