It was a defining moment in Carrie Jepsen’s life. She’d worked for nine years at an advertising agency in Dallas. She was comfortable. She was content.
And then, suddenly, she was out of a job.
The Dallas native and Southern Methodist University graduate was, at first, gripped with fear at the thought of being unemployed.
“I would say in the moment that they laid me off, I started crying and thought ‘Oh my gosh,’ kind of a panic moment,” Jepsen recalled.
In a matter of minutes, she’d lost her main source of income and sense of security. But, despite her initial reaction, her determination and upbeat personality quickly returned.
“Literally that afternoon I said ‘This might be a good opportunity, I’m kind of glad this happened.’ It just happened so fast, I flip-flopped to excitement,” Jepsen said. “Maybe I needed that push to really try something different, because you get comfortable and you don’t want to get out of your comfort zone and I said ‘Alright, this is the universe speaking to me, saying go! Give it a 100 percent.’”
Prior to losing her job, Jepsen and her mother, Renata Holder, opened Art is Art, a consignment shop selling contemporary furniture and accessories and also a few pieces of local art, in Lower Greenville. The business, which opened in 2004, started off as a hobby of sorts, something fun for the mother-daughter duo to enjoy on the weekends. But it wasn’t until Jepsen found herself out of work and the store was forced to relocate to Oram Street due to construction, that she really began to pour all her energy into the business.
“We were both doing our full-time jobs and doing this part-time and I think it was the point where we got kicked out of the Lower Greenville store because they were going to tear it down and rebuild. At that point I got laid off and we decided, okay, let’s really do this…before it was kind of a trial run but when we opened in that second location and I had no income it was like okay, we’ve got to make this work,” she said.
And she did. Art is Art, her part-time passion, became her full-time paycheck. Her mother, who also owns a design company, focused on the business side of things while Jepsen handled advertising and customer service. Their strengths in different areas, combined with their solid relationship, helped the business to flourish.
“Growing up, she had me young, she was 17, so there’s not that huge age gap and we’ve just always gotten along really well. We feel more like best friends, there’s obviously the mother-daughter aspect but we’ve always been really close,” Jepsen said. “We make a great team, we balance each other out.”
Eventually, the pair realized the need for a few changes. In 2007, after two years at the Oram Street location, they began searching for a more visible storefront. A renovated 1940s garage apartment, off of Henderson Avenue, was the ideal spot for the store. Complete with a beautiful spiral staircase, the new locale had a casual, yet hip feel. It had just the right charm and space to show off the furniture and art. The vibe is relaxed and easy-going, much like Jepsen herself. Clad in jeans and flip-flops, her blond locks tucked under a chic hat, she always says “hello” as her customers enter the door. But she doesn’t hover.
“We like a laid-back vibe, no pressure in here at all. Art is subjective and if a piece doesn’t speak to you, if you don’t love it and see it in your home, I can’t push it on you,” she said.
Even before moving to the third location, Jepsen noticed a shift in her client’s demands. Along with unique, quality pieces of furniture, they were also purchasing a good deal of the local, original artwork. Local artists quickly began to seek out the consignment shop in the hopes of selling their paintings. As for Jepsen, the former advertising employee found she had a knack for picking out local artists whose work matched her customers’ tastes.
“I was never an art buff and going to art history classes and going to museums every weekend wasn’t really me, so it’s kind of ironic that I fell into something that doesn’t really fit my background,” she said. “But I know what I love and I think I am good at selecting art. You figure out what your clients like, what they want in their homes.”
The store has become a launching pad for several artists, which Jepsen says makes her truly happy. “That’s a lot of fun. That’s our goal, to get you some exposure, get you a starting point and then have you grow beyond to make it into a gallery,” she said.
Jepsen’s passion for finding new art and her warm, bubbly personality are infectious. It’s easy to see why new artists feel comfortable approaching her and asking about getting their pieces in the shop. But that’s also what makes it so tough when she has to turn them away. Thanks to word-of-mouth, the store is currently working with about 15 different artists. Jepsen’s normally sparkly brown eyes seem to dim a bit as she reveals that the shop isn’t adding more artists at this time. She hates to turn them away, but always manages to give them a lead to another store or a gallery. Jepsen wants them to have hope and know that they can succeed. Her story is an inspiration in itself.
“I never would have expected this. If you had asked me 10 years ago, I’d have said ‘Own a store? Yea right,'" she laughed.
She’s more outgoing now, she noted, and happier too. Though she’s been out of corporate grind for years, she still remembers how much she dreaded the work week.
“A lot of days, when you’re working for the man, so to speak, you wake up in the morning and you think, ‘I just want to hit snooze, I don’t want to go today.’ I never, ever, ever, get that feeling now and I had it all the time in advertising. I couldn’t wait for Friday. Now I want the weekend to get here because I work Saturdays and Sundays and those are my busiest sales days. I’m excited when the weekend gets here for a completely different reason than anybody else.”
Instead of becoming bogged down in fear after losing her advertising agency job, Jepsen made the decision to focus solely on Art is Art. That bravery, plus a strong sense of dedication, and a great partnership with her mother, has kept her motivated.
“To run a business, you have to take a chance on it, you have to know that you’re giving up that regular salary that you’re used to, and your full-time advertising job and you have to take a chance on it. And you have to know that retail is a roller-coaster business and it’s up and down and you have to be patient,” she said. “I just gotta hang in there, it’s what I want to do. I’d rather be working for myself than go back. I just love it.”
Art is Art is located at 2811 N. Henderson Avenue.