LAST FRIDAY, July 19, Portland retail passed another landmark. It was the day that New York-based designer and retailer Steven Alan opened the doors of its first Portland location—until now its West Coast presence has been limited to the major cities of California.
Located in a sidewalk-facing suite of the partially completed Union Way food/retail project across from the Ace Hotel, the shop is the first business to open its doors in the building, and its in-house line of quality American basics—nearly all of which are produced domestically—are perfectly at home among the West End area's rich assortment of independent shops and their customers.
The Steven Alan brand itself has long been available here, found at neighboring stores like Frances May, as well as many of the other brands Steven Alan carries, from Acne to Filson. It will be interesting to see how those stores react (here's hoping for the introduction of even more brands Portland can boast access to), but regardless: Steven Alan's presence adds legitimacy to Portland's retail scene in the eyes of visitors, and ideally it will only make the area even more economically fruitful. Steven Alan, 1029 SW Stark, stevenalan.com
MERCURY: How did the decision to move into the Portland market come about?
STEVEN ALAN: Portland is a place that not just myself but several people here at the company have always expressed an interest in as a potential place to live. The creative scene is among the greatest anywhere—both in music and in art, and we were excited when presented with the opportunity to become a part of that.
How did you connect with the Union Way project?
We were approached by them, and I really liked the idea of being part of an eclectic mix of retailers like Boxer Ramen, Danner boots, and several others.
Other shops in the immediate area have some brand crossover with your store. Is that a concern?
The majority of what we sell are things that we make, and [we] have lots of other great brands that we sell alongside ours. We don't dictate distribution for other brands, and find that the designer usually does what is best for their brand. Every buyer also buys differently.
What other things did you consider when deciding how to merchandise this location?
Rain, for one. We make some fantastic rain slickers and also sell several good ones from other brands—it's exciting to have a robust selection. Some home products like our collaboration wool blankets with Faribault Mill are also something that I think will be great for Portland.
I'm told you are a fan of in-store events—what kinds of things do you foresee?
We're starting with a couple of trunk shows coming up. We recently had an in-store pottery event that was so much fun, and I got to interview five potters. Always looking for new events to try.
Will having a location in Portland mean you will be spending more time here?
I certainly hope so. The creative energy is pretty awesome! I'm also a foodie and have eaten at some amazing spots there.