Pike/Pine is not exactly the Rust Belt but its overhauled auto row bones are making room for a Pittsburgh-crafted connection. After 13 years of making backpacks, cross body bags, tote bags, and clutches in Massachusetts and then the Steel City, Moop founder Wendy Downs is following a family and customer connection to bring her business to Seattle for a trial-run pop-up on Capitol Hill.
“This is a bit of a beta test,” Downs tells CHS about the expansion and Moop’s plans for a new Emerald City home in addition to its Pittsburgh 1st Ave HQ. “An opportunity to be here and scout our permanent location,” she says.
Moop, born in the DIY, post-punk ’90s, will fit right into its new Pike/Pine home in Chophouse Row among the other crafters, creators, and small restaurants and cafes the development has attracted.
The company, Downs says, is “one part performance art,” one, manufacturing. “One of my philosophies is to make the process of manufacturing visible.” Visitors will find Moop’s creations on display, and, likely, Downs at work putting together something new.
“Since 2016, Moop’s First Avenue location Downtown has served as both a brick-and-mortar shop and a manufacturing center for the small but growing business,” the Pittsburgh City Paper said in its report on the expansion.
Slated to debut in Chophouse Row — look for it just down the stairs from Plum and La Spiga — during Thursday night’s November Capitol Hill Art Walk, the Seattle start for Moop will be lightweight and impermanent. Downs says she is signed up for two months at Chophouse to feel the place out and give her a base to work from as she searches for a permanent home for the half dozen or so person company.
The bags, Downs says, have grown to be loved because they are small batch, and made of highly water resistant materials. “The thing with bags,” she said, “is your bag goes through more wear and tear than even your shoes.”
“We put lots of effort on the stitching and elements you don’t see,” she said.
Self taught, she says the design of Moop creations is driven by the manufacturing process. “Each evolution, every new design, is building off the principles I’ve learned in the previous one,” she said.
Coming to Seattle — and, specifically Chophouse Row — is her daughter’s doing. Downs said her daughter, who works for Growing Washington, took her out for a night on Capitol Hill.
“Just through pure coincidence, she took me to Bar Ferdinand. Everything got activated kind of quickly.”
Seattle is definitely where she wants to be. Downs said expansion to the city fits in with her plans for Moop shops as her $200 or so, gender neutral, no-nonsense, tough but fashionable bags have been an online sales hit with Pacific Northwest shoppers.
In addition to the rain, there is also something familiar about Pike/Pine.
“One thing that has happened in Pittsburgh, is it was part of the Rust Belt Revival. People started to move there because space was really, really cheap,” Downs said. “That drew people from all over the East to this very small city.”
As they are for Pike/Pine, those Pittsburgh days are long gone. Downs said she’s not sure where she’ll fit into an increasingly expensive Seattle — or Capitol Hill, for that matter.
Moop Seattle can be found in Chophouse Row “until the end of 2019.” It debuts Thursday night, November 13th, during Capitol Hill Art Walk. You can learn more and shop online at moopshop.com.
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