Grit And Grain

Building a Beautiful Business With Letter & Grain in Visalia…

Female owned and established, Letter & Grain’s Ericka Trevino and Joan Smith are the daughter-mom crew keeping the doors open and the shelves bursting.

The locally owned shop sits in Visalia, curated with products for home, baby and gifts with a fun modern vibe. “While we do still host a handful of local vendors, there really is something for everyone in our shop,” Trevino says. “I take a lot of time and care in bringing products in. There’s a lot that goes into finding new lines, products and makers before they actually hit our shelves.”

Valley native Trevino says, “Small business was what I had witnessed and what I was used to growing up and I knew it was for me.” While taking a lot of grit and determination, having the freedom to create her days has captured her love for the industry.

What started as a real estate career evolved when Trevino was going through a particularly difficult season and looking for a more creative outlet to cope. In 2012, she started painting wood signs out of her garage after taking an Annie Sloan Chalk Paint workshop at Embellish & Restore with owner Monica Fatica. “It just really grew into something,” Trevino says, with her toddler babbling beside her.

As things progressed, she expanded from signs into other products and the more she dove into retail, the more it all grew. She opened Letter and Grain in San Luis Obispo in the summer of 2016. “Business is not for the faint of heart and there is something to be said about community over competition,” Trevino says. “I will say that Visalia is just a special place. It is full of businesses that really support each other and are on board to collaborate.”

In 2018, when the opportunity arose to open shop in Visalia, Trevino closed the SLO location and jumped back into the valley with both feet. She knew the timing was ideal for her. The stars aligned and she was back by summer.
“We kind of had big shoes to fill. Monica had closed Embellish & Restore that summer and we came into the same building and tweaked it a little bit to make it more ‘us.’ Within the first few months of business, we undertook the overwhelmingly community favorite, Maker’s Market, and it was a huge success.”

Trevino planned, hosted and managed the Maker’s Market on October 18 and her son was born October 27. Strong women run this show. You’ll often find Trevino down at her shop with baby in tow, chatting with friends about a network opportunity, or hustling to the ballfield to catch her oldest son’s baseball games. She is often running from one place to the next, but says investing in friendship keeps her going. A cup of coffee with a good friend, a glass of wine after a long day with a colleague or an out-of-town trip with her husband and kids keeps her life balanced and purposeful. “I’m pretty good about living in the moment, so getting away is good for me.”

As with every business, COVID changed everything. Trevino laughs when asked how Letter & Grain had to pivot in light of the pandemic. “We didn’t pivot so much as we danced. It felt like major change, not just a few tweaks. It still seems so unreal that there was a pandemic. But my mom and I put our heads down and got to work. I remember telling her that if we could just survive it, that would be good enough.”

Not considered essential meant the store closed for a bit. But with rent increases that were wrapped into the lease and taking place during COVID meant that the duo had some goals to meet.

With closed doors and no online storefront, Trevino put on her best hustling shoes. She was at the shop daily, snapping photos of product and selling it on Instagram. They offered free delivery to Tulare and Visalia and as sales began to increase, she started weekly deliveries to Porterville and Fresno. “The community support was huge. Instead of Amazon, they chose us and they didn’t have to.” She laughs almost in disbelief, “I can’t even tell you how many Volcano candles I delivered during that time!” If you know, you know.

As a successful woman in business, Trevino champions women who are also dreaming about it. “I know this sounds crazy because we live in a time where the word failure is just a bad word and it terrifies people. But with failure comes learning and not every failure has to mean the end of something. Make changes. Revamp. Get up again.”

Proud of the business the two have built together, particularly after this last year, Trevino says, “Being in business requires taking a leap of faith to start, constant learning to stay in it, a level head, good heart, a bit of thick skin to survive it and a love to continue in it. I’m so thankful to have been on this journey with my mom. She is an amazing businesswoman and together our strengths make it happen.”

Letter & Grain is thrilled to announce they will be hosting workshops once again along with the Spring Maker’s Market in May 2021 at The Woodlands. As for the future, she says they have a few new ideas up their sleeve and look forward to a season of good health and continued success to get them off the ground. • 115 N. West Street, Visalia

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