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Riding out the recession: Saara Matthews became a business owner during a turbulent time

Published on November 8, 2017 7:08AM

The economy was still reeling from a recession when Saara Mathews became the owner of Finn Ware in 2010. “It was a good time for me to get started in a sense, but a scary time,” she said. “I’ve seen growth every year since.”

LUKE WHITAKKER

The economy was still reeling from a recession when Saara Mathews became the owner of Finn Ware in 2010. “It was a good time for me to get started in a sense, but a scary time,” she said. “I’ve seen growth every year since.”

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Finn Ware owner Saara Matthews has expanded the Scandinavian food section and added new purses and clothing from Marimekko, a company based in Helsinki.

Photo by LUKE WHITAKKER

Finn Ware owner Saara Matthews has expanded the Scandinavian food section and added new purses and clothing from Marimekko, a company based in Helsinki.

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How did you first get involved?

“The two sisters (Darlene Warra Bjornsgard and Dorothy Warra Smith) who had owned the store had originally hoped my sister and I would buy it when they were ready to retire. I had just moved back to the area a few years before and they mentioned it to my sister and I again, and my sister said ‘no’ — she had a job with benefits and a vacation — but I decided to go ahead and do it on my own.”

How long have you owned the store?

“Seven years.”

How does business today compare to when you first took over?

“It’s changed a lot. In 2010, the economy was really bad, so it was a good time for me to get started in a sense, but a scary time. I’ve seen growth every year since. We’re fortunate.”

How supportive has the community been?

“Astoria is a quirky place, but I feel the local support has been important. I feel fortunate that people think of us when looking for a gift.”

How do you curate the store shelves? How do you determine that products to offer?

“It’s kind of difficult. A lot of the brands we’ve always carried, which is nice to have that tradition already. I just try to bring in new things that I think will be appealing to all ages and different backgrounds, so you don’t have to be Scandinavian to like it. That’s one of my goals, to have that Scandinavian design but not have to be Finnish to have it. I just want you to like the product. It’s a lot of trial and error. I try to watch what people are buying and read a lot of magazines and catalogs. I’ve traveled to Scandinavia the last couple summers, so I see what’s on-trend there.”

Since owning the business, have there been any lessons you’ve learned from experience?

“Oh yeah. I’ve had a huge learning curve because I had worked in stores, but never managed or owned one. I’ve learned all kinds of stuff. I laugh because I went to college as a business major and I hated it, so I ended up majoring in German. I’ve learned all kinds of things — buying things you think people are going to love and they don’t, over-ordering or under-ordering, there’s just way too many lessons I’ve had to learn, but I continue to learn every year.”

Are there any particular items or areas you’re increasing stock?

“Over the past seven years, our food section has really increased. It’s been a huge. The Marimekko line — the clothes and purses — is something new I’ve brought in. I just really try to watch what people are buying and build off of that.”

What is your biggest influence as a business owner?

“The customers are my biggest influence. Whether they come back and how their experience was, that’s the biggest influence. If you avoid it, I don’t think you can make it.”

What aspect gives you the greatest satisfaction?

“Talking to people, listening to their story, whatever it is. When you help someone find the perfect gift, or if they come back and tell you how much they love the glasses or silly mug they got their grandma — it’s the interaction and knowing that you’ve made someone happy.”



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