By  on June 6, 2007

With the reopening of its renovated downtown Portland, Ore., store in May, Pendleton Woolen Mills unveiled its new retail prototype — which the firm said reflects its roots and its future vision.

The Portland company has 70 retail stores and plans to expand to 100, rolling out this concept to both new and existing units over the next few years.

The 3,830-square-foot store at Southwest Fourth and Salmon in downtown Portland, which first opened in 1992 and has been one of Pendleton's top-performing units, pays homage to the company's status as one of the few remaining U.S. firms to weave fabric domestically.

Founded in 1863, the fifth-generation, family-owned business has invested $50 million over the last 25 years to keep its mills in Pendleton and Washougal, Ore., up to par, and now plans to invest "a substantial amount" into the retail end, according to Robin Crowell, Pendleton merchandise manager for the retail division. She declined to provide company volume or growth projection figures.

The themes of weaving and fabric are present throughout the Portland store in brand logos, a "loom evocation" at the front entrance, woven wire mesh curtains at the front door and graphics. The color palette mixes Pendleton blue with natural white oak wood walls inspired by Oregon's landscape. Sustainable slate and recycled carpet give the store an eco-friendly edge. Vizwerks Inc., also based in Portland, is the architect for the project.

"We are incorporating our materials and heritage, not just our merchandise, into the stores," Crowell said.

Pendleton sells better-priced women's and men's apparel and accessories, as well as products for the home. Targeted at Baby Boomers, a Pendleton women's blouse sells for about $58; trousers are $68.

Pendleton is already expanding the new concept nationwide. At the end of May, Pendleton opened its second prototype store in Edina, Minn., relocating to a bigger space in the Galleria Mall there. The first totally new store using the new aesthetic is set to open in September in Oakbrook, Ill., which will be the first of three to five new stores in 2008. How well the new prototype stores do will determine how quickly they are rolled out, according to Crowell."We were looking for a fresher look for the stores as we support building our brand for the next generation," she said.

Crowell added that Pendleton was trying to attract a younger customer, around age 45, with new product initiatives, including a line of merino knits being launched for fall.

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