if you live in denver and haven’t heard of tran wills or allison shaw, you will soon. these ladies are on to something pretty cool. launching this saturday, june 1, is their new mobile general store, brick & mortar: a vintage 1964 aristocrat trailer (totally original and totally made in america!) chock full of goodies for you to peruse and buy. they’ll be setting up shop first at crema on saturday and then at ace on sunday. but most likely, if you aren’t around those neighborhoods then, they’ll be headed to yours soon.
need a gift for a baby shower? bridal shower? father’s day? birthday? anniversary? for the hell of it? they’ve curated a selection of unique and well-made items (many colorado produced and all from the US of A) that will give you no excuse to leave their store empty handed. and they have grand plans for their little trailer –which they’ve primped up so nicely! you’ll be able to find them at various locations on weekends, first fridays, street fairs, markets such as horseshoe and sweet william, and warehouse spaces (the thing is compact and can fit into any place w garage doors — which denver has plenty). check them out, stop by to look, say hello to these delightful women, and leave w something that will feel handpicked for you.
a couple of weekends ago they graciously gave me a sneak peek into what they’ve been up to. here’s what they had to say about it:
1. what is brick & mortar?
Brick & Mortar is a lot of things. In terms of inventory, Brick & Mortar is a modern-day general store where one can find anything from all-natural cleaning supplies to the perfect accessory to a gift for Father’s Day. While it may not specialize in any one particular item or genre, it does offer a variety of specialty and one-of-a-kind items that are available in limited quantities and rotate regularly so that the inventory is always different. In terms of the actual, physical space, Brick & Mortar is a traveling boutique that travels from place to place, setting up an outdoor store that is both inside and outside of a 1964 Aristocrat low-line trailer. In terms of a project, Brick & Mortar is a creative outlet, where we can do what we love, provide exposure for new, talented artists and craftspeople, and contribute to the enhancement of the community.
2. how did you get into this? what was your inspiration?
We had been talking about starting a store for over a year and landed on the mobile retail concept after seeing other mobile stores on the West coast and in Australia. With Tran having recently bought a trailer, we were in a perfect position to start making it happen. As opposed to taking inspiration from existing “fashion trucks,” we looked at our favorite boutiques in Denver, San Francisco, Portland, and Los Angeles. We didn’t want our inventory or aesthetic to be like anything that already existed in Denver, but instead wanted it to have hints of things that we loved and found to be valuable in other stores — like products that are 100% made in the U.S., clean and curated display strategy, and simple and cohesive branding.
3. what has the process been like from conception to execution?
Although the idea for the store started over a year ago, it feels like the execution really just began six months ago when we first started building the foundation for the business. From there, it has been a whirlwind of finding and securing vendors, working w artists to create custom items and build display materials, designing our own brand pieces, and scheduling stops over the summer. Throughout everything, everyone we’ve encountered has been incredibly supportive and many people have offered their hand in helping any way they can.
4. has creating/developing/launching this been what you expected? easier or harder? what have the challenges been?
Going into it, we didn’t have a lot of expectations, because the idea was always to do something that would allow us to have a creative outlet to work on in addition to our day jobs – initially. We knew that we had to allow ourselves to be a bit flexible, as we both had other responsibilities, but after we set our goal open date, things fell into place rather nicely. The vendors and artists that we have been working with have been incredible, which has made things easier than they could have been, and the lack of overhead makes things a bit simpler, as we don’t have a need to renovate and re-design a full retail space or find investors to fund our rent and build-out costs prior to opening. The greatest challenge that we have met thus far, is really finding a way to display all of the products in a way that keeps all of the inventory safe, showcases it in a way that will be appealing to customers, and also in a way where the product is shown in the context of how it will be used (i.e. home goods inside the trailer, displayed as a home would). The other challenge has been determining what the set up of the trailer will look like and also making sure that it is something that is realistic for the two of us to set up by ourselves in a reasonable amount of time. Being as our store is partly inside the trailer and partly outside the trailer (set up like an outdoor shop), we needed to make sure that all of the display pieces are light, able to fit into our cars and/or trailer, and that they will hold up after being moved around all summer. While we’re extremely confident that everything we have will hold up – we’ll find out come June when we start using them!
5. tell us about other collaborators/helpers in the shop/brand?
We have been lucky enough to have a lot of great collaborators:
- Local artist, Rob Mack, created a series of custom display pieces for us that are designed in his personal style, but inspired by the aesthetic of our existing branding and the trailer.
- Sean Rice, a Denver handyman, to build a plexi-glass display table where we can display items that need extra protection from the elements.
- We enlisted the help of Sara Ford to get some good shots of the trailer for us to use on our website and social sites.
- We’ve received a ton of help from designers, Andrew Hoffman and Josh Wills, who have developed all of our branding and branding materials for us.
We are working w several other retailers to host pop-up shops throughout the summer where they will set up a smaller display of select items from their regular inventory to sell alongside the trailer. Some of these retail partners include Wishlist Vintage and Goldyn. We have plans to do an event with local salon, Goldie & Bob, which will also feature cupcakes by Church of Cupcakes and other local food & beverage vendors. [there’s also plans for tune-up times where a local bike mechanic will be on hand to give your wheels some love!]
6. who is helping you w branding/website development?
Andrew Hoffman designed our logo and the stamps used for our business cards and price tags, and Josh Wills has been designing all of our collateral – including social media images, fliers and post cards. In terms of the website, all of the elements are designed by Josh and everything is assembled and maintained by us.
7. where can you be found?
8. here are some other denver/colorado brands they’ll be carrying in their shop (not a complete list!):
MATTER || Mondo Guerra || Winter Session || Stitch & Hammer || Fig + Yarrow || Sneerwell || Cosmic Thread || Clean Getaway Soap Co || AWKWRD MFG || Dram Apothecary || A Monster To Love || Tres Birds || Berger & Föhr || Nigel Penhale || and many many more…
9. what new/other/different businesses would you like to see in denver?
It’s hard to say – Denver is getting a lot of incredible things. There are several new restaurants and shops opening all the time, all of which are taking Denver to the next level in terms of innovation and culture. It’s great to see how people in Denver are always creating and building new things that are changing the way residents of Denver live and work. There are collaborative work spaces for creatives to meet and swap ideas, microbreweries, coffee roasters, wineries, restauranteurs, boutique alternative energy firms, advertising agencies, clothing labels, vintage motor repair shops – all of who have popped up in the past few years. Every time we think we want something, someone is working on doing it.
10. besides brick & mortar, what are your favorite shops in denver?
There are several that we love…