Case Study: Fishs Eddy

Case Study: Fishs Eddy sets the table for growing business with Office products

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Fishs Eddy began selling vintage tableware with little more than a cash box and a notepad, but as the business grew, it needed technology that could keep pace with its success. After its IT environment crashed during Hurricane Sandy, Fishs Eddy migrated its email to Microsoft Exchange Online and adopted Microsoft Office tools such as Word, Outlook, and Excel, in addition to OneDrive and Skype. Now the Fishs Eddy team can communicate effectively, collaborate remotely, and take the business to the next level.

Where it all started

Doing dishes has been a real labor of love for Fishs Eddy founder and creative visionary Julie Gaines. Launched in 1986 in a tiny storefront on East 17th Street in Manhattan, Fishs Eddy found its niche selling classic, restaurant-quality tableware discovered in the cellars of old China factories, fading hotels, and long-forgotten resorts all along the eastern seaboard.
The dishes are perfectly preserved pieces of Americana, each a history of a town, a graduating class, a special summer. But it’s the remarkable quality of that “made in America” era that’s truly significant. According to Partner Noah Lenovitz, people still come back and say, “I bought that plate 30 years ago, and I still have it.”
According to store history, Fishs Eddy started out with nothing more than a cash box and a notepad. And while this may have been sufficient for a small retail store at the time, it was hardly a platform solid enough to support what would become a multigenerational family business.
The Fishs Eddy team has seen, lived, and worked through a fast-moving technological evolution. Lenovitz points out, “As our business continued to grow and evolve, it was absolutely critical that our software follow along with us.” Social Media Director and Designer Katherine Yaksich adds, “Microsoft products help us really lay out the foundation for the whole thing.”

Onward and upward

For many small companies, the decision to move to a single platform, bring disparate systems together, enhance abilities to work collaboratively, and be productive anywhere with internet access, at anytime, comes after a long period of false starts and ups and downs.
For Fishs Eddy, the decision to change the platform for its quintessential New York store came on the heels of a devastating natural disaster—Hurricane Sandy. Lenovitz, who stayed on duty during the storm, says, “We noticed that our technology was all over the place. People had a lot of data on their local computers, some on our server. We didn’t have anything centralized. During Hurricane Sandy, we lost power and our server crashed, and we saw that we really needed to move our data and programs to the cloud—specifically, our email. So we moved our mail to Microsoft Exchange and adopted Office, which helped improve data security and enabled us to work remotely.”

Seamless growth

There’s always room for improvement, and Fishs Eddy is ever alert for those opportunities. Recently, Gaines hired an assistant and immediately got her up to speed with Microsoft Outlook. As Gaines now reluctantly admits, “Before Outlook, my system was index cards.” Now, Gaines no longer double and triple books her appointments. For all the coworkers, vendors, and artists who work with Gaines on a daily basis, it’s a small but wonderful miracle. And it’s been an easy miracle, too. Gaines says, “I find the Microsoft Office programs very intuitive. I picked them up quickly, and everything makes sense.”
Gaines continues, “We use technology and email to pull all the pieces together. There’s a lot of communication that has to happen.” Yaksich adds, “We always need to share documents back and forth via email, so having reliable tools is essential.”
Anytime, anywhere access becomes even more important when the Fishs Eddy team is working on the go. Gaines says, “I’m rarely just sitting at my desk. I’m in the basement, or getting coffee, talking to investors, so I really live on Office.” Lenovitz adds, “We do have our main location here, but our warehouse is in New Jersey. We’re making customer site visits and working on weekends. As a business owner, you have to have your data accessible.”

Security is key

Fishs Eddy is using OneDrive to collaborate in a highly secure environment—a must for the retailer. From artists posting layouts for Gaines to approve to team members sharing next week’s hours or next quarter’s vacation schedules, employees can use OneDrive to take teamwork to another level.
Additionally, with OneDrive, employees can work on multiple devices, because all work is synced and updated in real time. For Lenovitz, it means he can work on designing, sharing, and accepting real-time feedback on a new catalog and be certain that the latest product list really has the most up-to-date products. Gaines says that keeping things moving smoothly with OneDrive is critical to production: “I’m not even in the office. And next thing you know, we’ve designed a collection.”

All together now

With a strong foundation, the team at Fishs Eddy found that work ran more smoothly. Lenovitz explains, “The backbone of our business is the Windows platform. All our warehouses, logistics, and fulfillment, all our workstations use Windows. The great thing about Office programs, whether it’s Word or Outlook or Excel, is their compatibility with all of our our point-of-sale and accounting systems.”
The Fishs Eddy team also uses Office to keep in touch with its wholesale customer base, which has grown from just a handful of customers to a list of more than 1,000 businesses, including several on the west coast. Lenovitz says, “It’s a little difficult to travel there for face-to-face meetings. Skype has really been important, because it makes the meeting more productive. And to see the person’s face and communicate is great for us.”

A bright future

Business moves quickly, and the Fishs Eddy team continues to work hard to keep up. Gaines notes, “As a small business, we’re always a little bit more in survival mode, so we can’t really afford hiccups. We put a lot of very, very deep concentrated thought into everything we do.” Lenovitz says that Office helps the whole team work together to make faster decisions. “I’m a firm believer that you learn from your mistakes but also your successes,” he says. “And sometimes, a decision is easy: nobody ever gets sick of polka dots.”
Going forward, the Fishs Eddy team is confident that using Office tools will help the retailer provide the flexibility and strength to continue to grow as a New York and global staple. “Using Microsoft products helps us collaborate more effectively, which makes our business more successful,” says Lenovitz. Yaksich is also looking forward: “I think Fishs Eddy has a bright future,” she says. “There’s going to be a lot of growth in the next few years, and hopefully new stores.”

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