WE'RE A WAYS OUT from being able to think seriously about springtime, but 2013 is already showing new leaves... in the form of retail developments! Megan Hart's Summerland has been an established online shop, selling new items from lines like Samantha Pleet and Eskell along with vintage clothing, apothecary (including Portland standbys like OLO) and small home goods. This week, she celebrates joining the world of brick and mortar at the ever-evolving 811 E Burnside building—a perfect complement to what's already a one-stop landmark of some of the city's most treasured and unique independent retail destinations. Summerland Grand Opening, 811 E Burnside, #222, Fri Feb 1, 5-9 pm
MERCURY: How did you get into retail?
MEGAN HART: I moved to Portland 10 years ago to attend the Art Institute and study apparel design. I originally intended to design my own collections after graduating but soon learned that I excelled at concept design and merchandising. I've always had the business drive, and launching a boutique felt like a natural progression to me. I have sold vintage online since the dawn of eBay and Etsy, and that is probably where I first got the taste for curating a shop. I graduated in 2007 and spent the next few years working at several shops around town, including Le Train Bleu. [Owner] Bria Phillips took me under her wing and it was there that I learned the operations of running an online business. A few years ago I decided I needed to go for it and open up a store of my own.
Why make the leap from online to a physical store?
The business has been run out of my home up until now, and I'm really ready for it to have its own space. Luckily doing things in reverse order (web followed by brick and mortar) has allowed me to establish an online presence that will sustain the brick and mortar. The space at the 811 is perfect for me. I love that it is tucked away upstairs and is a little hidden. That makes it feel so much more special, like a European alleyway shop filled with treasures.
What's your approach to deciding what to stock?
Everything I sell is something that I personally love, and staying true to my vision of the shop is the most important thing to me. When I started out, my main criteria were to source beautiful garments made from natural fabrics whenever possible, and to not sell anything over $500. That is my "scary" number. I always love to inject a dose of humor into the shop, too.
How will the in-store merchandise differ from what's online?
The brick and mortar is going to stock a lot more vintage, as well as pre-loved designer clothing. Portland is lacking consignment for harder to find, independent designers, and I'm hoping to add more of that.
Summerland goes the extra mile in creating great lookbooks. How do you develop those concepts?
I usually let the clothes I have in stock at the moment dictate the vibe of the shoot, and then source vintage to complement it. My photographer buddy Anja Verdugo and I work so well together we were coined "The Dream Team" by a friend, and we are always on the same wavelength. Lookbooks are such an important part of an online business; it's really the only way to properly convey the store's mood and aesthetic.
How are you treating the space itself? What's the mood of the decor?
The inspiration for the store is pretty much the same as everything in my life: bohemian Downton Abbey. I'm always attracted to velvets and Victorian furnishings mixed with Moroccan and Turkish accents. I wanted the store to look like a slightly psychedelic version of Lady Mary's dressing room.