Home Sweet Warehouse – The New York Times


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Vinicius Vieira de Vieira, 33, and Carolina Monteiro Vieira, 20, run their business, Incausa, out of their bedroom in Brooklyn.

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Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

New Yorkers who run home businesses seldom have the luxury of a spare room, let alone a garage, but all Vinicius Vieira de Vieira has is a 225-square-foot bedroom.

He shares the room, which is in the basement of a condo in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with his wife, Carolina Monteiro Vieira, along with some 2,000 units of inventory — boxes of incense from their native Brazil, blocks of soap made from essential oils, Tibetan singing bowls, stoneware smudge bowls and stacks of Peace Pilgrim pamphlets, about a woman who walked more than 25,000 miles for peace, which go out with every order the couple ship to nearly 350 stores across North America.

In 2012, when Mr. Vieira de Vieira started the business, Incausa, he didn’t even have a bedroom to himself. His first shipment arrived at a three-bedroom apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that he shared with five, sometimes six, roommates, sleeping two to a room in bunk beds with a Japanese loft bed in the hall. He sold his wares from a sidewalk table on Bedford Avenue and North Sixth Street in Williamsburg.

Since then, the business has grown considerably and Mr. Vieira de Vieira now employs two full-time and two or three part-time workers during the holiday rush.

On a recent morning, Mr. Vieira de Vieira, 33, and Ms. Monteiro Vieira, 20, had just prepared their room for the team’s arrival, a ritual that consists of folding up the sofa bed where they sleep and stashing the pillows and bedding in the utility closet/boiler room. The couple rent the room from a friend of Mr. Vieira de Vieira who lives upstairs. They have their own bathroom, and share the upstairs kitchen and living room with the friend. The rent is $1,200 a month.

Ages: He, 33; she, 20. Occupations: Founders of Incausa, which they call “an indigenous social business experiment.” The company, which sells incense and crafts, is working with people in Brazil, Peru, Tibet and the American Southwest. Rent: $1,200 a month plus utilities (approximately $200 more). What their roommate thinks about the arrangement: “He loves it!” said Mr. Vieira de Vieira. “He’s like the complete opposite of me: Austrian, works in the music industry. We’re like brothers: We fight, have our differences, but are such great support. Him allowing us to be here made all the difference.” About their stuff: Mr. Vieira de Vieira prides himself on keeping only two pairs of pants, though he worries that he may be putting too much pressure on them. Ms. Monteiro, the clotheshorse of the couple, admits to having five or maybe even six pairs of pants. They each have three pairs of shoes. Their winter attire is stored in a single suitcase. Expansion plans: Incausa has a base in Dublin, and Mr. Vieira de Vieira’s sister is running another in Australia. Of course, he said, these aren’t huge operations; “they’re like this — in someone’s bedroom.”

“We just wake up, stretch, shower and start working,” Mr. Vieira de Vieira said. “This whole year I’ve hardly gone outside during daylight hours!”

This was not, he admitted, in keeping with the life balance goals that he and Ms. Monteiro Vieira have posted on a chart — the better for daily monitoring — above their bed: reading, reflection, harmony, rest, stretch, exercise, eight glasses of water.

Their L-shaped basement space includes the utility closet, a clothes closet and the narrow stone courtyard outside, which filters wan light into the room. It is bathed in soft lamplight throughout the day and suffused by the smell of incense and soap, a gentle woodsy odor. The stock, much of which is Brazilian, includes dozens of baskets and mats woven by the Xavante people, Yawalapiti hammocks, a pair of 5-foot-tall Mehinako masks, two elk-skin drums and a bow and a clutch of hand-hewn wooden arrows.

The room has been given over almost entirely to business, leaving space for only a smattering of personal items perched on the window ledge — a carved jaguar with a broken paw and copies of “The Portable Voltaire,” “The Pocket Dalai Lama” and “The Little History of Philosophy.”

“We are trying to transform it into a Zen space,” Mr. Vieira de Vieira said. “We’re very minimal.”

What is very minimal? “V. and I talk about finding purpose for things,” said Ms. Monteiro Vieira, abbreviating Vinicius. “One toothbrush each, one bowl, one outfit for going out, one for work.”

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Their wares include items made by the Xavante people of Brazil.

Credit
Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Mr. Vieira de Vieira created the company as a platform for indigenous social entrepreneurship, with the hope that tribal groups in Brazil and elsewhere will eventually be able to sell their goods directly at retail price. By selling incense like Breu Resin, which is used in ceremonies, he saw a means of creating and cultivating a much larger marketplace for indigenous crafts and providing sustainable income for the groups.

The couple met in Brazil in the ocean at Itamambuca Beach, where Mr. Vieira de Vieira was attending a mushroom ceremony — a spiritual rite that involved the ingestion of mushrooms — with friends and family and “went into the water singing,” he said.

They stayed on the beach talking until 4 a.m. When Mr. Vieira de Vieira went back to New York three months later, she thought the romance might fizzle. “Then he called me right away and we were on FaceTime like seven hours everyday — we just left it open, as we were doing other things.” She joined him in New York two years ago. They were married last month, finding time to head down to the City Clerk’s Office in the middle of filling holiday orders.

While the couple have happily adapted to the physical constraints of sharing their bedroom with a business, it has been stressful in other ways.

“I’ve been working almost 24 hours a day,” Mr. Vieira de Vieira said. “You’re surrounded by this energy. You’re lying here and you’re being bombarded with thoughts about work, work, work. When I go to sleep I see the counter and the calendar and I start thinking of inventory.”

Conveniently, he will soon reclaim the two-bedroom he once shared with a roommate in Williamsburg. It was such a good deal that Mr. Vieira de Vieira stayed on the lease for more than five years after moving out. “I found a gem! $1,200 a month,” he said.

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