Style Q&A: Josh and Niki Quinn of Cub Shrub

Sherry Beck Paprocki
Columbus Monthly
Josh and Niki Quinn are joined by their daughter, Emma, 3, at Cub Shrub in the Short North.

Retail entrepreneurs Josh and Niki Quinn launched Tigertree in the Short North nearly 11 years ago, after falling in love with Columbus on a trek from their home in California to the East Coast. Settling here, they built their business, started a family and added another brand for youngsters, called Cub Shrub. Ohio native Niki is originally from Shreve, south of Wooster, and Josh hails from North Carolina.

What motivated you to open Tigertree? How did you decide on the name? We started out as owners of an accessories company in Los Angeles called Maxine, Dear that made wallets and such, primarily out of old fabric book covers. “Tigertree” was the title of the first book that we made into a wallet and it just always seemed to stick with us. After a few years on the wholesale side of the business we really fell in love with being able to connect closer with our customers and create the environments that tie everything together.

Cub Shrub is a great name. Can you explain why you decided on opening a second store, this one aimed at children? We'd always wanted to grow our brand and didn't know exactly how to do it in a way that felt right for us. We had a small kids section in Tigertree for a couple of years that performed really well and we were constantly finding new things we wanted to add, but we couldn't justify taking away space from anything else. And then, obviously, once we knew we were having a child, our interests became even more in tune with that world.

Can you name the top three products that you've ever sold? While our wholesale brand primarily started out making wallets, our belt buckles became the star of that business and are likely still an all-time best seller for Tigertree. And, definitely, our “Ohio 'Til I Die” T-shirts, which we were able to carry over to Cub Shrub in onesies and toddler tees, and our brass Ohio necklaces.

What's different about the Short North since opening your first store there? A lot less than most people think. Most retail companies fail within their first couple of years and when I look up and down the block we're surrounded by peers who opened around the same time we did. Almost 96 percent of businesses don't make it to their 10-year mark. On our block alone, we have five or six independent businesses that are between 10 and 25 years old.

What do we need to know about casual fashion in 2018? It's really interesting to consider how much the meaning of that phrase has changed in the past five to 10 years. A decade ago the word casual very specifically meant “the clothes you don't wear to work,” but now it's all intertwined. Outside of fields such as medicine and finance, a lot of the business world has gotten more casual. I think, for the foreseeable future, comfort is going to rule the industry. You're going to see more and more technical fabrics and features taken from casual pieces being incorporated across the board, because people don't feel like they need to put up with being uncomfortable.

Are there more vibrant colors in vogue for the New Year, or are we still stuck in gray and beige? In terms of the mass market, color is slowly creeping back in. It seems like 75 percent of our brands are putting out a lot of mustard yellow stuff right now and we had quite a bit of dusty rose stuff last winter. So, colors like that are back in, but it's going to stay muted for a bit longer. It is interesting because often we see trends that swing so completely the other way—for example, when flared jeans turn quickly into skinny jeans. Anyway, both of our stores will stay packed with color 100 percent of the time, whatever the market forecasts.