Vera Bradley closed its SoHo store at the beginning of the pandemic, but has reclaimed the site, at least temporarily, for a good purpose.
It’s now a pop-up store for GoodMrkt, a cause and socially driven, multibrand concept recently launched by Vera Bradley.
The first GoodMrkt store opened last April in a former Williams Sonoma location in Fort Wayne, Ind., where Vera Bradley is based. GoodMrkt in SoHo, at 411 West Broadway, opened last month.
With just the two stores operating, GoodMrkt is a start-up reflecting Vera Bradley’s intent to grow and make more money while expanding its philanthropic endeavors. In 2019, the $400 million, publicly traded Vera Bradley purchased Pura Vida, an online retailer of handmade bracelets, anklets, stackable rings and other items supporting artisans in Costa Rica, effectively bringing Vera Bradley into the jewelry business.
Last January, Vera Bradley introduced its first sustainable fashion collection, called ReActive, for luggage, bags and accessories, furthering efforts to be more of a lifestyle brand while being environmentally responsible.
Vera Bradley is best known for its quilted, flower-patterned bags and luggage while also offers women’s apparel, accessories and footwear. The company also has a foundation that supports breast cancer research.
“As we were dealing with the pandemic, a group of us were sitting around and thinking about the future of retail and what we could test. We came up with the Good Market concept. We’re really intending of this as a lab,” said Harry Cunningham, vice president of retail brand development for Vera Bradley. He’s also cofounder of the GoodMrkt, along with Mary Beth Trypus, Vera Bradley’s chief revenue officer.
During a tour of the GoodMrkt pop-up Thursday, Cunningham said it will remain open into January and that it displays more than 50 brands in its 2,500 square feet of selling space. It’s an eclectic range of products including skin care, eyewear, flowers, holiday ornaments, glassware, denim, blankets, candles, jewelry, kids merchandise, leather goods and, naturally, Vera Bradley bags and Pura Vida jewelry.
Among the brands, there’s Able, a fashion company that trains and employs women to help break the cycle of poverty and extricate them from the sex trade; Sackcloth & Ashes, which donates a blanket to a homeless shelter for every blanket purchased; Ellis Brooklyn, which sells fragrances with clean ingredients and sustainable sourcing, and Generous Coffee, which gives back 100 percent of its profits and while best known for coffee, partners with socially good companies on other products such as shirts that support mothers in Haiti, and bracelets and mugs that give water to villages in the Central African Republic.
Other brands sold include Ranger Station, Utopian Coffee, Farmhouse Fresh, Glitterville, Bella Tunno, New Hope Girls and Caddis.
Cunningham explained that the concept is to create a “community” of brands, each on a mission to make a positive impact, whether its supporting women’s empowerment, community development, ending poverty or hunger, environmental stewardship, sustainability, animal rescue or fighting a disease.
The brands, which are mostly smaller and emerging companies, support their causes in different ways, which could be through product donations, a percent sales, fundraising events, or through how they source and create their products. “These are all purpose-driven companies and brands,” Cunningham said.