Retailer of the Week
26 Jun. 2013
Monica Schweiger and Kelly Ferris, The Mercantile Shop, CaliforniaLocated in wine-rich Sonoma County in Healdsburg, California, The Mercantile Shop is housed inside a 1,000-sq.-foot (93-sq.-meter) Quonset hut. Childhood friends Monica Schweiger and Kelly Ferris opened it in spring 2012. US Contributor Rudy Gonzales recently spoke with Schweiger to delve into her switch from fashion editor to fashion retailer and to get her and her business partner’s take on modern Americana with a rustic twist. Interview by Rudy Gonzales
What inspired you to get into retail and open The Mercantile Shop?
I’ve wanted to own a shop for as long as I can remember. With my years and experience working at fashion magazines (Details, WWD, New York Magazine) my job was to let people know what’s new and cool and basically what they would want to buy for a season. At some point I thought: Hey, maybe I can use my knowledge and open up a shop of my own.
What are some of your current bestsellers brandwise and itemwise?
We do amazing with LNA and Paige for women. The LNA Horse Tee and Mosshart Tee are super-popular this summer. Men’s The West Is Dead Slim Chino always sells amazing as well Taylor Stitch shirts.
Have you been surprised by the sales performance of any particular item or brand?
We sell vintage sunglasses and cannot keep the on the shelf! They bring a fun, affordable, quick purchase to the shop (plus its almost always sunny in Healdsburg). We also brought in Sloan & Tate intimates in for Valentine’s Day–people are obsessed with the Silverlake Boxer brief; it’s crazy cute.
Who is your “typical” customer?
Our customer base really varies. We have everyone from the new Healdsburg hipster to the San Francisco weekender and of course wine tasters visiting from far and wide.
How does the store compare to other shops in the area? What sets your shop apart?
We are small specialty boutique of highly crated basics and finery focusing on local artisans and California brands. The Mercantile Shop’s aesthetic is new for Healdsburg; it is modern Americana with a quirky twist on rustic. We have brands that you can’t find anywhere else in Sonoma County. The streamlined product mix allows customers to find what they need easily. We definitely appeal to those who have recently discovered Healdsburg and offer a fresh shopping experience to locals and visitors alike.
What has been the biggest challenge of having the store thus far?
Starting on a shoestring and keeping inventory fresh and new during the off-season.
What has been your favorite memory of the store thus far?
Apart from signing the lease, the overwhelming welcome we have felt from the community has been incredible (warm and fuzzy like).
How do you find new brands and merchandise?
It’s always been my job to be on the cusp of what’s new and share it with the public. My eyes are always open; you never know where you will find inspiration or the next great designer and life has always led me to it. Well, that and trade shows.
Tell us about the store’s décor.
The building itself is unique and old Quonset hut that was once a grocery store in the 1950s. We play on an open and airy concept with low tables made of old doors that lead up to galvanized steel racks, flanked by reclaimed wood shelving. Vintage treasures pepper the space serving as display and adding the timeless Americana feel to a relatively new interior. Our loyal mannequins Jack and Poppy adorn our windows in the season’s latest must-haves with wit and humor (currently adorning hard hats and pool floaties as it’s summer and there is street construction underway).
What are two or three rules that every retailer always needs to follow?
We aren’t really ladies who like to follow rules but if we had to: 1) Listen to your customers while being true to yourself, 2) Keep a sharp eye on your inventory and budgets, 3) Step away every so often and look at what your created with fresh eyes.
The store's adress:
The Mercantile Shop
333 Center Street
+1 707 473 0617
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