How a North Portland Boutique Plans to Conquer the World
Mantel, a locally sourced handmade lifestyle boutique in North Portland's historic Kenton district, launched a new website earlier this October to meet demand from faraway customers.
“We have a following that’s really starting overseas in South Korea and Japan,” says owner Karen McClelland. I’m seeing interest not just from this neighborhood, not just from Portland, and not just from Oregon, but internationally.”
McClelland traces at least some of the online interest to a specific customer. Not long ago, she says, “someone from South Korea bought me out of mugs, packed them in a suitcase, and took them to South Korea to start a brand-new coffee shop over there.” From there, she says, “It just grew.”
The new website means McClelland's hyperlocal inventory is just a few clicks away for her global fan base. McClellan opened the Kenton boutique in September 2016 to showcase Northwest artists, curating collections of hand-painted ceramics from the woman-owned shop the Granite, along with hand-stitched quilts from Saint Helen, sculpted mugs from Wolf Ceramics, and goods from Kenton leatherworker Woolly.
Of course, online customers miss out on visiting on McClellan's light-filled shop, located in a 111-year-old building on North Denver Street that was once boarded up, covered in graffiti and bullet holes. The shop owes its name to McClelland’s now-10-year-old son, who at the time was in the third grade, studying the earth’s layers.
“He was learning all these vocal words—radius, perimeter,” says McClelland. “I was like, those are amazing names. I googled them but they were all taken. So he said, 'How about Mantel?'”
Prior to opening Mantel, McClellan taught art drafting, ceramics, printmaking, and sculpting at Portland Public Schools. And though she no longer walks the school hallways, you might still see student art at Mantel, alongside works by established professionals; McClelland sees her shop as a stepping stone for these aspiring designers.
“Last year I had about five [student] artists,” she says. "I still have this connection of wanting to bring in makers and support starting artists.”