The St. Augustine Issue

High Yield Bond

Julien Roubinet

Rachel Gant and Andrew Deming pursued their creative passions from San Francisco to St. Augustine, where they’ve designed a life and a business together.

Kelsey Heinze

It’s the holiday season and the Yield crew is working overtime. The warehouse is bustling. The team fastidiously fulfills an influx of holiday orders: leather table runners, planters, ceramic French presses, handcrafted jewelry. November air creeps through the warehouse bay doors; bodies hustle, bundled in cold-weather gear.

Four years in, and Yield is taking off. The company’s seen press in The New York Times, Observer, and FastCo, as well as nearly every reputable design publication, including Wallpaper and Dwell. Andrew Deming and Rachel Gant, the husband-wife team who co-founded Yield, have remained calm through the hype. They sit, relaxed, in their well-appointed modern office. We chat.

“I don’t know what it’s like to be in a typical business relationship,” Deming said, laughing. Deming handles the branding and marketing of Yield, while Gant is the lead product designer. Collaborative by nature, the couple says it’s a functional work relationship that happily trickles into their entire lives. “As much as we try to cut it off and have boundaries, we are always sort of mulling over things,” Deming said.

“If we’re really excited about something we’re not going to not talk about it,” Gant added.

Yield’s products show the pairs’ collective eye for modern, functional design. And it’s an accomplished collection, earning the couple numerous awards and recognitions, including an Overall Excellence award for accent on design from NYNOW and placement on the Sight Unseen American Design hotlist in 2016, as well as a German Design Award nomination in 2017. Even with the high-profile accolades, the two still remember their humble beginnings.

Kelsey Heinze
Kelsey Heinze

“I didn’t really start diving into design until I got into the Graphic Design program at Flagler,” Deming said of his undergraduate education in St. Augustine. “It took awhile for me to get tapped into what really hooked me. I think in a small town, or in Florida to an extent, you learn design as a profession, but don’t really tap into design culture or what it means to do work that’s really interesting. People work for golf companies or Disney. I wanted to work in branding and design, but I also knew that my interests were a bit broader.”

Gant grew up focused on other passions. “I was really into math and science as a kid. I ended up going to school for architecture because I thought it was a creative field that still incorporated math and other things. But after three years studying architecture, I decided the career was too traditional, in the way you have to work up the ladder. You wouldn’t have as much hands on experience seeing a project through to the end. So I switched to industrial design. I could envision the scale a lot more. I could see myself making my own furniture or even working in a consultancy where you actually see your projects come to life after six to twelve months.”

After completing his degree in graphic design, Deming immediately jumped into the somewhat experimental MBA program in Design Strategy at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco.

“It was this weird hybrid program where business and design come together,” Deming said. “I was super green, 22, and in class with VPs from big companies. I thought maybe it would help me skip a few rungs in the ladder. I didn’t envision starting my own thing at that time. But I made some incredible friends and connections.”

One of those connections was Gant, who was at CCA studying industrial design. They met in 2011 and graduated from their respective programs in 2012. Deming took a job at an industrial design branding firm, then moved to a tech startup. Gant took freelance design jobs while she looked for the right fit at a consultancy.

It wasn’t long before Deming quit the tech startup, and the couple went all-in, aiming to bring a few of Gant’s school ideas from concept to market. They started Yield from their shoebox apartment in Hayes Valley. They landed some small triumphs with a trio of disparate products, designed and marketed with inspiration from day-to-day life in The City. There was a tote bag that doubled as a blanket, designed with the Dolores Park picnic crowd in mind. A collection of solid brass geometric paper weights that doubled as picture holders inspired by the printed photo nostalgia of the city’s analog-inclined Millennial class. And a ceramic French Press, which offered SF’s burgeoning third-wave devotees an elegant centerpiece.

Kelsey Heinze

“A lot of what we’ve been able to do wouldn’t have been feasible without the move. Florida’s given us space and the ability to focus and experiment.”

Kelsey Heinze

“The French press, to this day, is the thing,” Deming said. “It’s what people associate with us the most.” Gant designed the product in 2013. It’s still a best-seller.

Despite these initial successes, Deming and Gant found Yield at a bit of an impasse. The tech-boom was pushing rent prices in San Francisco to absurd levels, and the couple felt handcuffed by a rent-controlled apartment and a lack of financially viable space from which to grow their business.

“We loved San Francisco,” Deming said. “So much of our identity was wrapped up in that city, it was scary to think about what Yield would be like in a totally different environment. But it was time to go.”

It came down to LA or St. Augustine — and Gant hadn’t heard of St. Augustine until she met Deming. “The whole idea of moving to St. Augustine was interesting,” Gant said. “The setting was nostalgic. I thought the community seemed cool. Being near the beach seemed cool. And if we didn’t like it we could always move somewhere else.”

They relocated to St. Augustine in late 2014.

Kelsey Heinze

“The first year we were here, we did a trade show in New York and people were so mean about the move,” Gant said. “They were like, ‘Florida, really? Are you pregnant?’ A year or two later we had forgotten about that. We’ve done well here and nobody questions it any more. That’s been interesting to watch.”

Four years since the move, Gant and Deming have now dug in, integrated into the growing community of young creatives. They have tapped into artistic resources in Northeast Florida — artisans, furniture makers — and they’ve now hired a full-time staff.

They’ve also focused Yield’s product offerings and solidifying the brand’s aesthetic. “It took a little time to get Yield to the point where our collection was stuff that we loved personally and wanted to see in the world,” Deming said.

“I think the company would have taken a different turn had we moved somewhere else. A lot of what we’ve been able to do wouldn’t have been feasible without the move,” Deming said. “Florida’s given us space and the ability to focus and experiment,” Gant added.

With a newly renovated house, an office, warehouse and now a storefront — Obscura, in the heart of the city’s historic district — Deming and Gant have settled in nicely.

“We were kind of fine flying under the radar when we first moved here — selling things online and to retailers outside of the city,” Gant said. “I think now we are in a place where we want to bring new things here and help jumpstart a design scene that mirrors the energy and innovation of the food and drink scene we’ve come to admire.”

“Obscura was a move that we made to have a little more local connection,” Deming said. They opened the storefront in March 2017. “It’s only in the last few months that I’ve felt like people have felt excited that we’re here. That’s been a few years in
the making.”

This article was originally published in our St. Augustine issue and was made possible with the support of  Vans, Design Within Reach, and Flexfit.

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Matt Shaw

Matt Shaw is a North Florida-based writer and journalist. He’s the former editor of the award winning alternative newsweekly Folio Weekly and currently serves as a features writer for SURFER Magazine and the Editor-in-Chief of a Northeast Florida culture/lifestyle glossy Void Magazine. He’s contributed to The Surfer’s Journal and reported on national stories for The New York Times. Aside from his work as a writer, Shaw plays in the psychedelic, garage rock trio, The Mother Gooses. He lives in Atlantic Beach, FL with his daughter Dylan and wife Samantha–a Public Defender with the 4th Judicial Circuit.

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