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Fall 2010 Keeping it Local

A new Boston store gives the city’s designers and artists a trendy retail outlet.

Local Collection, the new store at Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace, knows how to appeal to its customers. Its entire selection of merchandise—from children’s apparel, handcrafted jewelry, handbags, pottery, sculptures and other fine art—is made locally. This means the tourists who visit Faneuil Hall can go home with a piece of Boston, while the locals can feel good about supporting artists in the community.

Chicago roots

Faneuil Hall Marketplace is owned and operated by Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc. Local Collection’s director, Katie Kurtz, says the active Chicago artist scene was the impetus to try out the store concept. Kurtz says weekend events and boutique stores in Chicago help the buying public there get exposed to local designers who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to grab customers’ attention.

While Chicago served as inspiration, Kurtz soon realized that Los Angeles and Boston had similar artist communities. She started by creating “little weekend pop-up events” but soon began envisioning how to add these cool designers to the current mix of tenants in a mall. The concept for Local Collection was born shortly thereafter.

Designer deals

Local Collection gives local designers a prominent retail outlet for their products without high upfront costs. The store works with the designer to build his or her brand and expand their customer base. The designers don’t have to be at the store all day or deal with payroll.

Kurtz can’t elaborate on contract details, but the sales staff is employed by Local Collection. There is one centralized checkout similar to any other retail store and the sales information is worked out later. Each designer has a separate contract, and has free reign to switch out product whenever they like, depending on what is selling. Kurtz and her staff stay in touch on a weekly basis to know what is selling and what is not. Designers have full say in the price of the merchandise and they determine retail price. Local Collection’s POS is set up with each vendor’s line and information.

California connection

Local Collection’s first store opened in Glendale, CA, at the Glendale Galleria, last November. After the success of the Glendale launch, Kurtz began approaching designers in the Boston area. “We were considering both Boston and Los Angeles from the beginning given the great community of local designers and artists in both. Due to timeline of openings we decided to go with LA first and follow up with Boston for a spring opening,” Kurtz says.

The Boston store dedicates a portion of the space for classes and workshops. These are led by local designers and artists. The store recently held a workshop working with organic screenprinted T-shirts. “All the designers are local area artists so it was sort of like an art show open house,” Kurtz says.

Product range

The store has very high-end pieces of art and jewelry, as well as “great little impulse items” such as body care, lip balms, and cards. The thing that really impresses Kurtz is how well designers can diversify within their line to appeal to shoppers with different budgets. For example, pottery designer Steve Murphy, sells saké and sushi sets for $30-$50, but also sells more expensive large gargoyle-like pieces. Maggie Carberry who teaches a workshop, sells paintings in the $400-$600 range, but also sells pendants that are more affordable.

Kurtz is always interested in hearing from new designers.

She isn’t planning any new openings in the immediate future, though she says she is happy to talk to anyone who is interested in starting a similar store in their community. “As much as we love the concept we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We really want to make sure that we cultivate the two stores that we have and make sure that everything is running smoothly,” she says. Kurtz is delighted with the reception in Boston.

A website for Local Collection is in the works. Local Collection Boston has a Facebook fan page.

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Vanessa Geneva Ahern

Vanessa Geneva Ahern is a NY-based freelance writer who covers business, health, travel, and wellness. She has written for various trade and consumer magazines including National Jeweler, SELF, and Fit Pregnancy. For more information, please visit

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