A Chat with Jessie Connor of Ramble Supply Co.
Downtown Raleigh is experiencing a creative and economic boom. For a long time, North Carolina capital’s downtown was filled with vacant storefronts and was mainly a destination for government-related business and tourism. However, an influx of professionals taking jobs in the area’s Research Triangle’s tech industry has led to a revitalization of the city’s downtown district. Many of these 20- and 30-year olds have opted to relocate in the city center over the suburbs, preferring a convenient urban lifestyle where home is walking-distance to restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.
In the past five years, there’s been a net gain of over 150 street-level businesses in the downtown district, bringing a new vibrant energy to Raleigh. One of these recent businesses is Ramble Supply Co., owned and operated by the vivacious and thoughtful Jessie Connor. Ramble Supply Co. is a lifestyle concept store geared towards shoppers with a penchant for good design and quality crafted goods made in small batches. When I visited, it reminded me of a well curated Etsy shop with a range of beautiful gifts that included hand-made textiles, understated geometric jewelry, and locally made soaps and treats. Jessie also uses the store as a platform to connect the local community by offering DIY classes and meet-the-maker events where neighbors have the chance to get to know each other and be creative.
Before opening her doors in 2014, Jessie spent years working in a fast-paced job in new business development in New York City. Eventually feeling burnt out and surrounded by self-consumption, she decided to re-assess what she wanted out of life. Jessie made a deal with herself: she would quit her dream job and leave her amazing apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn to take a three month hiatus to explore the U.S. and Puerto Rico. If she returned and didn’t miss the hustle of the New York lifestyle, she would pack up and start anew. Obviously, she ended up choosing the latter, relocating in her home state of North Carolina and setting up shop not too far from her brother who runs the menswear boutique Lumina Cothing Co.
Let’s start with the name “Ramble.” Why did you choose it and how does it play into the concept of your store?
It essentially came from my travels over the past couple years since I left New York. I traveled from place to place as a ramblin’ woman. After setting up roots in Raleigh, I felt that these years were a part of what got me to where I am today. It only felt appropriate to bring it into the name of the store. The name Ramble invokes a sense of southern culture and also contributes to the fact that my wares are really from all over the place, artists and makers I’ve discovered through my journey.
What is your criteria when you’re choosing products or artists to feature in your store?
We look for a certain aesthetic with a few guidelines. It has to be well made whether that be by hand or small batch. We consider everything we carry to be a work of art, from soap to ceramics. This focus on quality and attention to detail contributes to the overall look and feel of Ramble.
What are a couple of the most valuable things you learned about yourself when you decided to quit your job and travel?
I learned to let go. I sold most of my things when I left NY and traveled with just a couple suitcases. It was liberating and made me realize I didn’t need much to get by. I also let go of all the heavy stress and responsibility that came with living in the big city. That really gave me time and clarity to focus on the person I really am. All the distractions that come with living in the hustle and bustle doesn’t leave you with much time to focus on yourself. I wouldn’t say it taught me any one specific thing about myself, I would say its helped me become the person I want to be.
What’s your travel style? How would you decide where you’d go next?
It was all pretty spontaneous. It started with a trip with a friend to Miami then flew to meet my boyfriend in Ohio while he was finishing up a job. From there, we drove to Chicago then out to Montana for about a month. After being in Montana exploring different parks and towns we decided it would be fun to explore the Pacific Northwest and the coast of California. We just drove – stopping to visit various friends and family. Most of the planning was based on whom we could visit next. That’s my favorite way to travel, no plans. I feel it opens up your time and makes it actually feel longer. I’d much rather visit friends, meet new people, explore neighborhoods and the places locals go, and avoid the touristy things.
“Most of the planning was based on whom we could visit next. That’s my favorite way to travel, no plans.”
Any advice to share for somebody thinking about taking a long time off to travel like you did?
If you’re coming from a high stress situation give yourself at least one month to unwind. Don’t overplan and make sure you choose the right travel companion. The person you’re with can make it or break it.
What was one or two of your favorite experiences from those travels?
Vieques, Puerto Rico! So beautiful and peaceful. It was full of beautiful beaches and friendly locals. We stayed at a quaint open air hotel right on the bay in Esperanza. My absolute favorite experience of that trip was the bioluminescent bay. We rented kayaks and went night kayaking under a full moon. It looked like we were surrounded by millions of diamonds that shot like shooting stars when the fish swam under the surface.
What do you love about Raleigh?
The community and sense of change in the air. You can feel that its on the brink of some really great things. Since I’ve moved here I have received nothing but positive support and encouragement from the fellow makers and shakers. I’ve met some amazing folks that are excited about what Ramble is doing and willing to collaborate and join forces to create a stronger community. That’s all I ever wanted when moving out of New York, a “can’t we all just get along!” town.
What would non-residents be surprised to learn about the Raleigh community?
Raleigh is only about two hours from the coast and three hours from the mountains. This makes it super easy to escape for a weekend at the beach in the summer or skiing in the winter. Great for anyone that likes to escape every once in a while and can’t shake that wanderlust spirit.
Where would you take a first-time visitor to Raleigh?
I usually take the guys to Lumina Clothing Co., my brothers menswear store. Then for a glass of wine at Wine Authority. Bida Manda serves Loatian fare and is my number one dinner spot; get the crunchy rice appetizer and a piña colada. Then to Person’s St. Bar for late night drinks and great atmosphere.
Where would your next dream trip be?
This is so hard. I want to go everywhere! I would say somewhere…anywhere in Europe. I’ve never been and would love to get out there soon – Ireland, Spain, Greece, Italy, France. Next on the list would be Bali, Chile, Brazil, Maldives. I don’t know, we’ll see where my next adventure takes me!
Tell us about your favorite locally-owned boutique in the reply section below.
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of exploring the world. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as the Art Director for the branding firm, Belmont Inc., in Alexandria, VA. In her spare time, she instructs high-energy Zumba dance classes, contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible. Lara is also a nOMbassador and looks forward to reviewing more yoga-friendly properties in the future.