ColeVALLEYSF Spotlight: TANTRUM
by Joe Cannella
Because Amanda Weld and Michelle Spear dreamed up this little world near the corner of Carl & Cole where both parents and kids could enjoy themselves, take a trip back in time, or just live in the moment. Indeed I am the sentimental type, but guess what? So are you. And the beautiful toys and the vintage Beatles memorabilia cards that sit side by side remind you that we’re all kids. We all want to play, and live in the moment and remember, and be young again.
“When I was five or six, I had a sleep over with two or three other girls and I made everyone stay up helping me write a puppet play. The idea was that we could surprise everyone's parents with it when they got picked up in the morning. Needless to say, it was not as well performed or received as I had imagined it would be.”
The same combination of creative talent and critical focus on quality shines through today. Tantrum is not her first business venture. She recounts her previous shop, Poe Studio, a children's clothing and gift store in Charleston, South Carolina:
I was 25 and newly married. (We marry young down south.) I had been managing a print shop that sold cheap prints to tourists and framed them in badly made frames. I quit that to make a living as an illustrator and after graduating (as a Design-illustration major at the Savannah College of Art), Poe Studio was really supposed to be my studio with some kick-knacks up front (if anyone bothered to wander in). I was painting portraits, mostly, and then I heard about such a thing as a "gift show" and with credit card in hand-went to the NY international Gift Show. I hated to shop but had a blast shopping for others! Before I knew it the 300 ft space was filled and the illustration business (or lack thereof) was buried for another day.
Fast forward a bit and Amanda, now a five year Cole Valley resident with her husband Richard, 8 year old son Henry and 3.9 year old daughter Thisbe, was still known for throwing amazing vintage-themed birthday parties for her son. Between fond memories of her days at Poe Studio, and hearing friend after friend encourage her to open up a new shop, she eventually decided they were right, and began talking with others about the idea.
And then fate, (as fate does) challenged her resolve by giving her exactly what she needed only a few months later. Occasions, the bath & body boutique literally around the corner from home, was closing up shop, leaving the perfect space. “It was a chicken before egg scenario. My husband spotted the "Going Out of Business" sign in their window before I had seriously considered opening another store. Then it was like...’Yeah right! Like it could ever happen to open something so close-so quickly!’ ”
As the momentum continued forward, one of the friends she had consulted was Michelle Spear: “Amanda reached out to discuss her opportunity and get my opinion on things. The more I heard, the more I got excited and inspired. From there, it just snowballed into this awesome creative [process] back and forth. We set up a room in my house, covered it with all of our thoughts and ideas and fully concepted the store’s vision. Amanda had an awesome core idea and together we added more and more into it to make Tantrum what it is today. (Miraculous that we did all of that in 2 months! It makes me smile thinking about it.)”
Michelle (an ad agency executive producer in her other life) made a pitch over dinner to launch and run the business together, and they were off to the races. Amanda would head up store design and product curation, and Michelle, having extensive experience in production and business development, would focus more on branding and sales. The rest they would fill in along the way. Michelle adds:
“We've always admired each other's numerous pursuits and it felt right to partner up and combine our strengths. I love Amanda's endless creativity and I've been involved in the arts since a young age. The creative process came naturally and we just went for it!”
Once in the door, there was plenty to do before launch, including a complete redo on the walls that were covered end to end with plywood and shelving. It was hard manual work, but in the process of rebuilding the space, a couple of fun local artifacts were discovered, including a receipt from Verra Salon (precursor to Vierra), dated 1945. One can’t help but try and imagine Carl & Cole coming out of World War II. For one thing, the Ice Cream Bar would have been futuristic, not vintage!
There’s a lot of talk these days about creating a “passion-based business”, but one reality has never changed. Few will pull the trigger and launch. Well these ladies have done it, and in addition to the personal satisfaction of creating something from nothing, there’s a big bonus for a mother of young kids that eludes many 9-5ers and business owners. Quality time with their children. Amanda agrees its “awesome to be able to combine kids with career. The kids love the store, and always want to have their birthday parties here.” Having practically grown up in my dad’s baseball card shop in Las Vegas, and then later at Pool Sharks (his pool hall), I can attest to how unbelievably cool and exciting it was just to hang out, talk to customers, and get to know how the business worked. How special it is for these kids to be able to spend time with mom in such a fun space. I’m officially jealous.
Also in the plans are more community events and parties, an e-commerce site of their own, and to find more time to continue seeking out and collect rare vintage books and items for the store. They added that “having the opportunity to open a store in Cole Valley, where we both live was a great selling point for both of us. Contributing to our community is a big driving force. We love our neighborhood!”
I asked Amanda if there were any pleasant surprises, after a year building and working on Tantrum. Her reply, half-jokingly: “We’re still here!”
Well ladies..... we hope you’re around long enough for someone to find a Tantrum receipt from 2013, and wonder what things were like at Carl & Cole “way back when.”
Joe Cannella moved to Cole Valley in December 2010 with his then-fiancée (now wife), Annie and is currently writing and enjoying the building of his local project, Idle Times. After 9 years in advertising sales at Google, he is switching directions and working to support local business and local fun in a uniquely idle fashion.