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Entries in Shopkeeper (69)

Tuesday
Dec042012

Schwab's Pharmacy

“After that, I drove down to headquarters. That’s the way a lot of us think about Schwab’s. Kind of a combination office, coffee klatch and waiting room. Waiting, waiting for the gravy train.”
-William Holden as screenwriter Joe Gillis, upon facing rejection in the major motion picture Sunset Boulevard

When most of us envision a pharmacy, we recall aisles upon aisles of magic weight loss pills and periodicals, a blood pressure machine, cheap plastic toys and lines queued with the elderly. In the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s, one particular drug store was the center of Hollywood. Simply, it was headquarters.

Schwab’s Pharmacy was its own monster. Tinsel town legend dictates that gorgeous sweater queen Lana Turner was discovered here. This tale is one in a million. 8024 Sunset Boulevard was a who’s who of industry players, a venue to fill prescriptions, grab an ice cream cone, feast on a light dinner, and solidify blockbuster deals that would lead to cinema gold. On any given night, a trip to pick up aspirin for that nagging headache would yield a glimpse at the likes of Judy Garland, Ronald Reagan, and the Marx Brothers talking shop. Charlie Chaplin was a notorious pinball machine hustler, while future leading lady Ava Gardner poured sodas behind the counter for the entertainment elite. The titanic film “The Wizard of Oz” might have gone down in the annals of motion picture history as an also ran if not for the enigmatic anthem “Somewhere over the Rainbow”-quickly composed on the famous countertops of Schwab’s Pharmacy. F.Scott Fitzgerald suffered a heart attack (fortunately amidst a plethora of meds) inside the pharmacy’s hallowed walls, and Marilyn Monroe fed a grandiose appetite for pills though the pharmacist/chefs of Schwab’s.

The behind the scenes brass, arguably more important than their fresh faced and replaceable talents for hire, brokered some of cinema’s greatest collaborations over Coca Cola floats and cheeseburgers. The magical building was the last of its kind, a convergence of wanna be’s, has been’s, and current stars. It was a place where a misplaced drama club performer from a small town in Iowa could light Mickey Rooney’s Lucky Strike, where James Dean might seek the opinion of a stock boy strategically placing industry rags near the checkout lane.

8024 Sunset has been demolished and rebuilt several times, reborn as a multiplex and a shopping center to name a few. Nothing has lived up to the iconoclast known as Schwab’s Pharmacy, but it is not their fault, as nothing possibly could. Hollywood collectors treasure many things; Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, Rocky Balboa’s American flag inspired trunks, Luke Skywalker’s light saber- magnificent, all, yet none can touch the almost biblical rolodex that once was within the grasp of a teenaged soda jerk at Schwab’s.

Monday
Dec032012

Rufus Shirts

April Singer Straten launched Rufus Shirts in Spring 2004, and began with the development of a classic dress shirt. By taking the traditional elements of Savile Row and stitching them together with contemporary American style, they created a unique look for the "updated traditionalist".

You launched in 2004. What fueled your decision? 

I started Rufus when I returned to NYC after living in London for five years. After visiting many men’s stores I realized that there lacked a happy medium in men’s contemporary shirting. It was either the classically boxy shapes of decades past or the very slim European cut which overlooked the more casual approach of American style. Prompted by the encouragement of my boyfriend at the time (now husband) I set out to create a brand that spoke directly to this underserved category.

What's the origin of the name Rufus? 

When I was living in London I met Brett Theodore Rufus Straten who would eventually become my husband.  Rufus means red in Latin and Brett was actually called Rufus when he was a child because of his red hair.  I admired his sense of style that reflected an eclectic mixing of current and classic pieces.

Tell us about the brand's value proposition.  

Rufus shirts are classic yet eclectic. Manufactured in the United States of exceptional quality European fabric, Rufus was born from the desire to have a quality fashionable shirt that will travel beyond this year’s trend.

Where are the shirts currently produced? 

The shirts are produced in Fall River, Mass.

Who's your target customer?  

We found our target customer to be men 30 – 50yrs old. Our guy is optimistic, self-possessed and embracing of color. The details are for the personal consumption of the man who wears a Rufus shirt.

Our shirts will never shout across a room, but at a conversational distance, a Rufus shirt will confidently exhibit all the assurance and style of the man wearing it.

Walk us through your distinctive design details, and of course those signature red cufflinks. 

The color red is used subtly through detailing. Red stitching on the shirt cuff buttonholes and signature red cufflinks come with all French cuff shirts. All shirts have contrast fabric on the inside of the cuff.

Our fit is classic American with generous shoulders and a fitted body. Darts down the back take out the excess fabric on the main line and the sides are shaped with out the darting on the casual line. We use a traditional cut away collar with a high neck stand and thick collar stays so it can be worn open and casual but also looks great with a tie.

Last but not least our stacked shatter resistant buttons add an element of fashion and distinction.

Assuming we had the power to confidentially grant you a do-over regarding the Rufus launch, what would it be? 

Honestly I don’t know. The stars all seemed to be aligned at the launch and the business has flowed since day one.

Are there any product line extensions on the horizon? 

We are beginning development of a jacket line to launch with Fall 2011. Expect clean lines and impactful Rufus details.

How do you envision Rufus brand evolving in the coming years? 

As we've become known as a preeminent shirting resource, a natural evolution for us would be to introduce new shirt fits and models. In addition to the shirts our plan is to design other categories to create a total Rufus line for our customer.

Having lived abroad and worked in the international markets for several years prior to launching Rufus, I look forward to launching the line internationally.

You can learn more about Rufus at http://www.rufus.com/.

Monday
Nov262012

Cyber Monday

On the heels of serpentine lines corralling frenzied mobs outside of gratuitous box stores on Black Friday, and dutiful strolling of central business districts full of mom and pop operations of Small Business Saturday, the work week returns with surreptitious purchases between office tasks on Cyber Monday. Smart phones have boosted office time shopping, with browsing and purchasing circumventing traditional computer IT channels. No longer can an employee’s cyber use on company time be necessarily observed in a comprehensive Big Brother way. Well, at least for now.

This year’s Cyber Monday revenue is expected to easily top $1.2 billion in sales, with an average increase of 13.2% per year over the last five years. Those numbers aren’t to be scoffed at – they represent a real earning potential for online positioned businesses that could significantly push a year end bottom line.

Criticisms of online shopping point to a lack of interaction had by traditional sales – from sales people to the product in question – the online premise is inherently alienated from those familiar means of purchase. Customers sometimes sheepishly visit brick and mortar retail stores, and inspect a product physically before making an online purchase. The really brash make an online purchase right then and there. Commission based salesmen beware. With deals and incentives devoid of overhead costs had by traditional retail, Cyber Monday isn’t a fad, or a blip, and continues to reinvent the Christmas shopping experience.

Monday
Nov122012

Pipeline Brickell, Miami 

This shared office space is on the cutting edge of workspace solutions. The concept is simple: various levels of rental, from private suites, to dedicated desks, to virtual offices, all offering 24 hour access to the amenities of a well heeled corporate office at a fraction of the cost, and, perhaps most profoundly, fostering a community of young entrepreneurs and like minded up and comers of the “creative class”.

That communal essence of Pipeline Brickell is the main selling point. Why shed hundreds, or even thousands for office space rental, sequestered perhaps into some obscure corner of town, when a new business can be incubated in a vibrant, youthful environment. That same premise was the main thrust of New York’s famed Brill Building, where recording studios and artists mingled and cross pollinated, producing some of the musical masterpieces of the 20th century. Born out of financial necessity, the cohabitation and commingling of these various interests proved to be a benefit beyond a mere sum of their constituent parts.

Miami’s Pipeline Brickell represents a resurgent trend in American creativity, with various other shared office spaces popping up across the nation, and the collaborative, even collective nature of entrepreneurialism becoming a driving force in the new economy. There’s something appealing about being around driven, interesting minds, and burgeoning businesses organically evolving amid conversation, and the sharing of skills and ideas.

Friday
Nov092012

Silver Towne  

This American foundry and numismatic clearing house of rare and precious coins from around the world has been at it since the 1940’s. The initial stock was quietly culled from coins collected in an under counter cigar box, as Leon Hendrickson, part owner of a Winchester, Indiana restaurant, would change out interesting and appealing coins – drawn to the collectible nature of the currency. The hobby parlayed itself into a sizeable showroom and distributorship of coinage, and one of the largest domestic foundries amid a silver boom. Bars and rounds of silver are poured from molten globs in the hollow of glowing crucibles into familiar denominations of one, five, and ten ounces. The maker’s mark of Silver Towne has become almost iconic of the precious metal movement – a miner’s pick, pinging forth with action lines.

Silver Towne also offers assaying and grading services for metals and coins, seeing how the investment and collecting mindsets of both are intertwined. There’s a certain satisfying, self reliant feeling that comes of hefting a five ounce bar in the hand, and balling the fist. Something, perhaps, the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson might articulate. An intrinsic value, demonstrated in raw metal – a .999 purity – devoid of any alienation present in paper, credit, and other promissory currencies.

The Winchester, Indiana showroom is open 9-5, Monday through Friday, and 9-4, Saturday.

Monday
Oct082012

Miguel’s Pizza & Rock Climbing Shop

Image Robannz

A trip to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge and Daniel Boone National Forest isn’t really complete without a stop at Miguel’s. This pizza shop has been feeding climbers, hikers, locals, spelunkers, and visitors since 1984, and probably has the distinction of the only pizza parlor and rock climbing shop on the planet. The gravel parking lot is usually filled. Volvos and SUVs and ramshackle Civics (and at least one token VW Bus at any given time) with plates as far flung as Montana, Vermont, and Ontario. Several from Colorado and New York. Most splaying bumper stickers – markers, really – of past outdoor conquests and treks, or allegiances to jam bands. A dancing bear. Some Phish icon. The packed lot speaks to the quality of the place.

The pizza itself is a well-made and unique semi thin crusted pie, and bears a vague resemblance to pizza indigenous to the East Coast, and harkens to eponymous owner Miguel Ventura’s former residence of Connecticut. A heady hint of oregano tops off the pizzas, with a grand permutation of possible additions including chorizo, corn, pasta spirals, rice, beans, tofu, and zucchini; orders are made at a counter flanked by 200 foot coils of specialty climbing rope, carabiners, headlamps, and displays of high end rubber toed climbing shoes. Tables inside are surrounding by repurposed bench seats from school buses worn and frayed from years of use, and patched loosely with red duct tape. The overall ambiance of the place exudes a well worn, comfortable, and inviting feel, and is well in line with the rugged yet inviting ambiance of the Red River Gorge.

Image B.Smaurer

Outside, around back, Miguel’s offers a table area for eating, and a wall of Ale-8 deposit bottles braces against the outer wall of the basement, and clutches of friends huddle over a steaming pizza and soft drinks. A half court basketball setup to the side seems to have a constant game of pick-up, and occasionally hosts tournaments comprised of teams of rock climbers. The 24 hour accessible basement is a tiny cove of a room evocative of a mid nineties coffee shop. Replete with worn paperbacks of Dragon Lance and Anne Rice novels on a shelf, the ubiquitous chess sets in various disrepair, in colder weather the basement provides extra dining space, and also presents a kind of living room for campers.

Image Paradem

Behind Miguel’s one can’t help but notice acres of tents. Some of them appear well established with wooden platforms, blue tarpaulins heavy with leaf sediment, and guy wires anchoring to stakes and trees. Campers can camp for $3 a night, and do – attracting climbers from around the nation and globe, offering a sense of community while they participate in events on and around the numerous crags and rock faces at the Red River Gorge. Amenities include shower facilities, laundry, wifi and computer access, and even cooking facilities. There are also a few bedrooms for rent for around $40 a night. It’s like a modern, rock climbing oriented equivalent of a medieval tavern or inn, offering a sort of one stop shop for travelers and climbers. Miguel’s is an experience, and is almost emblematic of the Red River Gorge.

Wednesday
Oct032012

Restoration Hardware 

In 1979, Stephen Gordon was in the process of restoring his Queen Anne styled house when he discovered that finding authentic, timeless period hardware was about as difficult as building a time machine to zip back to the era when such craftsmanship was dominant. Disappointment turned into opportunity, and within a year Gordon’s home became the site of the first Restoration Hardware.

These days the company has no real estate dilemmas. Typically the anchor store in upscale commerce centers, Restoration Hardware is a purveyor of modern throwbacks, a provider of the accoutrements to an existence that is driven by a refined and classic style. The products inside of a store, from door knobs and hinges to furniture and lighting (and much more), share the rustic aesthetic of 20th century New York. It is a curated tour through the annals of design, a historical journey that breeds inspiration into the capability of our homes. And as classic as the décor they offer, Restoration Hardware focuses on the American tradition of pride and durability in their wares. It is an old but true adage, and simplicity fosters brilliance.

Restoration Hardware operates 87 domestic retail stores while somehow retaining the essence of a neighborhood niche boutique. And in doing so, they help bring our homes to achievement. Unlike cookie-cutter factory styled competitors, a Restoration Hardware home is unique to the owner, the DNA imprint nudged by history’s interior design victors. No fleeting trends or passing fads smuggle their way into a store and as a result, our homes endure as the genuine article.

Remember the days of shag carpeting and aluminum siding? This is life throwing us a commerce mulligan. Restoring the home, restoring the soul. These are the nuts and bolts of what they do at Restoration Hardware.

Friday
Sep142012

Standard Goods 

Garrett Colton might be a good candidate for the television series “Hoarders”, and that’s alright with us.

After a two-year gig alongside Scott Sternberg at L.A. menswear label Band of Outsiders, Colton’s harboring tendencies, combined with a creative influx that filled his worldview with everything from clothing and books to coffee beans and locally crafted jams, led to a passion project; a modern take on the timeless general store.

Standard Goods opened last fall in a small storefront on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. A throwback to the small town department store, Standard Goods offers a variety of must-haves. A meticulously scrutinized clothing line, vintage LL Bean and products from MAKR among them. West Sweet Preserves find their way to the shelves, as do Tourne ceramic vessels, skateboard decks, leather goods and anything else that might be found through local artists, obscure international brands or the unabashed treasured cove that is the garage sale. It is a lesson in the rustic, a dive into the eccentric. From behind the counter, a painting of the debonair (and just a touch unnerving) Davenport Brothers watches over the operation, a 1960’s relic that serves as homage to the diverse vibe that filters the room.

Standard Goods has unleashed a “Guest Buyer” series, employing artistic souls (RTH’s René Holguin, Saving the Season’s Kevin West to name a few) to purchase items for the shop. Guest buyers educate clients on their purchases in a video produced for Standard Goods’ web site. It is, in affect, more experience than commerce; unlike its name, nothing standard occurs here.

At Standard Goods, expect an artist’s den and a new outlook on what we call “things”. But don’t expect to buy the Davenport Brothers painting-something so effortlessly cool cannot have a price tag put on it.

Thursday
Sep062012

Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop 

Chagrin Falls. It is a tiny village in northern Ohio, a picturesque community that Norman Rockwell might have dreamed of, a quaint beauty surrounded by majestic arbors and a proud waterfall. It is a hidden gem, a secret that must be shared but not by too many, as a treasure becomes tainted when divided too liberally. It is a vintage piece of traditional Americana, sans the pretense of trying. And The Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop, perhaps even more iconic than its namesake, is the heart of it all.

Nestled against the banks of the pristine falls, The Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop began as a complementary piece to The Pride of the Falls, a flourmill anchored by a water wheel-driven gristmill. The current incarnation began in the 1940’s, as the retail end of the flower mill began serving local ice cream, coffees, candy, gifts, and of course, popcorn. The shop, rightfully adorned with a red, white and blue awning, has since become a generational hotspot, a place where families create memories on the wooden steps of the falls, a confection in hand and warmth in the heart. A grandmother might hold the same cone she enjoyed as a child, in the same spot she stood back then, hand in hand with a grandson who will someday pass the torch down the family tree.

In 2000, an errant automobile nearly ended the communal heirloom, crashing into the shop and dislodging it from the banks. Lucky for the driver, the building was saved and rebuilt to withstand such future atrocities, preserving the tradition. Otherwise, Art Modell and LeBron James might have company as the “Most Reviled” person in these parts of Buckeye country.

The Chagrin Falls Popcorn Shop carries into the future, driven by the past. It is a simile for America, a small business fueled by local pride and abject perfection in its product. And on a clear night, with the falls raging mightily and the caramel corn in hand, one can almost see the ghost of Rockwell if they squint as he transfers a scene on canvas, a scene that is, undoubtedly, already art in itself.

Friday
Aug102012

Warby Parker

Cofounder, Neil Blumenthal

Jack Kerouac changed the way we see the written word. In a smaller dose, he might just be changing the way we see, period.

Warby Parker as a name stems from a collaboration of characters from the great writer’s earlier works. Warby Parker as a company is the revolutionary eyewear collaboration between a tight-knit quartet of friends, hell-bent on creating an alternative to the overpriced and drab eyewear market. Turned off by what they perceived as artificial costs from large companies taking advantage of consumers with nowhere else to turn, the gang at Warby Parker has unveiled a collection of prescription lenses that are designed with a timeless flair and the finest of customizations. Essentially, the eyewear, paired next to a traditionally high end brand, either matches or surpasses the quality and pleasing aesthetic, while costing the consumer substantially less. It is a pricing point technique that has won Warby Parker a growing legion of devotees.

When not saving its loyalists money, Warby Parker is saving the eye health of those who need it the most. Staunch believers in “eyewear with a purpose”, the company strongly believes that the right to see is not only for the fortunate. With millions of people globally bereft of proper vision care, Warby Parker seeks to eradicate the problem by partnering with renowned non-profits to deliver a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair that they sell.

Kerouac wrote “The Road Less Traveled”, another nod to the literary giant that Warby Parker seems to have followed. For a company that plies its trade in the field of sight, Warby Parker’s greatest contribution to the commerce and philanthropic worlds just might be its vision.

Images 2 & 3 Gabriel Boone Photography

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