The independent shops of Portland often tell a story of family. When you walk into a small business, you’re entering the dreams of the shop’s creators—dreams that enrich our neighborhoods and make our city radiant. One store that’s been on my radar for years is Blithe and Bonny on N Williams (formerly called Somethings), the flagship operation for an apothecary line of products manufactured in Happy Valley, and family owned by Glenda, Dave, Max, and Blake Baer. In this beautifully decorated store, there are troves of jewelry, colorful home goods, and fragrant body-care products. Knowing the shop’s origins only adds to Blithe and Bonny’s many charms.
Full disclosure: I grew up down the street from this family, and witnessed their hard work over the years. Their remarkable story of starting small and later stocking major retailers is one I frequently remember when watching smaller brands take the larger stage.
I chatted with Dave Baer to find out more about his family’s shop, production methods, and the company’s future.
MERCURY: What’s the origin of Blithe and Bonny?
DAVE BAER: Glenda [Baer] started Blithe and Bonny in 1996 as a small retail gift and home decor shop in Felton, California. The name comes from Shakespeare, meaning “happy and pretty,” which captures exactly what we want to accomplish. In the retail shop, Glenda sold many of her hand-crafted items, ranging from purses and totes to candles and soaps—all made from our home in Bonny Doon, California. Our niche was handcrafted, small batch, artisanal products, with recyclable/eco-friendly packaging and labeled with actual book pages. We still use dictionary pages to wrap our soap.
For the next 15 years we perfected our candles and soaps, and in 2010 exhibited at the San Francisco Gift Show. Later that year, a buyer from Anthropologie placed an initial order for 165 stores. In eight weeks, from our kitchen, we made over 24 pallets of product. Our friends, neighbors, and family helped by mixing lotion, pouring soap, labeling candles, and packing dish soap. That exposure took our business to a whole new level.
How did Somethings transition into Blithe and Bonny?
We decided to change the name in 2017 after relocating the Blithe and Bonny factory to the Portland area. Since we have our factory nearby, and our ingredients are sourced from local companies as often as possible, it felt like the right move to make this the flagship store for our products. And since we’re sold around the country in over 1,000 stores, the Blithe and Bonny name recognition is better for tourists coming to Portland.
Though the name changed, the shop is still very similar. We’re still selling products made by local artists and makers; we still have lots of home goods. Now there’s even a larger Blithe and Bonny selection, including special one-of-a-kind products and fragrances. Because the factory is nearby, we can quickly make special orders and we even do product refills for customers at a discount. We’re all about self-care and taking a little time to make yourself feel good and happy in this hectic world.
Tell us about your production methods and practices.
Our employees make everything by hand in our factory—no outsourcing. We also make everything to order, so there’s no need to push certain items when they’re about to expire. And because there’s no excess inventory, we can have lots of different options, whether it’s size, scent, or label design. We have more than 20 fragrances, seven different label graphics, and we can even do private labels, which is super great for bigger retailers, as well as customers who want to have personalized labels for their wedding or baby shower. Plus we only use the best, locally sourced, premium ingredients.
Are your products cruelty free and vegan?
All our products are vegan except for the candles, which have beeswax. And all our products and suppliers are cruelty-free. No animal testing!