The Art of Bringing Bali to the Beaches

Kim Rogers wasn’t always immersed in the world of retail.

Originally a restaurant owner in St. Louis, it was a desire to return to Jacksonville that drove her to sell the business and move to Neptune Beach. And through a happenstance business venture proposed by friends, she dove headfirst into the challenge of buying with no prior experience.

The product of this partnership, of course, was Bali Cargo Company- a tiny slice of exotic locale stowed stateside that you could visit without the expensive plane ticket. Behind its doors lays a business that beautifully blends the rich, ornate culture of Bali with the laidback, chill lifestyle of Neptune Beach.

To get a feel for how the gears behind this cool business work, we chatted with Rogers’ about bringing Bali to the Beaches Town Center, the art of buying and more:

How did you become interested in the world of Bali and its incredible culture?
Before Bali Cargo Co., I had only visited Thailand a few times so my knowledge of Asia was very limited.  My business partners traveled to Bali for a surfing trip and upon returning were ready to begin the import business. They approached me and I gave myself a crash course in the business of retail and importing!

The pieces you purchase are products of the “cottage style” industry- meaning they’re made in homes or small, communal workshops. How do you go about communicating with these communities of artisans?
When I first traveled to Bali I would wake up at the crack of dawn, shop all day, return late to the hotel, eat, sleep and repeat! I noticed other buyers sitting with store owners enjoying coffee, relaxing and chatting… I would think to myself “how in the world do they have time for that?” Now, after 10 years and over 20 trips to Bali I am able to enjoy that Bali coffee.
The buying process has become a bit easier although always a challenge, just a bit more relaxed. Contacts come through communication. Both the Balinese and other buyers have shared contacts with me. The goal is to keep lasting relationships with the families so that they will work with me on my designs and ideas to keep our product fresh and current.

When you started, did you ever worry that an American audience might not “get” certain design aspects of the Balinese culture and aesthetic? Why do you think your store has translated so well?
Bali is truly an international marketplace. People from all over the world travel there and the Indonesians are very open to new ideas. If I have an idea for a carving, they can make me a sample within minutes. I sit with business owners and design jewelry for hours. Their adaptability in the marketplace is the key to their longevity. Some of their traditional crafts don’t always translate but because of their business savvy we can take a traditional design and make it contemporary with a few tweaks here and there.

What, for you, is the most rewarding part of owning such a unique business?
You can ask any small business owner and they will give you the same answer when it comes to the benefits of owning your own business. Flexibility, creating jobs and using your creative juices everyday in everyway  - but in my case throw in a few trips to Bali and you have the best job ever!

You can pick up a piece of Bali at 200 First Street in the Beaches Town Center.
Mon–Sat. 9am-8pm
Sun 9am-7pm
Call (904) 270-2254
Or shop online at balicargocompany.com

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