A FIRST PERSON ACCOUNT OF RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS
Art school grad Carla Denker first got the idea for Plastica, her offbeat plastic housewares shop, after falling for the brightly colored, woven plastic shopping bags she found on a trip to Mexico City.
In 1996 Denker and her then-boyfriend borrowed money and opened a kitschy storefront stocked with odd and unusual plastic items found at thrift stores and swap meets. Business grew after the unique concept garnered the support of neighborhood shoppers and mentions in Vogue and In Style magazines.
Jennifer Smith talked with Denker about the shop’s beginnings and her latest venture, a more upscale location near the Beverly Center on trendy West Third Street.
“We opened down on Sunset, at a small spot that is now a tattoo parlor. A year later we moved to (the intersection of) Hollywood Boulevard and Vermont. The neighborhood responded really quickly to the store. That helped get things going, plus word-of-mouth from the art world and people at Otis (College of Art and Design), where my boyfriend at the time was in school. We also got a lot of press early on because of the concept.
“We wanted to have a really specific theme for the store, not just be another shop selling soap and candles. It wasn’t easy to find stuff. At first it was more vintage, but now we sell a lot of new stuff. We look in magazines and track down cool things that way, and we also go to gift shows.
“I was selling merchandise in the range from a quarter to $50 when we opened. Now I think it was too cheap, but you don’t know ahead of time what people will buy. I remember having a Tupperware display in the window three years ago and one collector just laughed and said he’d die when it became popular. Well, it’s popular now!
“Our clientele goes from late 20s to mid-50s, it’s a mature crowd. The objects are geared as housewares and quick gifts, not as novelties.
“We opened the second store this March. It’s a transition to more high-end stuff. I wanted a separation between the two locations.
“At this point Plastica has developed into more of a name, a style concept. We have these Tom Dixon lamps that run about $250, and we sell wood furniture at the new store made by a company called 100xbetter, which helped us design the new store. We have some beautiful glass stuff in here as well. But people still take the name literally and say, ‘Hey, that’s not plastic!'”