Arland Jackson, Dandy Haberdashery

Dandy Haberdashery flung open its doors in October, just in time for the holiday season, and its owner-operator, Arland Jackson, is dedicated to bringing Cincinnati creatives’ work into public view.

How did you start your business?
I’ve been running Dandy Haberdashery for about two years now. I had a studio in Loveland and was making my own jewelry and art, collecting vintage and doing private shows; I’m an interior designer by trade.

When the economy went kind of funny, I had to figure out how to fill in, and that’s what led me down this path. I’m an artist—a painter—and a lot of my friends are creative people, too, but they never really had a voice for themselves. I was always saying, “Why don’t you get your stuff out there?” A lot of them turned to me and said, “Why don’t you take my stuff out there?"

My concept is all locally made stuff; it’s all made in Cincinnati, whether it be jewelry, soaps, artwork, handmade clothing, decorative stuff.

How did you choose your business location?
I live in Pleasant Ridge and always walked past this building. It has a charming, romantic feel to it, and when I first saw it, it was almost like I could see what it was operating as when it first was built. It reminded me of like a little general store.

I started asking local businesses who owned it, and when I finally found out, I sent her an e-mail. She didn’t contact me for about two months. Finally out of the blue, she called me. I went in there and it was disgusting, it was awful. I’ve been doing interior design for a while, so I could see past it all, so I basically cleaned the whole building myself and painted it. That alone took me close to two months.

I’m mostly surprised that this building wasn’t taken prior to me. It sounds dramatic, but when you look at the building, it says my name—my business name.

How did you transition from selling your art to help others sell theirs?
The intention was always for Dandy Haberdashery to be attractive to anyone. I want anyone who walks in to feel like they can find a treasure.

Being an artist in Cincinnati, well, it can be very cliquey. I walked away from showing my paintings in high-end galleries because it was kind of pretentious and unattainable. My attitude is that art should be affordable to the everyday person. That mentality rolled into my business.

Today, I’m trying to provide a space for all the creative people in Cincinnati to put things; it’s sort of an artisan general store.

And you’ve been involved in more than just your business lately.
My business is not just a physical store, I’m also looking at the neighborhood as a whole —trying to get the community to uplift itself. I just rallied people in the neighborhood to get some of the storefronts built with decorations.

So, what’s your opinion on the Cincinnati streetcar? You’ve been a satellite site for petitions.
The streetcar? Hello! I want Cincinnati as a whole to push forward. I feel like we’ve seen some huge jumps in growth in the past five or six years. We’re on a roll—let’s keep going!

Some people in control of the city don’t have a broad enough view. The streetcar is a huge part of the potential success of the city. It’s tiny right now, but the goal is for it to grow.

Sometimes, and I’m learning this in business, you have to spend a little for something to be fruitful. It might hurt for a little bit, but there is going to be great growth for us in this. It just makes sense to me.

Where can we find you around the city these days?
All of my energy is going into the store and meeting new people and meeting new creative people. If I’m not in the shop, I’m with my son. He is a big joy, and I’m absolutely in love with him. I also go to different markets in the city to meet creative people and talk to them about what I do and what my vision is to see if they’re interested in participating.

What inspires you?
Seeing the challenges we have in the city has been a motivator. The amount of creative people we have in the city is amazing, and I get excited knowing that there’s more out there to find. I’m kind of a treasure hunter, whatever form that takes. Right now, the artist has become a treasure for me to find.  

Are you optimistic about the future of small businesses?
When you go into Target, it’s a machine. Those employees only care so much. My business is more than sticking my hand out and saying, “Give me $5.” It’s about building relationships.

And people are looking for a bit more soul in things, so I can only see small business continuing to grow. That said, small businesses have to see that even if someone comes in and just spends $5, that’s important and we have to show
appreciation for that.

What’s your best advice for small business owners?
The biggest thing I can say to anybody is to take action and do. If you want things to change, you have to be the first to help change them, and hopefully people will continue to see the importance of supporting small businesses in their own neighborhoods.

Overall, if you find whatever it is that you really love to do, there is an avenue for work out there for it. If you love doing what you do, you’ll find an avenue for it.

Interview by Robin Donovan