Planning your store layout is no small task, but many small retail store owners do it all themselves with great success. So why not you? Take it slow, follow our seven steps, and remember to put the customer first. With the ideas in this guide and a little elbow grease, you’ll soon be on your way to mapping out a retail store that’s easy to navigate, welcoming to customers, and best of all—profitable.


Aside from mechanical repairs, a mechanic’s toolset will help you loosen and tighten bolts - which you’ll need to do during the gutting process, installing your electrical system, and at many other points during your van build. This Crescent 170-piece tool set has all the essentials, including 6-point and 12-point sockets in ¼”, ⅜” and ½” - not to mention pliers, crescent wrenches and screwdrivers.
Hey Brett! Awesome to hear that your own plans are coming together. I can’t really recall seeing any dirtbags rolling around in a Pruis… I wouldn’t imagine it to be the ideal vehicle for transporting gear and living out of, but the gas savings would really add up over 6-7 months on the road. In general, I’m in favor of going with what you’ve got and finding creative ways to make it work. Maybe you can add a rooftop box? On some vehicles, people even remove the passenger seat(s) for extra storage space. The biggest problem with the Prius that I see would be finding a place to sleep while you are on the road… But I guess that’s where your gas savings and cheap hotel would come in. I know Gina Begin has been living in her little car for a long while now, check out her stuff, and maybe reach out to her. She’s a veteran at dirtbaggin’ it in a car: http://www.ginabegin.com/2013/05/the-ultimate-guide-to-living-on-road-15.html
Just a quick note about light spectrum. I went with 6500k because that’s what I like to film in. The daylight spectrum makes it easier for me if I decide to open the blinds, letting in some natural light. For the average woodworking shop, I think 5000k is probably a good choice, although some folks really enjoy the crispness of a 6500k light. But you should test them out for yourself to see what you prefer.
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One of the challenges in building a cabinet for hand tools, is that as soon as you define a place for each tool in your custom cabinet, you find that you need more room to store the must have tools you just bought. I decided to make a couple of open cabinets, and employ the use of inserts that can be replaced or modified as my tool collection grows. Part of the goal was to make a clean, efficient shop, while keeping to a budget. I bought paint grade maple plywood and made the cabinets. Applying a solid maple face frame to the cabinet makes a clean looking cabinet from sheet goods purchased at $50/sheet.

Tip: Save money on specialty displays! Many manufacturers offer retailers low-cost or free specialty display fixtures designed to highlight their branded lines, like the one pictured below. These make great speed bump or outpost display units on a tight budget. Your product line reps can tell you if they’re available, plus provide merchandising and display advice.
Great article, Ryan! I love the detailed explanations of the various options for sleeping. I consider myself a veteran “light-duty traveler” who stumbled across some of these things by accident over the years. My needs are different than yours (I’m usually traveling long distances for days and weeks at a time for work or vacation, so I usually don’t hunker down in a base camp very often), but I have a few questions and points to share:
We did a lot of research and landed on the Bestek 300W Power Inverter. We usually had our devices plugged in while we were driving so they'd be charged by the time we parked for the night. And if we were ever really in a pinch, we would plug it in for 10 minutes with the car off, then another 10 minutes with the car running until it was sufficiently charged.
A great product line will also reflect a range of price points. For a business that is working hard to convey a sophisticated and elite vibe, it might be a useful strategy to set a high minimum price, but for the vast majority of small businesses, your pricing should be guided by one key thought: I want every single person who comes through my door to be able to find something that fits their budget.
This project may look a little overwhelming and I do consider myself pretty handy.  However, I think just about anyone could complete this project.  This was my first real experience building a solid floor, framing walls and sheathing/ shingling a roof.  I spent a lot of time researching and educating myself on proper construction techniques.  I have not come across any glaring mistakes along the way, but I welcome comments about the construction from more experienced builders.
The on the go mode is ideal for when I’m just driving all day and need to pull over and get some rest, be it in a parking lot, a residential cul-de-suc, or wherever. I usually toss a couple of items in the cab of my truck and crawl into the “coffin” sleeping arrangement for a quick night’s rest, but I can also crawl in without placing anything in the cab.

I will also typically secure those sorts of items under my locked platform if I am gone for a few days in the backcountry, because in reality I could probably care less if someone broke in and stole my box of food, versus someone who stole my clothes or expensive down jackets, which would be much more problematic (and costly) to replace on the road.
To make sure you account for any existing obstructions, it’s a good idea to make a measured drawing of your workshop area on graph paper, noting existing furniture, built-ins and large items on the plan as you go. For example, a common one-car garage workshop layout has built-in tool cabinets and shelves around the perimeter where they won’t impede parking, but you may also have to get clever about folding work tables and saw horses that you can set up as needed in the middle of the garage when you’re working on a project (and cars are parked outside).
A good starting point here is to write down two or three keywords that you think define your brand and then allow all your design choices to be guided by those words. For example, a local cheese shop could be organic, artisanal, and authentic; a wine bar could be sophisticated, 1920s, French; or a local specialty food store could be gourmet, helpful, natural.
Concrete garage floors can work as a workshop surface, but over time they stain and you’ll end up tracking a lot of dust and dirt into your home. An epoxy floor finish is easier to clean and can also provide extra grip. For a softer surface that will help your joints when standing a long time, check out those restaurant grade rubber floor mats or some durable options that include garage floor tile.
The more outlets the better! I have a good mix of 220v and 110v outlets throughout the shop. I even included a few in the ceiling and the floor in hopes of avoiding power cords in the walkways. And although this contradicts my previous comments about over-committing, I picked locations that would likely work for various tool configurations. If at some point they don’t work for my setup, I just won’t use them.
Whether you plan to go it alone or hire a professional, there are many resources available to help you plan and execute your retail store layout. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the project yourself, a professional retail store planner, interior designer, or display designer can turn your dreams into reality. Or if you want to handle it all yourself, store planning software and other online idea resources can make the job easier.
Solar Shower. For easy, inexpensive showering in wilderness locations, nothing beats a good solar shower. This is basically a bag of water that you leave out in the sun until it heats up, then hang it from a high place and shower using the attached nozzle. 5-gallon solar showers should get you about 5 minutes of good water flow. There are also pricier but more convenient pump-operated solar showers that you can buy.

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The good news is that when you’re starting your small business, you now have the tools to take a data-led approach to choosing the right store design. For example: Not sure what type of music gets your customers in the mood to spend? Simply choose a few different styles and display a different one each week. After the test is complete, analyze sales data to help you identify what could be impacting sales. The key to getting accurate results from this kind of test is to avoid switching up the other variables in your store that can impact sales, such as signage, or testing one type of music during a regular business week and another type during a holiday week. For more details on how to create controlled in-store experiments, you can check out Lean Retail 101
Starting your own small business can be an incredibly rewarding experience both personally and financially. However, like anything worthwhile, it takes a great deal of time and effort to be successful at it. Your results will depend on how much you are willing to apply yourself. The lessons in How to Start a Small Business 101 are designed to give you a leg up on the competition so you can hit the ground running. Now all you’ve got to do is bookmark this page, free up some time, grab a cup of coffee, and start making your way through each section.
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