Getting a package ready to ship.
Getting a package ready to ship.

Knack owner Laura Jennings was ready to move her online gift shop well before the need to vacate the old Fran’s Chocolate building on East Pike.

“We were squeezed into the old Fran’s Chocolate kitchen,” she said. “It really wasn’t set up for us in an optimum way, but that was when we were small.”

The online shop, which allows customers to create fully customizable gift packages, expects to see business spike this year, seven times what it did in 2016, Jennings said.

When word came down that Knack needed to be out at 1306 E. Pike St. by March 31, Jennings had already lined up a larger space in the old Agnes Underground coworking office space at Chophouse Row.

“We looked around. I really wanted to stay on the Hill,” Jennings said, adding the old Agnes Underground space was already set up well for Knack’s needs. “We did some stuff to it, but we didn’t have to do a lot.”

Knack’s new 4,000-square-foot digs provides enough space for an inline photo studio, where every customized package is documented for customers before shipping, a separate photo studio for shooting products available for gift packages, warehouse space for the site’s 1,400 gift products and desk space for Knack’s growing staff.

Knack is gearing up for Easter orders, as well as Administrative Professionals’ Day on April 26. Jennings said 25-30 percent of the company’s business is comprised of corporate orders. Thirty percent of customers repurchase within 40 days, she said, while 67 percent of corporate customers repurchase in that same timeframe.

“Another thing, we’ve never had anything returned,” Jennings said.

With a stack of Christmas orders back in December, she said she expected a lot of returns, but none ever came.

Ninety-five percent of gift packages shipped are customized, though 80 percent started out as gift package examples.

“We have a really strong local collection, and a lot of what we ship is local,” Jennings said.

Knack launched a website redesign prior to moving to Chophouse Row in March. Among its new features is the ability to shop Knack according to values important to the shopper. Jennings said customers have the option of singling out sustainable and locally sourced products, or items that come from female-owned businesses and businesses with fewer than 10 employees, for example.

Knack expects to get through this next holiday season, but Jennings said its likely she will need to find a dedicated warehouse location in 2018.

“It will be tight, when I think about the holidays,” she said.

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Maria Barrientos, who is developing the multifamily Passive House project with Cascade Built in the old Fran’s Chocolate building, tells the Capitol Hill Times that construction is anticipated to start at the end of April or May.