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RÓ – Recreating Home in the Pandemic

RÓ is a furniture and home goods store on Elmwood Avenue at the corner of Breckenridge. When stores re-opened, I ventured in to visit store owner Hayley Carrow-Jarecki, and to see what she had in the store.

Just as it is a pleasure to step into a well curated home, it is a pleasure to step into RÓ. While sequestered, I know I have been enjoying my home and was wondering if and how people’s relationship to their homes has changed during this time, so I asked Hayley a few questions.

JF: First of all, can you describe your store, tell us the story of what inspired you to open a home goods store in the Elmwood village?

HCJ: This past March we hit the ten-year mark which takes me back. The store wasn’t always called RÓ. My first business, Reimagine, was co-founded with my life-long friend, Cortney. It was an up-cycle sort of a place. On the weekends, we would go to estate sales and buy unique vintage pieces, repaint and upholster them.

At the time, our shop was in a small basement without a storefront. What started as a hobby transformed into a profitable and sustainable business when we moved to 732 Elmwood with high walking traffic and great visibility.

I have found that as you grow, learn and live, so do your passions. Although vintage hunting, selling at markets and traveling to distant cities was a great learning experience, it was also a bit of a hustle. The market for vintage fluctuates so much that it’s hard to keep up.

I have found that as you grow, learn and live, so do your passions.

In 2012, we rebranded to RÓ. Our new mission was to find ways to support our community and the craftsman within it by selling custom pieces designed for the shop. We moved away from vintage and sourced items from innovative design firms that paired with our Scandinavian aesthetic. To this day, RÓ is a hub for unique handmade furniture sourced locally, home decor made in house. We design curated environments to help clients find calmness within their homes and office spaces. Our bi-monthly art openings showcase the wonderful world of art within our shop’s gallery.

JF: How was it for you during the weeks when you were closed? Did you focus on your own home? How did you stay in touch with customers?

HCJ: It has been a pleasure to turn my focus towards my own projects and home this summer. When the shop was closed, I spent time doing the things I had set aside for later. There wasn’t a time when I didn’t feel busy and productive, but I always have endless things on my to do list! Now that businesses have reopened, I still notice that I am very much home oriented. Being more of an introvert, I love to spend time at home.

Making my own home more inviting was a great exercise. I was able to finish up the tail end of projects including painting the stairs leading up to my front door or organizing my tools in the basement. I noticed I had a lot of duplicates, so I spent time passing old items on to new homes.

While the shop was closed, I stayed in touch with customers through social media and my email lists. In the beginning, it was strange because I didn’t know what RÓ’s place was supposed to be but eventually, I formulated a plan.

JF: Did your customers’ needs change in any significant way during the quarantine? Did you observe any trends?

HCJ: I did notice a spike in my interior design business. I heard from a lot of customers that they’d been wanting a change for quite some time and now that they’ve been stuck indoors, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start.

JF: Now that you are re-opened, how is it? Do you notice a change in how customers engage in the environment? Have people’s shopping habits changed?

HCJ: Folks are happy to be out and about! I’ve heard customers say how great it feels to be in all the small shops on Elmwood and to be able to physically engage with another human and buy something in the flesh rather than internet buying. It’s not as personal to buy online.

JF: Who are your customers? Are they walk-ins who live in the neighborhood or is it a destination for people from outside the neighborhood?

HCJ: I have a lot of loyal customers who live right here in the Elmwood village. As soon as I opened, they’d trickle in to say “hi.” It made me feel so good to see their happy faces asking how I’ve been and showing their support. We have such an amazing community! RÓ is also a destination place, with visitors coming from outside neighborhoods and even farther away cities like NYC or Toronto (when the border is open). Yesterday I had a couple stop by from Boston. I think people find me online while looking for things to do while visiting Buffalo.

JF: What did you miss most during the pandemic? Did you discover any changes you would like to make in how you run your business?

HCJ: I missed seeing customers! I noticed how important it is to have a functioning online platform. Web designer, Jen Dembik, helped me launch a new website that is now more user friendly and relevant. It is important to be accessible online, especially in times like these.

RÓ is a hub for unique handmade furniture sourced locally, home decor made in house.

JF: You mentioned Scandinavian style – could you describe it for us? 

HCJ: An aesthetic that embodies a sense of minimalism and functionality. Simple, clean lines and natural hues, the use of organic materials, creating a soft environment with the use of modern furniture with accents of vintage designer pieces to bring in authenticity to a space.

JF: If someone wants to redo their interior environment, where do you begin?

HCJ: We begin with an initial half hour consultation to talk more about your home, personal design style and expectations. I have an a la carte approach to design so my clients can choose from a list of services that best suit their needs. Then we move on to a short questionnaire followed by a home visit to take photos and measurements.

JF: What changes have the biggest impact on a home interior?

HCJ: Painting the interior in a cohesive way. Art. Arranging the space can vastly change the flow and overall feel of a home.

JF: Do you have any current or upcoming events?

HCJ: We do! Our upcoming event will be held on September 4th from 6pm-8pm at RÓ featuring recent paintings by Nicholas Delfino. The new series of work is titled ‘THE STORIES WE TELL’ by Nicholas Delfino. The gathering will be outside Ro with three people at a time allowed in for viewing. More information at www.rohomeshop.com.

RÓ | 732 Elmwood | Buffalo NY | 716-240-9387 | inquiries@rohomeshop.com

Written by Judith Frizlen

Judith Frizlen

Judith Frizlen is the founder of the Rose Garden Early Childhood Center and author of Words for Parents, Words for Teachers and Caregivers and Unpacking Guilt, a Mother's Journey to Freedom. Books and blogposts are on her website at judithfrizlen.com. She is a fan of early childhood, urban architecture and the revitalization of Buffalo.

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