Walk into Mercantile Home & Apparel on Main Street, and you’ll be surrounded by cool colors, soft lighting and calm music. The store sells a mix of women’s apparel, fashion, home decoration and gifts. It has a chill vibe, kind of like its owners, Laura and Cameron Reed.
When the Reeds had their second child London, they wanted a change of pace. As owners of a Mon Vert Café, a restaurant in Vermont, they were used to a fast paced lifestyle. They relocated to Sarasota with their kids—Jack, 2 and ½ years, and London, six months. They opened the shop just two months later.
We caught up with them to find out their story.
UNRAVEL: Why downtown Sarasota?
Laura: We drove around. We looked at St. Armands a bit. We really liked the appeal of downtown Sarasota over St. Armands. It feels more like where you live instead of just trying to cater to tourists. It’s more of a home-y, comfortable environment.
I lived in New York City for a while, we both did. It’s a little reminiscent of New York, just the downtown, historic qualities. In St. Armands, everything’s new. It’s not historic.
We just walked in to the space. We moved down in January and we opened in March so we weren’t really planning on going so quickly, but, it just happened.
How did it just happen?
Laura: We were down at the farmer’s market and we were wandering around, and saw this space and it just looked like the perfect opportunity. So we figured, why not?
Tell me a little bit about what you sell here.
We sell European women’s clothing. I like to think of it as timeless and ageless. It’s fun and different. It’s not your same basic chain store apparel.
How did you get into selling it?
Laura: My husband’s mother has a shop in Woodstock, Vermont. Our restaurant was next door. We lived alongside it for a couple years.
How has business in downtown Sarasota been treating you?
Laura: Well, we’ve only been open for exactly two months. We’ve got kind of just a sneak preview of what season will be like, and then it tapered off. It is still decently steady. It slowed down quite a bit. Some weeks there seems to be more happening than others. Overall it’s slowly steady.
What’s the switch from restaurants to retail been like?
Cameron: It’s been good. I mean, I got a lot more free time. A pretty decent transition. I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m so used to it being hectic most of the time.
Laura: We also got a great person who works for us, so it’s a lot less micro managing than restaurants.
During the summer, it typically gets a little slower. What are you planning on doing in the summer months?
Laura: I don’t think we have much of a plan for what we’re doing. I just think we’re going to see what happens and take it from there.
Cameron: I feel like we’re kind of treading water. You feel like downtown has just come up, so everyone’s kind of in the same boat.
How do you think downtown compares to a mall?
Cameron: It’s more personable than being in a mall. Generally all the shops in the mall are the same. They’re all corporate.
Laura: The shops are more interesting.
Are there any challenges of being in a downtown location?
Laura: There’s still a little bit of a homeless population that I see, and that could be something that turns people off. Also, driving people here instead of to St. Armands or the mall. We could make it more of a destination.
Cameron: We just caught the tail end of the season. So now, we’re really excited for the next season.
Who is your typical client?
Cameron: Definitely a little more mature crowd. Has a little bit of a flirty aspect to it.
Laura and Cameron’s top six favorite items:
Address: 1463 Main St, Sarasota, FL 34236
Phone: (802) 366-2457