As conventional wisdom may hold that retailers have struggled on Capitol Hill and beyond, a small group of designers are banding together to make their first go at brick-and-mortar with a venture called Glasswing. If successful, their move from online, to pop-up shop, into the former Sonic Boom space in Melrose Market could be a useful blueprint for future indie retailers and add to what in reality is an amazingly strong environment for retail ventures in the Pacific Northwest.
“We want to be a hub for Pacific Northwest design,” said Andy Whitcomb, who is also building out the shop’s interior. “A lot of people around the country are looking towards the Pacific Northwest for design inspiration right now, and there’s not a store that caters to that.”
Glasswing will focus on men’s and women’s apparel, as well as locally made furniture. CHS talked with Whitcomb last week inside the still papered-up shop as he prepped for Glasswing’s Black Friday grand opening. Whitcomb is the owner of Brackish, an indie furniture company that will be showcasing inside Glasswing.
Brackish co-founder Forest Eckley started Glasswing with two other designers as an online retail shop a couple years ago. Currently glasswingshop.com only features men’s clothing, but Eckley said the new shop will carry women’s clothing as well.
Eckley and Whitcomb, both Capitol Hill residents, say they’ve been planning on opening a shop together for nearly three years. They were encouraged by positive feedback from pop-up shops they ran last year at Love City Love and Caffe Vita.
Pop-ups will continue to be a feature of Glasswing — the shop will have a dedicated space to feature local designers and artists. The owners are also walling off an office space in the back of the shop to be leased out to designers and other creative types. Whitcomb said the different revenue streams should help pay the rent and keep Glasswing afloat. In the future, Eckley said he would also like to open a cafe in shop.
“We like going into inspiring shops run by people who have a specific point of view and share that through a physical location,” Eckley said.
Sonic Boom announced in 2011 they would leave the space; In October they announced the Glasswing lease:
The closure should come as no surprise. Sonic Boom has been looking for a permanent tenant since closing our Capitol Hill store back in August 2011. Our entire focus will now be on our Ballard location which has been open since 2001. Glasswing will make an excellent addition to the neighborhood and to the Melrose Market overall. We wish them the best of luck in their new space.
While Glasswing is a beast altogether different from other Seattle-based giants, the Pacific Northwest is growing in stature as a recognized center of global retail thanks to everything from Nordstrom to Costco to REI to Amazon.
Melrose Market, in the meanwhile, has fostered respect for its locavore-styled food and drink offerings while a small batch of retailers like Marigold & Mint and Butter Home have hung in there as others have exited the building without finding success in harnessing the project’s buzz.
Eckley told CHS the key to Glasswing’s brick-and-mortar success will be making it a dynamic space.
“It needs to be fun, you need to give people to reason to get off the Internet and leave their homes to see what you’re doing,” he said.
You can learn more — or shop online :) — at glasswingshop.com.