Culture Shock Celebrates 10 Years of Being ‘A Different Place’
Skyler Davis saw a void in Rockford before he opened Culture Shock, 2239 Charles St., 10 years ago.
He felt Rockford didn't have that "different place" that he had seen in many larger cities.
It turns out Davis was on to something. Culture Shock has survived multiple location changes by offering Rockford unique clothing, a vast selection of music on vinyl and fun items that include adult coloring books, witty magnets and mustache combs.
We asked Davis about how he came up with the concept and how he chooses what to stock on his shelves.
You are celebrating your 10th anniversary this year, has the store changed much since you opened it 10 years ago?
SKYLER DAVIS: Definitely! When the store first opened, Lauren and I had no idea of how retail worked, and we wanted to put ourselves on the customer side of every decision we made. We have added so many new suppliers and tons of Rockford made items from over 40 local companies. The record section has also seen a huge expansion to some deeper categories, along with adding some local and regional bands. We now host several events and shows each year, too.
What is one product popular with customers that really surprised you?
SD: Adult coloring books! We didn't know what a huge deal this would be for our customers who liked to color and doodle and zone out filling in designs. Now, our boutique hosts a huge selection of gel pens, markers, coloring pencils, and more interesting adult coloring books such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Art Deco, dragons, cats, and even swear word coloring books!
Is Culture Shock a fair representation of your personality and tastes?
SD: Totally. We hand pick every single item and record we order. We study trends, customer feedback, sales exhibitions and just bounce ideas off each other to keep Culture Shock interesting. We aim to be a local icon, and in a new age way with a nostalgic feel, understand that it will always be a "Mom and Pop" shop. Our customers usually pick up on sense of style and taste on their first visit.
If you could give a piece of advice to someone thinking of launching a small business in Rockford, what would it be?
SD: Don't just try to do what the traditional market and strategies would suggest. Business is a sensitive motion, and can take some time to feel out. The first months or years can be a formula for doing things completely different than you may have thought. Also, don't underestimate your local resources. There can be lots of allies if you make the effort to reach all of them and participate in the community.
Did you rely on a small business loan? And if you didn’t, how did you finance your launch?
SD: I did have a very small business loan, but I started the store when I was 24 and had very little credit or money. I am actually happy that I didn't start with huge loans and debt. What really propelled the launch was word of mouth, much more lasting than a traditional financed and advertised startup.
How did you come up with the idea to start the store?
SD: I just felt that Rockford needed a different place. I was tired of only finding this kind of store in other big cities. Shortly after opening, I met my wife/business partner, Lauren, and with addition of records and more gift items, the store really took form.
Describe the Culture Shock customer.
SD: This is interesting, because a lot of people expect our customers to be teenagers, but we really do have a wide spectrum from teens playing Pokemon Go and looking for pins for their backpack to grandmothers finding a thoughtful gift for their out-of-town friend. A majority of our customers are 30-50 years old and are interested in all things cultural, music and community.
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