Macy’s may be gone, but you can still shop Downtown. This week, The Incline is featuring small, local businesses located in that part of town as the holiday shopping season ramps up. Don’t forget: Small Business Saturday is this weekend.
Over the past seven years, Wendy Downs has moved her handmade bag business, Moop, from the West End to Carnegie to the North Side to Lawrenceville. In May, she moved the studio again, this time to a light-filled space on First Avenue, Downtown.
Downs chose Moop’s current space in part because it’s away from the business districts and in a location that’s off-the-beaten path — or at least that’s what she thought.
“Turns out that it’s a much busier street than I realized,” she said. “There’s a ton of walk-in traffic.”
For most of its existence, Moop has been an e-commerce business.
Downs said she wanted to have a place where local followers could come see the studio in action — Moop’s operations, from manufacturing the waxed canvas bags by hand to shipping them, happen under one roof — but not in a location where passersby would constantly be stopping in.
That’s not what happened.
In response to the surprising amount of foot traffic, Downs said she expanded the space devoted to retail and started featuring products from other independent businesses with similar approaches like MCMC, a Brooklyn-based company that handcrafts fragrances and candles.
Downs is new to the walk-in retail business, and Moop is changing as she learns about it. One lesson learned from customers: They really like to dump out their bags then put all of their stuff in Moop’s to find the right size.
“Everyone wants to do that,” she said.
Now, Downs said she’s in the process of adding a bag bar where people can go to town trying out sample versions of each bag in a designated area.
When she started looking for an ideal retail space, Lawrenceville was out of the question (too much foot traffic). Downs said she needed a storefront that was both beautiful to work in and for customers to visit, as well as something big enough to accommodate a manufacturing operation.
“I was curious about what was happening Downtown,” Downs said, adding that there’s new “positive energy” as restaurants, galleries and residential buildings open.
“It kind of became this, ‘Maybe, maybe that’s where we should end up,’ ” she said.
Downs doesn’t have any plans to move Moop from Downtown for the foreseeable future.
“It should be here pretty longterm.”
Downs’ holiday gift recommendations
“It looks great on men,” she said of The Weekender. “I want more men to carry totes.”
Moop also sells smaller clutches ($41), “That are really good gift things.”
You can also pick up prints by local artist Jesse Caggiano, cards from Pittsburgh’s Sapling Press, pins made by These Are Things based in Columbus, jewelry from Odette New York and Lemnos clocks from Japan.
“It’s been really great for me, because it gives me an opportunity in the place that I’ve reached with my business to give some support to other businesses,” Downs said of featuring these items. “They’re all things I use personally in my own life. … It’s important to me that I’m not just hawking stuff on the street corner. That everything has some importance to me.”
Moop is located at 429 First Ave. and is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will be closed this Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving, and open Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for Small Business Saturday.