Over the six years that Hannah Gingrich worked retail Downtown, she gradually noticed a market need that was not being met.
“When I worked at Terra Verde, I just kept hearing a lot of feedback from clients that they wanted men’s gifts or men’s retail,” she recalled. “So that planted the seed then.”
That “seed” grew into Mountain Standard Goods, a men’s vintage boutique on Tejon Street that Gingrich owns with her sister Jessie. It’s among three businesses participating this year in Downtown Partnership’s Pop-Up Shop program, which gives growing retailers a way to test the Downtown market as a viable option for a brick-and-mortar location.
Hannah and Jessie had been reselling vintage goods online for years before they decided, in 2018, that they would eventually commit to a brick-and-mortar store. By late 2020, the two had amassed enough furniture, fixtures and equipment to bring their idea to life. Mountain Standard Goods opened its doors just a month ago.
Though originally from Michigan, the Gingrich sisters consider themselves Colorado natives, and have been thrifting for as long as they can remember.
“I’d like to say it’s kind of in our blood,” Gingrich said. “We maybe developed an eye for [vintage] things over the years.”
After graduating from Pine Creek High School in 2008, Hannah worked corporate retail jobs around the Springs before moving to France for a year to work as an au pair. When she returned, she entered small-business wholesale and partnered with hundreds of boutiques across the Rocky Mountain region before launching Mountain Standard Goods.
Business is going better than expected, Gingrich says. As more shoppers visit their store, she and Jessie plan to expand into women’s categories and become a staple vintage shopping destination Downtown.
Gingrich spoke with the Business Journal about why vintage matters, and the importance of keeping dollars local.
Tell us about your background in vintage goods.
Both my sister and I were involved in retail jobs growing up, from the age of 17 ... so we’ve both worked random retail jobs for over a combined amount of 25 years. I worked Downtown at Terra Verde for a number of years, starting in 2012, and I worked my way up to the buying position for their jewelry department. I went to trade shows, learned that whole side of the business and definitely fell in love with it there. The Downtown retail scene was something I’d never experienced before, coming from corporate retail jobs. It was like a breath of fresh air. ... That opened up my perspective on retail. I made the jump to working in wholesale in 2017 or 2018.
We started reselling vintage or used goods around 2015, and started learning a lot more about the different items out there and learning how to date certain things and the desirability of certain items. We both have our own Etsy and eBay stores, running our own small businesses on the side. It’s fun! The hunt for vintage items, it’s pretty thrilling sometimes, finding something really cool out in the wild, for next to nothing.
What differences did you notice coming from corporate retail to small-business retail?
The corporate retail is less personable. The employees are not as invested in the company. A lot of people are just there to get a paycheck, versus [with] small-business, locally-owned retail, I think the employees become more invested. Usually, the owner is local and works in the store alongside the employees, so there’s a nice camaraderie, and employees take ownership of the store as well.
Tell us about your involvement with the Pop-Up Shop program.
We’ve been aware of the pop-up program for a couple of years; working Downtown, I’ve seen the success of many of the other pop-ups. When we were considering location and when to start our business, the timing was right for [us to submit] a Pop-Up Shop application. We applied at the beginning of October, got approved, and got the keys by Oct. 15. We opened shop on Nov. 1. Normally it’s a little earlier — but with COVID, there were some delays.
We’re really pleased with the reception from the community and the excitement and enthusiasm. People are liking the goods that we have and the items we picked. We’ve been hearing it [described as] a fun, eclectic mix of items.
Can you explain the vibe you have going on with Mountain Standard Goods?
We’ve been collecting pieces for over a year to put in the store, so the fixtures, the tables, the clothing racks you see — we found those at a warehouse sale. They had a bunch of vintage, tire-shop industrial pieces, as well as Army surplus. A whole mix of really cool stuff. That really inspired the vision for the store. We went back at least three times to buy things from them over the period of a year.
it’s just something that clicked with us aesthetically. I mean, obviously, we’re big fans of vintage. Some of their stuff, we hadn’t seen before while out thrifting or going to estate sales, and it just struck a chord with us.
We love the story behind things and where items come from. I think other people enjoy that as well.
As a small-business, wholesale boutique, what’s important to the way you conduct business?
It’s important to us to try to support other small businesses and purchase from more independent artists. Also as part of my job when I’m traveling, I get to see a lot of other boutiques and encounter a lot of different brands and makers. So I’ve made notes along the way of artisans that I’ve encountered, that I’ve really, really liked, and that I haven’t seen in the region. We wanted to bring in a nice mix of small artisans that make great products that aren’t represented here yet.
We also try to offer a low, mid, and high price point, so we could offer something for everyone — whether you want to buy a quality $15 t-shirt or a $200 jacket, or if you want to spend a little more for a nicer gift or a vintage item that’s gently used and still on-trend and give it a second life, save it from the landfill.
With small-business retail, the dollars are staying more local. That’s really important, as it goes back into the community. Through how [small-businesses] purchase and buy through local vendors, that money is staying within the community.
What are your specific criteria for the vendors you carry?
We are looking for small businesses that craft artisan goods that are well made, aesthetically pleasing, unique and fun. Sustainability and being eco-friendly are also core principles to our business. There’s a lot of waste in the fashion industry — so much waste, it’s incredible. We want to start helping show the community, ‘Hey, you can still buy nice quality items of clothing that are eco-friendly, sustainably made, or ethically made as well.’
You have to think about the processes of where your clothes come from, who makes them, and is that person making a living wage, able to support their family, able to survive and make a nice life for themselves.
Why has Mountain Standard Goods seen success so far, and how do you measure that?
I guess I have a bit of a leg up because I work in wholesale with boutiques across the Rocky Mountain region, and this has been the best year for many of my shops. We were hopeful that it would be a really strong season because a lot of people are shopping more locally and traveling regionally versus globally, so they’re spending more dollars regionally or locally.
You’ve got to know your target demographic ... and I think we’re filling a category that’s been missing in our Downtown for a long time. And we have a nice mix of items, so there’s a little something for everyone.
I think we can measure our success by creating a welcoming, fun environment and seeing people’s reactions — If people are enjoying themselves, are intrigued or are inspired by what we carry.
What’s in store for the future of Mountain Standard Goods?
We’d love to transition into a long-term lease, whether it’s in this location or elsewhere Downtown, and become a staple shopping destination of Downtown. We have plans to eventually, in baby steps, grow into women’s categories. A lot of the brands we carry already have a women’s counterpart, so I think it would be a nice difference in differentiation of products that are not represented at, say, Terra Verde, or many of the other women’s clothing stores.