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The cardboard shop doesn’t take plastic

August 26th, 2010

Filed under: ART & DESIGN


Mark and one of his cute cardboard flock

Mark van den Heuvel is a self-professed entrepreneur. With qualifications in commerce/sport/communication and a background in selling mobile billboards, Mark could do just about anything. He is the owner of Eindhoven’s Kartonwinkel – literally, the Cardboard shop. It’s full to the brim with decorations, puzzles, photo frames and furniture, all made of that one everyday, garden-variety material.

Cardboard. Why cardboard?

The idea for the Kartonwinkel actually came about by accident a couple of years ago when Mark came across the “Flexible Love Sofa” which is a completely adjustable, cardboard, concertina design sofa. He then found some animal trophy heads online, and other toys made of cardboard, until he got a collection together to make a webshop – www.kartonwinkel.nl. Last year he decided to start making custom-made furniture out of beehive structured cardboard; desks, stools and bookshelves. In his atelier on Strijp T, he makes an average of one piece of furniture per week, but takes bulk orders too. Mark is not a designer. He is not an environmental activist either. “I am reasonably environmentally conscious, but that wasn’t a driver for me to open a cardboard shop.” What Mark repeats, however, is that he is a businessman.

Mark with some delighted customers

About a month ago I happened upon the Kartonwinkel where I found a present for my sister’s birthday. It was a cardboard moose head that can be assembled into a 3D sculpture to be then mounted on a wall. The moment I saw it, I loved it – and knew she’d love it. During my first time in the Kartonwinkel, I was struck by the ingenuity and range of products made of cardboard. I’m sure I wore the same childlike grin the whole time I was in there. Today I saw people with the same partly dazed, partly delighted look on their faces. They complimented Mark on how charmed they were by his shop. He said he doesn’t really notice his customers’ delight anymore; I’m wistful. Such appreciation everyday must be a nice thing to get used to.

These turtle best-sellers sell anything but slow

His best selling items are the little turtles that double as pen holders, or the iconic sheep which come in two sizes. The larger sheep stands permanently outside the store, beckoning passers-by to come in for an impromptu browse; the little one retails at €7.95. It has no function, but who cares? It’s cute!
I ask whether there is any other store like this in the Netherlands. “As far as I know, there’s no one else in the world with a cardboard shop like mine. I want to keep the concept small, though. I mean, I wouldn’t want another cardboard shop to open up across the road. But I do have some plans to perhaps open a Kartonwinkel in another Dutch city somewhere, as a franchise. That’s on the cards.”

Kartonwinkel

The Kartonwinkel is located at the start of the Admirant shopping strip – a fancy, new part of town. Mark pays a temporary rental fee for his shop which is lower than a commercial rate, until the owner finds a permanent tenant. The contract ends at the end of September this year, but he hopes to stay on a couple more months, with plans to relocate to another CBD shopfront and similar tenancy terms. This prime positioning at a reduced price is just part of Mark’s smart approach to business. “Business has been good, growing at a really steady rate. Yeah, actually I’m 50% up on where I was in January, so that’s pretty good.” We look at each other, mildly surprised and also impressed with this calculation. Yeah, that’s pretty good.
A lady comes in to buy a gift and asks if she can pay using her bank pass. Alas, no. He directs her to the closest automatic teller and she lays her purchase on the table. Ten minutes later, she comes back and with cold hard cash. Nope, the cardboard shop doesn’t take plastic, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong at all.

Kartonwinkel
Nieuwe Emmasingel 9
Eindhoven

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