As travel has moved more into experiential getaways and individualized lodging experiences — from Airbnb to boutique hotels — the gift shop, itself an antiquated notion, is playing catch up.
Introducing Keep Shop, the boutique inside the new Noelle hotel in Nashville. Owned by Rockbridge, conceived by Dallas-based hotel operator Makeready and curated by Libby Callaway, a former editor at the New York Post who is the founder of Nashville-based public relations firm The Callaway, the boutique within the boutique hotel offers custom accessories, vintage clothing and art sourced mostly from the surrounding area.
“I’ve gone out to all my favorite local designers and artists and makers and asked them to create something one of a kind or an exclusive range of products,” says Callaway, citing a custom line of ceramics inspired by the “whole Memphis design movement” of “whole pop-y colors,” clothing from local designer Han Starnes, and a culling of Callaway’s own vintage collection.
“I wanted to stay true to, in addition to being local, focusing on the era of the hotel, which is deco,” Callaway says. “It was built in 1930. I’ve gotten a lot of cool beaded flapper bags, and little suede envelope bags from the Twenties that have this really cool steel beading on the ends.”
Callaway says the selection is very much in her own personal style, which she describes as “magpie-ish” mixed with something “quirky, modern and pop-y.”
“We’re going to be the only store in Tennessee to have Annie Costello Brown [jewelry], which I’m really proud of, and I found this great jewelry out of New Orleans called Neon Zinn, by this guy Seth Damm, who did these breastplates out of rope,” she adds.
The Keep Shop concept is set to expand to Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., in the near future.
“It’s more about providing an experience,” Callaway explains. “We’re marking the hotel as an experiential hotel. There a print shop in the basement and there will be art programming that will happen throughout the year, so it’s all about getting people to come in and learn about artists in the community and really celebrate makers.”
It’s meant to be representative of Nashville style, something that Callaway explains has changed dramatically in the 14 years she’s lived in the city.
“I feel like I would’ve said something totally different 10 years ago. I would’ve said something about denim,” she says. “Today, I feel like it’s about these young designers finding their own footing. My old interns Jamie and Hannah have this great company Jamie and the Jones where they use beautiful washed silk and they’ve created these beautiful robes, and pullover tops that they create collages on using scraps. And I don’t think you could look at those and think that they say ‘Nashville,’ but I do think that they represent our creative community and the represent the fact that they’re not one Nashville look anymore. We have hats, because I did a collaboration with Stetson, but nothing in here [looks western]. You could walk into Keepshop and other than the vintage shirts I have that say ‘Tennessee’ on them, [nothing would] make you think that you are in Nashville. That’s the thing about our design community in general — it’s a lot more sophisticated.”
More sophistication and fewer gift shop cliches are what set Keep Shop apart from another hotel experience.
Says Callaway, “I think that people who come down looking for aspirin or a Pop-Tart are going to be really disappointed.”
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