BOSTON — “When we meet with brands, we warn them we won’t sell anything, but of course we do. We sell lots.”
So says Luke Gutelius, cofounder of TownPool, a retailer that’s created buzz on Nantucket the past two summers and is hoping to re-create the charm at 899 Boylston Street here this holiday season.
Pop-up stores, especially at holiday, are nothing new. But for a take on what’s fresh in the prepster world, TownPool is worth a dip.
Instead of traditional buyers, cofounders Gutelius and Sean Dew see themselves as promoter-partners for emerging brands. They build elaborate, propped-out sets for each brand that’s “pool’d” in the space. Hours before the opening party last week, the 1965 Fiat, aka the cash wrap, was awaiting installation and Spencer Bass, formerly director of men’s design for Ralph Lauren, was constructing a nine-hole, mini golf course. They’d allocated half the 3,000-square-foot selling space to the links.
Operating on instinct, Dew and Gutelius’ track record is good. (On Nantucket, for instance, they sold more of the surf-casual brand Faherty than 20 Neiman Marcus stores combined, according to Gutelius. They did so well Faherty opened its own Nantucket store.) He professes to have “no idea” how much they’ll sell during their month on Boylston.
“We like to work with cool people,” is how Gutelius summarizes the overall strategy. For women, that means ponchos by Lindsey Thornburg created out of Pendleton blankets ($1,395); twinkle-tweed party dresses by Sail to Sable ($200 to $300); accessories by STIK, a popular Instagram knitwear artist (@S–tThatIKnit); Liz Roache Nantucket prints ($225), and a sofa in cotton print ($1,200). They’ve brought select vintage women’s apparel too, notably a Chanel tweed jacket ($600).
The men’s offering is particularly strong — a welcome antidote to formulaic “Gifts for Him” tables. There are jokey blazers from Shinesty, $78, printed with lurid poinsettias or rows of nutcrackers, a modern take on the ugly Christmas sweater. There are loafers made of antique kilim rugs from Atlanta-based Res Ipsa, Jack Mason watches and bow ties from Brooklyn General Knot & Co., featuring vintage fabric and numbered editions, like artwork.
They’ve got a slate of events and distractions planned, seemingly aimed at guys and kids: doughnuts and Fantasy Football sessions with ESPN commentator Field Yates, a visit from a Crossfit World Champion and a rubber duck arcade game, as well as the golfing. A certain exuberance comes with life at TownPool: last summer, the Nantucket store buzzed with people doodling and writing life mottoes with Sharpies on its front doors.
“We don’t think retail has to be taken so seriously,” Gutelius noted. “Why shouldn’t this be fun?”