If you ever feel in need of inspiration, or indeed are in despair about the future of retailing, treat yourself to a leisurely visit to The Shopkeepers website.  There you will find what has been described as “a carefully curated online collection of the best that the world has to offer in independent shops.”

In their own words: “The Shopkeepers is a celebration of shops that delight. We explore the world to curate and share a collection of inspiring shops from around the globe. Each shopkeeper creates a unique experience and assortment to sell their wares. Today there are a myriad of channels to purchase everything from daily goods to special treats, a local shop, a market, or online.  We hope you enjoy discovering some of our favorite shops, as much as we love sharing.”

Paula Flynn, founder of The Shopkeepers, is Irish by birth — but she has lived in the US and France as well.  Her degree is in printed textiles, and she worked as a design assistant for Chloe and Karl Lagerfield in Paris before coming to the US to work for Liz Claiborne and the GAP.  She eventually headed product development for GAP Kids and baby GAP, and after a return to Dublin during which she started her own children’s line, she came back to the US and to help her friend Orla Kiely set up her flagship store in New York.

Flyn is passionate about retail.  As she said in an interview with Christine Chang Hanway on the blog My Contents Have Shifted, “I have always loved a well merchandised shop. Even in childhood, when we used to travel from Dublin to London, it was the shops I wanted to see.  In this day and age of big brands and online shopping, the characters and personalities of the independent retailers shine through more than ever before and I’m interested in the story of these passionate shopkeepers and the environments that they are building.”

The Shopkeepers provides a highly searchable website, with a map feature as well as categories by retail genre.  There are also four curated Instagram “TSK guides” to the shops in a rather random list of locations: the US, Arizona, London and Somerset.  Many of the shops featured represent the special energy and flair of today’s younger retailers.

The digital community that Paula Flynn and her son Jack Clancy have built makes use of a small team of contributors to post high quality store photos and inspiring interviews with shopkeepers from Dubai to Tulum.  My favorite question, especially as I work on the new edition of Specialty Shop Retailing, is “what do you think about the future of retail?”  I find encouragement from people like Dan Sorg of Regular Visitors in Brooklyn, who said in his profile on The Shopkeepers, “When done right, the proximity, reliability, and care provided by a neighborhood store is irreplaceable.”

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder