When April Gabriel launched her online shop, Boston General Store, in the fall of 2013, she set out with a small goal in mind. Namely, to own a project that celebrated well-made goods as well as creativity, and to be able to share it with like-minded friends.
And after starting off with about 10 products in her stable, she grew a fan base by fine-tuning the site and the products she featured on nights and weekends around her full-time job at a local architecture firm. No pop-ups. No marketing. No advertising. All word of mouth. Once friends started picking up items through the website and telling other friends about it, Gabriel grew the project into a full-time obsession, having just left her previous job in architecture about four months ago (where she worked on a huge renovation project for the New England Aquarium) to be able to further curate the products on the site, as well as do more pop-up storefronts, including her weekly stand at the SOWA market in the South End.
And now that she’s gearing up to open her first brick-and-mortar location in Coolidge Corner in early October, Gabriel says it still all comes down to one thing: finding well-made products that get her excited.
“It’s hard to find things that are well designed and useful, so when I found an item like that, I’d get excited and wanted people to see it,” says Gabriel. “But once it was all done online, I missed seeing people’s reactions, the way I [react] when I see stuff like this, so that’s when I started doing pop-ups to see how people receive the items. It was a whole different level. That’s why I started [doing] pop-ups regularly.”
And now that her stock hovers around 500 or so different products and manufacturers, Gabriel says she’s in the right position to leverage the grassroots popularity of her project and get people checking out the physical store, which will feature items from the web portal but also feature in-store only products. “The idea of a ‘general store’ is to have a little of everything, so I needed to have a whole spectrum of items,” she says. So that means having a wide selection of items and inventory, and Gabriel says her list is about 20 percent Mass made and 60 percent made in the USA, with other items from around the world thrown in depending on what she’s found.
“I traveled a lot in college and know a lot of great makers out in the world, so as long as it’s made well and by a company I can get behind, I think that’s just as great,” she says. “One of our best sellers is a leather journal hand-made in Paris, France. They call themselves the least productive journal makers in the world, since they make so few at a time.”
Now that she’s locked down a space in Brookline (home base for Brothers Artisan Oil, a beard oil and skincare company carried online and in-store), you can look forward to the new space being mixed-use, with in-store cocktail tastings, local vendors doing in-store pop-ups to highlight their goods, and even a monthly dinner series.
Until then, be on the lookout for the Boston General Store table at SOWA, and catch them at the forthcoming American Field Pop Up Market in September.
BOSTON GENERAL STORE. BRICK-AND-MORTAR OPENING EARLY OCTOBER IN COOLIDGE CORNER. BOSTONGENERALSTORE.COM
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.