Royal Circus: A Brand Is Born

An analog retail experience comes to Nashville’s Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood.

In the beginning, Royal Circus didn’t start out as a conscious plan. Over the three years since the idea spontaneously popped into existence, it’s always felt as though I stumbled onto an idea more or less already complete. A fully-formed thing, patiently waiting to be discovered. A brand. A state of mind. A quirky little world all its own.

In talking with countless friends and potential investors, the best one-sentence description I’ve managed to come up with is this: Imagine if Wes Anderson and Tim Burton teamed up to create a furniture store.

It became clear that Royal Circus provided the answers to a lot of questions that I hadn’t ever asked out loud, but now seem centrally important:

· How can we provide a meaningful antidote to those shallow, race-to-the-bottom retail experiences that have become all too common?

· How can we excite the imaginations of creative spirits who crave world travel and new experiences?

· How can we add a bit more joy to a customer’s life, beginning the moment he or she walks through our front doors and continuing on for years to come?

· How can we generate resources to help combat problems like homelessness in our own community, or impact issues like child trafficking in the cultures where many of our products are made?

· How can we combine the power of interesting design, playfulness and strong community to become a force for good? And have fun doing it?

This may sound like a lot. But there it is — the “why” behind our “what.”

The first print design, silkscreened with love by our pals at Grand Palace.

Because I’m a writer and branding guy by trade, a lot of the first things that came to life have been actual branding elements. The big silkscreened prints, store signage and marketing materials capture the ethos behind our eclectic product mix: a mashup of exotic cultures, hand craftsmanship and antique industrial , seasoned with a dash of whimsy.

Our space also reflects these qualities. We’re right in the middle of a huge 19th-century factory and warehouse complex, nestled among good restaurants, galleries and craft distillers. The neighborhood is truly Nashville’s brightest rising star, profiled just a couple of weeks ago in the New York Times.

Old beams and stone walls, fresh windows and concrete floors.

Our best guess is that the Nashville destination will be opening in late April. Starting here and now, I’ll be doing my level best to share the Royal Circus story as it unfolds.

Michael and Geoffrey: two brains, one creative nucleus

In the next istallment, I’ll give a sneak peek at a few of our products. We have Tibetan antiques, hand-made leather couches and a bunch of new furniture sourced from across India and Indonesia arriving over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, our little team is working hard every day to bring this dream to life.