When the pandemic hit, Erin Tavin, the creator of LA-based Tavin Boutique, took her business on the road.
“Initially, we built the caravan as an auxiliary to our store in Echo Park, Los Angeles; to have a second shop and to take it to Coachella and other festivals. Our lease was up for renewal when the covid hit really bad in March 2020. It was a decision between the covid and the construction on the block which had taken a terrible direction. For years, there was construction around us every day.
Our store had been there for 13 years and we were very ingrained in the neighborhood. And we did a lot of building in the space: we had so many personal things there that mattered to me. It was about creating a whole vibe and providing an escape for people when they would step in from the street. When I was younger I used to wander around Paris and wanted to create a similar feeling in my store.
After our new landlord announced that our lease was up, I talked with my husband and decided not to renew the lease. We had two weeks of time to peel that store apart. That was intense. We wrote a beautiful thank you note and put it in the window. It makes me cry when I think about it now.
It was a crucial moment for my business – I did not want to lose our identity as Tavin so I just moved into action changing from a brick & mortar into online without even a moment to really contemplate.
The positive side of that was that we were suddenly in touch with women from all over the world who could not have access to our boutique earlier. Suddenly I was giving my personal care service to so many people from all over the world during a really hard time. There was a lot of bonding.
The negative side was being online constantly – it was unreal. I felt a crazy sense of isolation. It took a small Tavin team to make the transition online. Working together for a year without seeing each other in person – that’s coordination!
We had only taken the caravan out three times at that point, to some beautiful events in Topanga and Ojai. The caravan was sitting in our driveway. We started taking personal appointments to sell vintage to private buyers. But we wanted to bring the caravan into the world. So I became a booking agent! Contacting stores and people whom I know and telling them about our camper store and if we could visit them. We tried a different place every weekend. One of the best experiences was at my friend’s store, Moona Star Collective, in Topanga.
This caravan looks best in the country setting with trees and fields. That’s where it really shines.
We love traveling so much. So it was a great way to take our shop out there, further than Los Angeles.
We designed the caravan together and my husband Nathan built it from scratch. It took three years. The idea of the caravan was modeled after extensive research that my husband and I did from the wonderful homework books called Tiny Homes, On the Move and Simple Shelters.
We travel for a month every summer to Oregon or to New Mexico, and in the past years, we have seen many different breeds of caravans or homes on wheels that have just taken our breath away.
The attraction for me has always been the open road, adventure and certain nomadic life.
It seemed like a perfect melding to create a beautiful mobile retail space, where Tavin clothing and lifestyle could really shine.
The caravan is a mini version of our old shop in Echo Park so it needs to be much more curated. Now I am curating for different locations, different vibes and it can be really tricky. The same person might not buy the item in Los Angeles but she might buy it when she is in Palm Springs.
You need to think about who lives in the place where we are going next, what is the weather like there, and so on. I need to have more stock now than I did a year ago during covid and have gotten back to shopping every week.
Certain things don’t even look good inside the caravan! If I load it too much, it is a fine line. I need to keep the curation in mind all the time. I also want to have different price points not to alienate anyone.
This work really takes a lot of mental and physical energy. It is a young person’s game but I do feel up for the challenge! We need to wrap and pack everything every time we travel. It means very early mornings and lots of packing.
My store was always meant to be about a whole lifestyle and I want to have a strong vibe in the caravan, too.
I would love to take the caravan to Northern California and New Mexico and do month-long pop-ups. Being able to reconnect with our old customers has been so great!”