An Interview with Shop Owner Jessica Maloan
I have admired today's bitch from afar for probably six or seven years. I have a sister from another mister who has been active in the Nashville craft scene since that infamous first Porter Flea in a parking lot in East Nashville in 2011. Since then, I have known of and been around Jessica, always with a feeling of really liking her and really wanting to be her friend.
Jessica is just about the nicest person you can meet. She's a uniter and plays an important role in the community of makers and artists that makes Nashville Nashville. Her store is probably my favorite store in Nashville. Every time I like something on Instagram, Jessica's like, 'I have that in my store!'. So if you and I have the same taste in pins, patches and feminist-based crafts, and you haven't been to Gift Horse yet, what are you even doing with your life? Meet today's bitch, Jessica Maloan!
What do you do and what is the name of your business?
When did you first learn about this field of work? How did you know it was what you wanted to do?
I guess I’ve been kinda building up to this for awhile. After college I traveled around to craft shows selling my printed goods and kept wondering why we didn’t have a modern craft show in Nashville. We’ve always had great markets for traditional crafts, but we were missing out on a regular market to showcase the talented printmakers and designers in our community.
In 2010 I started trying to plan an event here in town. I met Katie Vance, a fellow crafter and event organizer, and together we founded Porter Flea in 2011. Since that first market in the Porter Road parking lot, I’ve been working with artists and crafters and I’ve really enjoyed helping them exhibit their work. The maker community in Nashville is full of really talented folks that have been incredibly supportive of each other. I think our city has transformed into so much more than Music City USA.
After the Porter Flea summer market in 2015, I decided to resign and reconfigure my life plans. My boyfriend and I took a trip to Pittsburgh and walked up on a wonderful shop called Wild Card. We walked in and Andy said, “Ohhh, thiiiiis is what you want to do,” and he was right. Porter Flea always provided a great opportunity to pick up unique gifts, but what were we to do the rest of the year? There was a real void here for a certain type of gift shop. We had our fair share of reclaimed barn wood but surely there had to be other people that loved color, print and pattern.
In December 2015, my friends at Sawtooth Print Shop let me host a holiday pop-up shop in their space. Several local makers brought their work over, so we had a great selection of prints, jewelry, ceramics, etc. It was well-received and I was encouraged by the turnout. It validated the need for a brick-and-mortar location specializing in paper goods and handmade gifts.
We started looking for a space and we found our current location on Fatherland Street. We signed the papers and opened the doors on August 13, 2016.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?
Hmm that’s a tough one... I’m hearing my older sister in my head yelling, “It’s NOT about YOU!” when I whined about having to shop in department stores with her when I so desperately wanted to go to KB Toys.
I hear my former boss saying, “You are not your customer,” which has proven somewhat true. Running the shop is still so new, I often fret over the price of something or if it will work well in our store.
Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned or that helped improve the way you work?
OOF. I’m learning to say no and stop apologizing. I’m also learning to make time for myself. Having the shop is helping me with this because I sometimes have to be forward and tell someone we’re not interested in their strange cell phone plan or their monogrammed hair bows (both real). I have so little free time that I realllllllly value it now. I feel less guilty not attending things that I don’t want to go to.
What would you do with 2 more hours a day?
I’d like to say that I would spend more time making things or riding my bike. Unfortunately, since opening the shop I really haven’t been able to do much drawing or printmaking, but I’m going to change that soon. I’d also spend more time with my friends.
What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?
I’ve had to walk away from certain ventures because they were no longer fruitful. It’s hard to let go sometimes. If I’ve been able to muster up the courage, it’s always been for the best and served me tenfold.
What is your greatest success, or something you’re most proud of related to what you do?
I’m going to say running a gift shop with my best friend and partner, Andy. I’m usually tired and I don’t have near as much free time, but I haven’t regretted it one bit. Sometimes when I’m locking the doors up at night, I remind myself that I did this. It’s easy to get discouraged when so many Nashville staples seem to be closing up, but I’m trying to add something that is missing. I’ve always wanted to carve out my own spot and now I can say I truly did that.
Do you have a morning ritual that helps you set the tone for the day?
My ritual has recently changed per our new Presidential situation. I used to wake up and listen to NPR while I was making coffee, but I’ve had to take a break from the news. It was putting me in such a bad place and I couldn’t keep starting my day so angry. Now I’m trying to go for a walk in the morning and watch a little The Price Is Right when time allows. It’s much better for my mental health.
How do you decompress at night?
I’m usually pretty keyed up when I leave the shop. I try not to check my work email after I leave. I usually slug on the couch with my dog Max and watch brainless TV. I do love a good board game or a round of Tetris when I get the chance.
What helps when you’re stuck? Do you have a motto or quote that inspires/motivates you?
Be Your Own Rainbow - it’s silly but it’s true. This is something I’ve been saying since college that I try to live by. You’ve gotta be in your own corner. I used to look to others for my happiness and I have to remind myself that it’s not anyone else’s job.
I’ve also realized that a lot of times I just need to walk away. And maybe take a nap. I get my best ideas in the bathroom. Maybe gross but true.
What does self care look like in your life?
Great question. I’m having to revisit this subject since becoming a shop owner. I used to listen to lots of podcasts and spend a good bit of time alone, which is something I’ve learned that I really need. Sometimes I just walk around Target and I feel better. I went to see my old therapist recently and asked her how to manage the daily anger and sadness that I’ve felt since the Cheeto-In-Chief arrived. She helped me sort out what I can and cannot do. I really enjoy hosting and making people feel welcome, so right now I’m focusing on that because it feels manageable.
Are there any women who helped pave the way for your success?
So many. I’ve had lots of incredible hard-working females in my life. I had two wonderful grandmothers. I’ve been so lucky to have so many creative and self-employed women friends that motivate me just by doing the damn thing. I had a wonderful teacher in high school, Mrs. Cheryl Boyte, that encouraged me to get out of my small town and meet new people. I’ve always called these women “my pillars” because they help hold me up and cheer me on.
Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?
My favorite topic! I love snacks. I eat my weight in hummus quite frequently. I also love a good cheese plate.
I’ve been binge watching late '90s/early '00s TV shows that I missed during their heyday. We just watched the entire run of The Sopranos and I really loved it. I picked up a lot of gangster lingo. I also love Fargo and I always want to watch true crime documentaries.
All photos courtesy of Jessica Maloan