Kate Horne is the owner and founder of Lovely Paperie & Gifts and Babycakes Children’s Boutique in Rocky River, Ohio. As a native of Cleveland, Kate followed her heart as a change of location and career led her to open what is now the number one gift shop in Cleveland (as voted by Cleveland Magazine). I met up with Kate to find out exactly what inspired her into opening Lovely, and how she got to where she is today.
Haley Mills: How did the idea come about to start Lovely?
Kate Horne: It will be five years in February. I was living in Chicago and I decided to move home; I’m from Westlake. When I lived in Chicago I felt like there was all this great shopping and I would come home and there wasn’t the same kind of shopping in Cleveland. I was making a career change, I used to be in events, and I decided to just go for it. My mom and I were having lunch at Sweet Melissa’s and after lunch, we were walking down the street and there was a for lease sign in the window and I was like, “This is meant to be!” I signed a lease about a month later and moved home about three months later. I used to do weddings and events in Chicago so when I started the business I thought it would be more of a wedding-geared shop - more like wedding accessories and day of stuff, but I had wedding gifts as well. I found that the wedding stuff wasn’t taking off, but the gifts were what everyone was coming in for. So, we changed our business model and we really switched it up, and we became a complete gift shop. Which was the right direction all along, we just had to have clients come in and show us what they were interested in.
HM: A lot of the business owners I’ve talked with so far have explained that “it kind of just fell into my lap” or “I stumbled onto the idea,” and a lot of the process is actually starting it so you can learn the focus of where you need to go. Do you find this to be true as well?
KH: Oh my gosh, where Lovely is now and what I thought it was going to be... If you told me we were going to be selling Lilly Pulitzer clothing five years ago I would’ve said, “no we’re not.” Now, it’s a huge part of our business. It’s really learning from the people that come to your store and listening to what the client wants and adapting based on that. You also have to stay true to what you want the business to be.
HM: What do you think is the best part about having a small business in Cleveland?
KH: I think Cleveland is really supportive of small businesses, especially Rocky River. I am blown away by the amount of people that want to come out and support small local businesses. I think there is a need for unique businesses too - of course, there’s online shopping and big malls - but people want a place where they can go and get more than just a transaction. Even when I buy stuff for the store, I have to see it in person. There are stories behind all of the items we carry, you don’t always learn those stories when you shop online but when you come in you can talk with one of our sales associates who can tell you the story behind the product. A lot of times these stories relate to the person you’re giving the gift to.
HM: How do you source items for your shop?
KH: A lot of different ways. I go to quite a few shows; there are these large markets in New York and Atlanta. I go to King of Prussia in Philadelphia for Lilly (Pulitzer). I find a lot of stuff at markets, I find a lot of stuff on Instagram and online. I find a lot just from client referrals. For example, Sea Bags, which is one of our big lines, one of our clients was sorority sisters with the owner of Sea Bags, and she came in and said you need to carry this brand – and we’ve been carrying them for over four and a half years and everyone loves them. We always look for local lines too; we carry Blair Ritchey, she’s out of Lakewood. We carry Shore Society, she’s out of Lakewood. Lund Studios, he’s out of Hudson. We have a new jewelry line called ‘The Hope Bohemian’, she’s out of Wadsworth. We try to do a nice variety of lines that fit our curated store but also lines that are true to our Cleveland roots.
HM: How do you feel social media has helped influence your business?
KH: I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love Instagram and I love Facebook but it’s hard to portray everything we have in our store and make it look pretty and look cohesive. But… it’s the best because we will post something, and people will come in because they see it. It’s a great way to let people know of new inventory that we have and if they can’t make it into the store, they can see we carry it. We have a lot of people that call and say can you put this item I saw online on hold for me, so they can come in and see it in person. It impacts our business in a huge way. It’s an amazing platform to connect with our clients and the community, too. I probably over think it a bit too much, but it’s so interesting to see how important it is for businesses and for people in Cleveland to find us. We still have people who come in and say, “Oh it’s my first time here.” I just heard someone say that 20 minutes ago!
Kate runs all of Lovely Paperie and Babycakes marketing and social media, a tall task if you ask me!
HM: You have one last meal in Cleveland, what would it be?
KH: I would have to say Joe’s Deli, a Fattoush Salad with Chicken. Joe’s Deli is our staple, we’re constantly picking up from there and going in there. We love that it’s another local business in the community, but Joe and Jeannette are just amazing people. When I lived in Chicago and I came home I always had to go to Joe’s and Stonehouse Grill in Westlake, but definitely Joe’s first.
HM: Where is your favorite place in Cleveland to be? Outside of your store!
KH: Yeah, haha! I just like being with my husband and my son. We go for a lot of walks in the summertime – we have such amazing access to the water here and all the amazing parks in Rocky River. So I’d say when it’s nice out, definitely out with them. We go to the Metroparks a lot and walk the path and we spend a lot of time on the lake. We try to take advantage of everything Cleveland has to offer.
HM: Do you have a favorite event in Cleveland?
KH: Opening Day (for the Cleveland Indians) is a great one, and we’ve had so much fun at opening day. The Flats Festival of the Arts, I love going to that. We’ve taken my sister’s boat down there to walk through that and that’s really fun. The Rocky River Holiday Walk, which ties back to our business, it’s so cool to see all the people that come out from the community.