According to store design experts, this is the part of the process where store owners tend to put the cart before the horse. Once the floor plan is sketched out, store owners are quick to purchase and install fixtures, then fill them with product. Far too often, the fixtures chosen aren’t ideal for displaying a range of products in a particular space. Or worse, they don’t offer flexibility needed in valuable display areas that are constantly changing to house featured and seasonal products.
But now is the time to take a step back and go on some test runs in your van. Take it out for a weekend here or there (or better yet, a week or more). Try living in it as you expect to on the road. We guarantee there will be things that worked well in your head but not so much in reality. And you’ll come up with random little hacks and innovations that will make your life on the road easier and more enjoyable.
When I’m working on projects in the shop, I often have my laptop close by so I can refer to an article or take notes. The craft table I’d been using was too low, so I got some pieces of 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe to slip over the legs. I measured the height so it was just right—no more aching back! The pipe pieces are easy to slip off when we need the table for potluck. — Donna M. Courie
Cut 15 top boards 5 ft. long and rip them to 3 in. wide with a table saw so the top will glue up flat without the typical rounded edges of 2x4s. For the leg slot, cut two of the top boards into three pieces: a 39-in. middle piece and two 7-in. end pieces. Glue and screw the top together, one board at a time, with 3-in. deck screws, keeping the ripped edge facing up and level with the adjoining boards. Use a corded drill so there’s plenty of oomph to drive each screw below the surface. Note that the third glue-up from each end is where each leg notch is inserted. You can also create a nifty tool tray in the top by notching the three top pieces with a jigsaw. Clamp every 8 in. or so before driving in the 3-in.deck screws. Predrill the screw holes near the ends to prevent splitting. When you’re screwing on the 7-in. long 2x4s to create the leg slots, use a scrap piece of 2×4 as a spacer.
At a time when you’re focused on getting in front of customers as quickly and as often as possible, it can be hard to think about official requirements like registering a business name or deciding on a legal structure. Still, now that you have decided to start a small business or buy an existing one, one of the first critical steps is determining the business entity that's right for you.
Plywood comes in several different types, the most common being pine and lauan. We used ¼” lauan plywood for the walls in our van. Lauan is cheap, it bends easily, and in our opinion its grain pattern looks nicer than pine. Hardwood plywood like birch costs more than pine or lauan, it weighs more, and it’s more difficult to bend. This type of plywood is a great option for furniture, but we think lauan is a better choice for your walls and ceiling.
Inventory management — especially when first starting a small business — at its most basic level consists of counting how many of a given product (let’s say apples) you have for sale in the morning, keeping track of that number, then reducing it by one each time an apple is sold. At the end of the sales day, you count the leftover apples and make sure the number of apples in your inventory system matches whatever you actually have in store. When you have an accurate apple count, you call your supplier and order as many as you need to make sure you have enough on hand for the next day.
To corral shelf-dwelling books or DVDs that like to wander, cut 3/4-in.-thick hardwood pieces into 6-in. x 6-in. squares. Use a band saw or jigsaw to cut a slot along one edge (with the grain) that’s a smidgen wider than the shelf thickness. Stop the notch 3/4 in. from the other edge. Finish the bookend and slide it on the shelf. Want to build the shelves, too? We’ve got complete plans for great-looking shelves here.