Fox Naturals Finds A Retail Home In Grand Rapids
After a decade of working at stores such as Bath & Body Works, Forever 21, PacSun and Banana Republic, Fox Naturals founder Patrick Stoffel has opened one of his own.
The 27-year-old’s beauty brand has taken root in 1,600 square feet on Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids, Mich., split evenly between retail and production space. The shop showcases Fox Naturals’ more than 60 products, including its bestselling Charcoal Aloe Face Lotion, Charcoal Tea Tree Face Wash and Charcoal Face Mask.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to have my own place to bring people together,” says Stoffel, who owns Fox Naturals with his husband Lucas Klein. “In an age where everything is ordered on Amazon and people don’t leave their houses, it’s important to have a place where they can go, meet the makers and really be part of the conversation of what’s going on in the community.”
Speaking of community, Stoffel was careful not to tear the fabric of a neighborhood simply to open a shop. He sought out a location where Fox Naturals could slot in with little disruption to existing infrastructure. Stoffel describes the historic building housing the brand’s store as at the end of the neighborhood Uptown’s shopping district and previously abandoned. Fox Naturals invested roughly $14,000 to complete the store in a unit within the five-unit building.
“When I saw it, there was a hole in the floor. One part of the ceiling was completely gone, and we knew at that moment that it could be great,” says Stoffel. “We needed to do something to enhance the neighborhood, which is a really cool area. There are tons of local businesses and artists in the area, so it’s a great place to shop.”
The store’s design draws inspiration from salons and leading beauty retailers. On shelves, Stoffel organized products with precision in the custom of salons. On a table constructed out of reclaimed wood, the opposite of precision rules, and products spill out in the vein of Lush merchandising. The store relies on a neutral color palette to enable Fox Natural’s items to stand out. Stoffel devised its packaging to counter the shabby chic aesthetic of many natural brands, and labels incorporate a graphic fox head.
“When we first started, you would go into Whole Foods and look at the skincare, and it was all very natural looking and not in a positive way. It looked boring. I was coming from retailers that were bright and on trend,” says Stoffel, a former visual merchandising manager. “I thought, ‘How could we make an organic product look like something you’d be buying from Sephora?’ I knew we had to find a balance between modern and organic.”
Stoffel’s journey to Fox Naturals began with him dabbling in soap making as a hobby in 2012. His grandmother Lorraine exposed him to the practice at a young age, and he’d long been interested in it. “Side note, it wasn’t easy,” laughs Stoffel. “I started in my kitchen with soap ingredients thinking it would be easy. My first batch was horrible, but it turned into a passion. In soap making and skincare, there’s a fine line between science and art. You have to follow a recipe and also put yourself in the ingredients. I absolutely fell in love with that.”
As Stoffel was honing his soap-making skills, high school friend Nicole Clenney asked him if he’d be up for participating in the Art, Beer, and Wine Festival in Jackson, Mich. He took the plunge and poured $1,000 into bottles for the event. He only sold $700 worth of products, but it sparked him to fashion a brand – Fox Naturals is named for a wood fox Stoffel’s grandfather Harold whittled for him – and Stoffel was encouraged by positive consumer response. “It was so eye-opening to see that people were really intrigued by a natural brand that had style so they could display it on their counters,” he says.
Stoffel committed full-time to Fox Naturals last year and, within the next year, he projects Fox Naturals could generate as much as $500,000 in sales between its store and e-commerce operations. His projection succeeds a lucrative holiday season for the brand. “We had to shut down our website a couple of weeks before Christmas because we were selling out of products so quickly and couldn’t meet demand,” he recounts. “I never imagined that my small business could generate the buzz that it did.”
Fox Natural’s customers are primarily 18- to 35-years-old and about 60% of them are women, according to Stoffel. He says a large portion of the customer base lives in the Midwest. Stoffel has stoked Fox Naturals purchases by reaching out to Michigan influencers. For instance, a mention by the influencer Currently Kherington increased local sales by 60%. He is intent on continuing to connect with local shoppers by offering in-store pickup for online orders.
Stoffel envisions expanding Fox Naturals to cosmetics, but he has no desire to create a huge business. “With the world of natural skincare blowing up so big right now, I know companies that started off really small that are in Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters,” he says. “We want to keep Fox Naturals small. It’s a dream job, and it’s a passion. I want to keep it that way. I want to keep inspiring myself and other people.”