If you haven’t heard about Artizone yet, you probably aren’t aware of how easy they’ve made it to shop with local Artisans online now.
“Being able to bring small batch artisans to people’s homes is what we’re all about,” explains Artizone’s COO, Lior Lavy. “Artizone is honored to have many of Chicago’s great purveyors [Buedel included] choose our company’s technology and services to help develop strategies for building their online sales channels.”
Artizone came to Chicago in 2012, just two years after starting in the Dallas market. With plans to expand into additional markets this year, Artizone is poised to be the innovative leader in uniting local Artisanship with online shopping.
Is Artizone essentially a Peapod for Artisans?
That’s a fair statement, but what you really mean is grocery shopping only. Everything you buy [from Artizone] is from small vendors and local. If we don’t have a “core” item, we can source it locally – if we don’t have it by a local artisan, we try to buy from local retailers and businesses.
I was the last hire of an executive branch of a French based [software] company in 2009. I say ‘last hire’ because, on the very same day they hired me, corporate management unleashed a major reorganization with big cut backs. When this happened, the executives that hired me chose to break away, hired key people that were let go and decided to create a new company.
We sat down to think about what kind of direction could keep everyone engaged and then looked for new ideas. We all had a passion for small businesses – for people who love what they do, not because they get paid for it. We all loved, cooking, traveling and finding good places to eat.
In 2009, you didn’t know what you were shopping for online, what the product really was. We believed if we could combine online shopping and food and, could own 360 degrees of the transaction, we could provide the artisans with everything they need, and all they needed to do was provide the product.
The more we dove in, we found the small businesses had such a hard time trying to sell to large grocery stores. You have to look at what happened in the market in the last six years. You had the butcher, today the butcher shop becomes a specialized niche – the demand changed. But not everyone is going to drive necessarily in to the city to buy meat at Paulina Market. By having Paulina available through Aritzone, you can shop at that level anytime.
Since starting in Dallas, what differences were there between that market and Chicago’s?
There is no competition in Dallas for online grocery. We’re the only one in the market. Dallas gets more regular items ordered than Chicago. In Chicago there is a high demand for gluten free items – we may have the biggest amount of gluten free items online now.
You also have nationwide delivery; how is that going?
We want to help small artisans reach that market level; there’s no reason not to ship consumable packaged goods. But, it always needs to make sense – once you go nationwide, it’s no longer the place where you grocery shop, but where you find products.
What about wholesale opportunities?
We do have a B2B service. Buyers can work with me directly to set up an account for what they want to buy.
What market will you go to next?
Denver, this Spring. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s when you put your product in the hands of the consumers that don’t get paid to use your product, the results are brutal. When you are doing online grocery shopping, customers don’t owe you anything.
You use to go to the store with your Mom or Dad, it was the one activity you were exposed to as a child that had a hunting instinct – it’s not the same as the website. I have been buying most everything online exclusively since 1996, so my kids don’t get going to the market – they don’t know the pulse of the market because they don’t go there.
Do you think brick and mortar will ultimately vanish?
I personally don’t want to see the day when there are no stores on the streets. However, those stores have to become more niche-y and interesting. I want the artisans to stay on the streets and maximize their potential online.
But hasn’t tech really changed the way we do things?
Yes, but when you place an order with Artizone it is the Artisans that handle the order personally. It is a different transaction – there are no warehouse pickers. The people who put your product together are the very same people who would be doing so if you walked into their shop.
What do the Artisans have to say about Artizone?
I think the Artisans appreciate that we are responsive and invested in them. Our brand is all about that. Everything they need, they get. We open the door for them to have more.