Heather Macdonald admits the growth trajectory of her Bermuda-based fashion and lifestyle store Atelerie — at least, in terms of square footage — hasn’t been the speediest.
Bowing in 2008 in a 400-square-foot space, Atelerie subsequently moved to 650 square feet at 9 Reid Street, which doesn’t sound like a big leap, but the address in Hamilton, is the most desirable shopping area on the island. But if the pace of Atelerie’s expansion has been measured, Macdonald is making up for lost time now. A recent renovation and the addition of a new second floor, bumped Atelerie’s square footage to 2,400, more than six times the size of the original unit.
“It’s been a very slow expansion. We’d outgrown our space for so long, so this is a very big step. It was a yearlong process,” Macdonald said, adding that Atelerie moved into a 1,600-square-foot pop-up shop during part of the construction. “It’s a very dramatic increase.”
Physical size isn’t the only thing that matters to Macdonald. “Since we’ve reopened, the response has been immediate and our sales have increased dramatically,” she said, adding that Atelerie now features more than 150 brands, including apparel, accessories, fine jewelry, apothecary, stationery and party goods, and wine and pantry. “We’re expanding to more brands, but doing it slowly,” she said. “The store’s always been geared to locals, but visitors seem to like it, too. I’ve tailored [the assortment] to include things I wish were here and things you need on an island.”
Zimmerman, Ulla Johnson, Apiece Apart, Rag & Bone, Rebecca Taylor, Loeffler Randall, Veja, Mate and Ozma, are among the fashion labels; fine jewelry includes Jacquie Aiche, EF Collection, Lena Skadgard, Gigi Collection and Sofia Zakia, among others.
Tata Harper, Vintner’s Daughter and Quai can be found in the apothecary corner. “I went to the Goop Health Summit in Los Angeles,” Macdonald said. “I admire their approach. They seem to be ahead of the curve with their product and vision. Everyone is investing in health and wellness and it’s very important to me.”
Pottery from Mt. Washington and A Question of Eagles, artisanal pantry products and “seasonal, organic small-production wines from my brother’s business,” are part of the mix.
Macdonald, who was raised in Bermuda, was stymied over what to do with her liberal arts degree when she graduated from Southern Methodist University. “I went into advertising,” she said. “I didn’t like it at all. I felt I couldn’t be creative.
“I started painting,” she added. “I painted in Bermuda for three years. After that, I took a job at the Eden Rock hotel in St. Barths helping kids paint and manning their art gallery. One day, the hotel asked me to help out in their shop, which was unique and quirky. I thought, Bermuda needs something like that. I opened Atelerie a year and a half later.”
That was 11 years ago.
Operating a store in Bermuda has specific challenges. “Shipping can be really hard,” Macdonald said. “It’s additional time, especially when carrying lines from overseas. Customs can hold a shipment for an extra week or two. If lines from Mexico and the U.S. short-ship or ship wrong….Everything has to be right, because once it gets here, you have to pay tax on it.”
Atelerie’s redesign and expansion was no easy feat. Brooklyn-based Tri-Lox and Inc_a, which stands for It’s Not Corporate Architecture, created and fabricated the eco-conscious space using natural materials such as oak for a dramatic floating staircase. Pebble gardens, used for displays and seating, fan out to wide spaces for browsing. Figured Maple – Stone White, Tri-Lox’s signature material sourced from salvaged trees, lends a marble-like look to display cases.
Pastel walls, putty-colored concrete floors, faded vintage rugs and muted wood cabinetry give the store a lightness and sense of softness that’s balanced by steel fixtures and a cast iron window at the top of the stairs. Luxurious velvet-covered spalted maple furniture is paired back to wicker Milawi chairs and khaki-colored curtains in the dressing rooms.