Hammock campings small businesses
As more and more people have gotten into hammock camping over the past few years they are often introduced to many new terms. From the unique vocabulary that revolves around suspension systems to the creative names many companies give to their products and more so even to the very definition of those companies’ style of business. Whoopie Sling, Stinger, Mamajamba, and Dynaglide are not everyday terms for most folks. Neither though is Cottage Shop. So what is a cottage shop, how is it different and what does that really matter to a new person looking at hammock camping equipment for the first time?
Cottage Shop is a term that might make you think of a small village business in Europe hundreds of years go…it did me the first time I heard it. Little cottages in town each with a merchant in it pedaling their goods to travelers. Baked goods, wooden shoes, shiny trinkets, pet rocks and at the edge of town the blacksmith with an anvil by the door. And honestly in many ways it has not changed. None of these shops have big manufacturing facilities and assembly lines out the back door of their cottage. No, instead they all have a back room or a kitchen counter where they put their goods together. Fast forward a few hundred years and a few things have changed. Now with the internet many cottage type businesses don’t have a store front on main street but instead a website. And I think that is where many people in this day and age get confused. Having a website does not define how large of a business or how it inventories goods. Amazon is a website and they have dozens of warehouses’ where they have hundreds of employees boxing and shipping goods all over the world. But many small businesses don’t have that same sort of business model. Cottage shops are generally made up of a few people working to make goods one at a time. They don’t have unlimited resources and don’t tend to have their products produced for them overseas. Instead they make their products one at a time or in small batches.
For hammock equipment this means that each piece of fabric is rolled out and cut, each piece pinned together and sewn individually. A good analogy is to consider your morning breakfast. Think about 2 mornings and the same breakfast, lets say pancakes, sausage and hash browns with a cup of coffee. One morning you stop at the fast food drive up window. You order from a garbled speaker with a digital read out of your order, pull forward, pay at the first window, pull forward, get handed a cup of coffee and a bag and you’re off. Now picture day two where you stop at the local mom and pop diner. You sit at the counter and are greeted by pop who tells you the coffee is a bit old and puts on a fresh pot. He asks you how your day is going and if you caught the game last night. You order your breakfast and rather than someone pulling stuff out of the freezer and microwaving it you hear mom in the back mixing up pancake batter and putting on some hash browns to fry. Pop brings by the fresh hot coffee and the paper. He grabs his cup and tops it off with fresh coffee as well. A few minutes later mom brings your plate full of hot fresh food out and says “Here you are dear, can I bring you anything else”
Now mom and pop certainly took a bit more time from your day. But your food was made fresh, not in a factory and re-heated for you in under 2 minutes. Is one better than the other. I’ll let you ponder that, but think also about which one is made with you in mind.
Cottage made gear goes though the same sort of life as your mom and pop breakfast. Rather than just sitting on a warehouse shelf, when you order from a cottage shop someone has to take your order and turn it into functional gear. They take fabric off the roll, cut it, pin it, sew it and turn it into a finished product, gear for you to use. They think about how that gear will be used, does it need to be durable, light, warm or strong. Does it need to hold up to hundreds of uses. Does your enjoyment of your trip depend on it. Does the safety of the user need to be considered. Just like Pop thinks about how fresh the coffee is because he is going to drink it too, most cottage vendors consider how well their gear will work because they are going to use it themselves.
To me, a cottage shop is different than big businesses in how they function and the service that comes with that. In the hammock camping community the vendors run the range from companies that market goods made in china to shops literally run by 2 people, mom and pop (very literally) for a few. Most though are small businesses that have a handful of employees to help keep things running smooth and minimize wait times.