4 mobile shops to stalk

Mobile galleries roundup; photo by Small Room Collective
Photo via Small Room Collective.

In the age of the online store, I appreciate the entrepreneurs who are keeping retail retro. Their mobile shops–converted trailers stocked with clothing, jewelry, home decor, and gifts–roll from town to town, finding customers where we live. I shopped two in Atlanta and one in LA this year and was wowed by the smart use of space, the stylish merchandising, the character evoked by the camper itself. Here I highlight four roving retailers and ask them to share stories and tips from their adventures.

Unless otherwise noted, photos are by the shop owners.

small room collective

SRC_info_box_flat

Husband and wife team Lauren and Travis may be cross-country roamers, but their mission is to make connections. They think of Small Room Collective as a gathering place where perfect strangers can feel at ease and at home. In June, outside Victory Sandwich Bar in Decatur, GA, this stranger felt comfortable and excited among the handmade art prints, stationery, soap, and jewelry on board. I bought a cast brass Fitzgerald Forbes bangle that reminds me of midcentury Brutalist work. I found out the couple lives in their Airstream, making their clean design all the more impressive since it fulfills both their personal and professional needs.

Me: What’s your favorite part about owning a mobile shop?
Lauren: I like the unexpected element of it, and being able to connect with new people and places. . . . We have to go outside, we have to explore, we have to make new friends, otherwise we’d go nuts!

Me: What’s your best story from the road?
Lauren: We had less than 36 hours to get to Louisville [from Denver]. Just so happens, we would be chasing a string of tornadoes, torrential rain and storms, speckled with some high winds. We were going 45 mph at this point in thick fog and not getting anywhere fast. It was getting dark outside, so we decided to stop at a Walmart for the night in Colby, Kansas. The winds became so loud that we were more praying for our lives than sleeping,  and we just decided at 4 a.m. that we’d try to keep going. The rains were fierce, and the trailer was swaying in the wind like a giant aluminum whale behind us. George was trembling and curled up in his storm position in the back. We noticed something amiss with our rooftop carrier and realized the wind had shoved it at a 45-degree angle. Nice. We struggle to get it straight again, the wind slamming the car doors open. After two episodes of this rooftop carrier situation along the stretch of the flat Kansas plains, a good dose of snail pacing, and some disgruntled mumbling, we made it through the worst of the storm. We eventually made it to Louisville, and actually made the event on time.

Me: What’s your advice for someone who’s thinking about building a mobile shop?
Lauren: Really understand the inner workings of the trailer itself, and make sure it’s sturdy and safe for a small stampede of wild buffalo to pass through.

Small Room Collective mobile shop

Inside Small Room Collective mobile shop

Inside Small Room Collective mobile shop

George the dog inside Small Room Collective mobile shop

Wood planters by Mavis Studio and rope necklaces by Have Company
Wood planters by Mavis Studio and rope necklaces by Have Company; photo via Have Company Instagram feed.

After the jump, see the stories of Coast to Coast Vintage, Very Hush Hush, and Popsicle Shop.

coast to coast vintage

coast_info_box_flat

Jaimee and her boyfriend, Adam, reimagined a ’76 trailer (aka “Babygirl”) to satisfy a “burning desire to both travel and work for something they were passionate about,” according to Jaimee. I met her and toured the Coast to Coast shop outside the recent Indie Craft Experience in Atlanta. The couple curates vintage clothing and housewares picked up during nationwide adventures (each item includes a note listing the state where it was found). The bold floral patterns, pale jeans, and wooden skateboards transported me right back to girlhood in the 80s and 90s.

Me: What’s your best story from the road?
Jaimee: Our first ever event was in NYC–we drove down FDR Drive with the clothing hung up. When we arrived at the event, we looked inside the camper to see the clothes on the floor and the bars ripped off the walls! I called a good friend to come down and help put everything back together as fast as we could. Lesson learned–we now pack everything away!

Me: What’s your advice for someone who’s thinking about building a mobile shop?
Jaimee: Be flexible, and stay positive! Mobile retail is still very much in its “pioneer” stage, [so] there will be plenty of bumps along the way to test you. It’s all part of the fun!

Coast to Coast Vintage

Coast to Coast Vintage

Coast to Coast Vintage mobile shop

Inside Coast to Coast Vintage mobile shop
Photo by me.

Inside Coast to Coast Vintage mobile shop

very hush hush

hush_info_box_flat

I jealously follow this beautiful mobile gallery on social media, because it roams only in southwestern Canada. I discovered Very Hush Hush through co-owner Cathy Terepocki, a ceramist I admire. Cathy and Tracy Fillion Nelson, the designer behind Dear Pony apparel, use their “canned ham” as an outlet for their own work and that of fellow Canadian makers.

The ladies became renovation and retail partners without knowing each other long. “We both instinctively knew that we could work together,” Cathy says. “We seemed to share a similar aesthetic in our work, and we also communicated well.” So well, in fact, that the two planned the entire interior design in about 90 minutes. “It was so fun and effortless, and eight years later we wouldn’t change a thing about it!” Cathy says.

Me: What’s your favorite part about owning a mobile shop?
Cathy: Our favourite part of operating the shop is interacting with the customers, sharing our work, telling our story. Basically all the good parts of retail! It’s a nice change for us from working on our own in our individual studios.

Me: What’s your advice for someone who’s thinking about building a mobile shop?
Cathy: Make sure you find out the parking regulations, permits required, etc., for a city or specific spot you’re planning to park or if you’re going to festivals, that they can accommodate you. Also, if your trailer happens to be an Airstream and it requires de-oxidization (polishing), this can be a costly endeavour and often difficult to find someone willing to take it on. That’s just a heads up!

Very Hush Hush mobile shop

Very Hush Hush mobile shop

Very Hush Hush mobile shop

Ceramics inside Very Hush Hush mobile shop
Goods by Cathy Terepocki, Kalika Bowlby, and Plant Terrariums.
Dress by Dear Pony
Dress by Dear Pony.

popsikle shop

I spotted Crystal’s two-tone camper at the Melrose Trading Post in LA. This 24-year-old graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising couldn’t wait to become a boutique owner, so she searched Craig’s List until she found a $300 trailer to convert in 2012. She takes Popsikle Shop to farmers markets and festivals in southern California, appealing to girls and young women with her $1 sales, flower crowns, and cut-up tees. She sets up in Anaheim often, cleverly marketing handmade mouse-ear headbands to families visiting Disneyland.

Me: What’s your favorite part about owning a mobile shop?
Crystal: My favorite part (besides the luxury of having no overhead to worry about) is being my own boss lady. I love getting up every morning knowing I have control of my schedule and what I’m going to do with my shop that day.

Me: What’s your advice for someone who’s thinking about building a mobile shop?
Crystal: Start your social media ASAP. And be really careful when it comes to picking what you will run your shop out of. For me the trailer was [ideal] because it was so spacious inside, making it easier for me to play with my floor space while I was building her.

Popsikle Shop
Photo by me.

Inside Popsikle Shop mobile store

Popsikle Shop mobile store

Vintage outfit from Popsikle Shop

Mouse ears made by Popsikle Shop

 

10 thoughts on “4 mobile shops to stalk”

  1. Hi Jeanee! Thanks for the shout out and such a wonderful article. I met Small Room Collective at the Phoenicia Flea – such wonderful people and a wonderful time! xoxox

  2. Madeline, there’s always room for different points of view! Would love to hear which mobile shops you want to write about.

Comments are closed.