Jennifer Bolanos uses her former life as an interior designer to open her first brick-and-mortar store Via Raiz—loosely translating to "through the root"—this month on Northwest Thurman Street. As a child, Bolanos took annual trips to her parents' hometown of Michoacán, Mexico, where her love for the local craft scene first awakened. With its authentic Mexican style, the new shop embodies those experiences.
“Between my affinity for Mexican crafts, love for design and my background in it—I felt there was a need and a gap in the market for this,” she says on her motivation to open an import business. “And Portland definitely nurtures entrepreneurs, makers, and doers. So it’s the perfect city to try and make a dream come true.”
Here, the dream takes the form of white walls and spare furniture creating a light atmosphere. You’ll find modern Mexican crafts, Bolanos's jewelry line made from creamy-colored Mexican cotton, and textiles made with ancient looming techniques.
The pieces come from contemporary designers using traditional materials from different states in Mexico, preserving the cultural significance of each piece while also modernizing them. Bolanos looks for elevated pieces like a Huichol skull crafted with a deliberate glass bead pattern that holds sacred meaning. The Huichol craft, the process of placing the glass beads together with beeswax, dates back to Aztec methods of design, but the distinct black and white geometric pattern gives the skull a current feel.
But Via Raiz is not just a shop to admire and purchase these pieces—it's also home to studio space, Thurman St. Studios, for several artists. These artists share the space, allowing customers to see their process. Though their work is not for sale at Via Raiz, Bolanos wanted customers to have another layer of experience while at the shop.
“I hope to bring some experiences into the shop that are outside of just coming in to purchase something," Bolanos says. "Part of that is reframing what it means to be made in Mexico, or the idea of what is Mexican, and allowing people to be a part of that culture.”