The Gateway Drug to Art Collecting: A Q+A With Feliz Modern

The Gateway Drug to Art Collecting: A Q+A With Feliz Modern

Posted by Della Wheeler on

In the heart of San Antonio lives a happy and modern hub for home decor, gifts, and art. As you step in, prepare to be overcome with color, whimsy, and of course unique pieces with a story.

Feliz Modern is the place where dreams collide for Ginger and Mario Diaz. Since it's birth in 2017, the dream has expanded to 3 stores with a 20 person team. Today, Ginger and Mario are thriving and the expansion continues with a new and exciting venture, Rancho Modern. 

Read below to learn more about the story behind Feliz Modern and where they are today:

We know you guys came from art and design backgrounds - what led you to open a store?

Many things collided at once… we were wanting to create one place where people could buy local art & goods that we previously had to hunt around town for, or wait for artist markets. Then we added in other items like cards, candles, etc so that you might come in for a birthday present and be exposed to a new artist at the same time… a  “gateway drug to art collecting”, if you will. Another factor was that we had purchased an older building to rehab and rent out, as a side hustle, but it wasn’t renting. We thought we’d run a shop in it for a bit until it rented out to someone bigger… but the shop ended up taking on a life of its own and we both left our other careers for it (Mario’s was in graphic design and Ginger’s was in photography).

Our designer Della loves your branding. Did you guys create your logo and brand concept? Would love to hear your process!

The inspiration was cut paper, since we wanted it to have a handmade feel. Ginger started the initial layout, and Mario refined it to give it a more professional intentional look.

What other brands or stores are you guys inspired by?

When I was in my early 20s I was obsessed with Anthropologie, but couldn’t afford much if anything. I noticed it never stopped me from going in, because even if I just bought a candle, I loved the feeling I got inside. That was one of the inspirations for us to carry affordable items as well as aspirational items, because I was an Anthro customer long before I could afford the curtains I really wanted.

This has been an incredibly challenging environment for retail and brick-and-mortar stores. How have you reworked your business model to survive?

Honestly it gave us a chance to re-group and re-center ourselves. The first 3 years of the business we were just going 100mph and trying to do the most. Getting shut down gave us time to refocus on what was important to us. As challenging as 2020 was, I feel like we came out stronger. Our team got tighter, our product offerings got stronger, but most importantly our priorities became clearer and we are taking more time for ourselves instead of working 24/7.

Tell us more about the name ‘Feliz Modern.’

When we were standing in our space, with the white walls and empty shelves, we thought “what do we want this to FEEL like when we are in here” and wrote down all the words that we wanted to feel. Happy and Modern were on that list, and we felt like it best encompassed both sides of the coin… happy, but not so sugary sweet that it gave you a headache. 

How does Stray Dog fit into Feliz Modern?

I think it’s impossible to be in a bad mood when you look at a Stray Dog piece. They’re the perfect mix of good design with a cheeky wink, which is our favorite kind of design. The vibrant colors are a bonus. ;)  In fact we are integrating Stray Dog Designs into our newest shop (Rancho Diaz) as well.

As you have grown into multiple locations and now, an online store, how have you remained steady and successful?

It would be 100% impossible without an amazing team. We started with one full-time employee, one location, and slowly have grown that to 20+ employees organically over time. We are proud to work with some of the best people ever, and one of the ways we try to retain good talent is with living wages, health insurance and PTO for our full-timers, and working on our positive work culture (welcoming differing ideas, input, and not micro-managing). We are about to have 3 locations (two Feliz Modern shops, and we are opening a new concept shop called Rancho Diaz, that will focus more on high-end kitchen & home goods).

How does the culture of San Antonio contribute to the culture of your company?

San Antonio is lucky to be a culturally rich city, with the majority of our population of Mexican heritage. It flavors everything we do in SA, even for those who are not Mexican. A lot of our foods, traditions, and focus on family have a lot to do with that cultural makeup, and that definitely influences our family and our shop. San Antonio is the 7th largest city in the US, but it feels like a small town where everyone knows everyone, reputation matters, and people tend to enjoy the important things in life more (connection with family & friends).

What advice would you give to someone who is opening a store today?

We get asked this a lot, and the truth is that there are so many ways and the right way will depend on your risk tolerance, your access to capital, and your secondary income while getting it launched. One smart way would be to try your concept out first in an online store or a kiosk or pop-up at other shops. Fewer fixed overhead expenses, and you get to test the market and your stomach for it before going all-in. I happen to be an all-in person and figure things out after I jump, but that has its own stressors too!

We know you guys are married - how does that shape the way you make decisions? Any advice to your fellow married co-owners? (We’re listening! lol)

Have a great therapist on speed dial! ;-)  There are times that working with your life partner is the best thing ever, you get to grow this baby together. And other times it’s incredibly challenging to leave work at work, and to have good boundaries in both areas of life. We’ve definitely struggled with that! My therapist suggested having “work hours” where you can’t talk about work after a certain cut off hour. It works great… if you do it.

Can't get enough? Check out the links below to follow along with the Feliz Modern + Rancho Diaz journey:

Feliz Modern

Rancho Diaz

Feliz Modern on Instagram

Rancho Diaz on Instagram

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