Brick and Mortar Mercantile, a new store from Tara and Ben Wegdam, has opened on East Patrick Street in downtown Frederick. The store’s purpose is to bring brick-and-mortar stores back into the forefront of retail, rather than becoming a nostalgic term, according to the store’s site.
The Wegdams also own Lou Lou Boutiques, Zest and Creme de la Creme. This is their second Brick & Mortar Mercantile location, the first having opened in Leesburg, Virginia, about five months ago.
The Frederick News-Post sat down with store manager Charlie Beyer to talk about the new store. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What is the idea behind this new store from the Wegdams?
The idea behind the store is it’s mainly American products. We’ve got old companies, venerable American companies, like Stetson, and a lot of new merchandise as well. We have a lot of cards and books, a lot of wearables. The intent is to have a lot of local merchandise as well. The only company we’ve picked up so far is Frederick Candle Company, and people really love their mason jar candles.
Why have a piano? Was there a piano in the first store?
Yes, it’s to enhance the customer experience. It’s just supposed to be for fun but we hope that we’ll get some local talent to come in and play piano on the weekends. That’s another thing we’re working on.
What are the more popular items in the store?
There have been so many. “What Do You Do With a Problem” is a wonderful book. It was a self-published book on the New York Times best-seller list forever. It’s a great children’s book about ideas and concepts, and a lot of people give it as graduation presents as well.
We have leather goods that are made in Ethiopia, by Ethiopian ladies. The brand is called ABLE and supports the work of the women. As far as wearables go, we have a shawl vest, it’s about $45. You can put it in the washing machine, you can wear it about eight different ways. Women really love that.
The French reading glasses [from the brand Izipizi] are another best-seller from the other stores. These are also sold at the MoMa. It’s a unisex item. And you can also get blue screen readers and sunglass readers.
When you think about it, the Wegdams have 30 stores that sell women’s accessories and clothing, and then three stores that are home stores with a kind of Mediterranean concept. These two stores [Brick & Mortar Mercantile] are American stores. Everything’s unisex, but it’s got more of a masculine feel to it. A lot of merchandise is stylish, but it’s humor-based. There’s a lot of humor to it. People come in and laugh. They listen to records or the piano and they really have a good time here. It lifts people’s spirits.
What are other ways the shop gets involved locally?
In Leesburg, we had a lot of local talent. They would come and do pop-ups in the store to sell their product, try it out. And they could keep 100 percent of the sales. This woman came and made these beautiful cookies that were stuffed with buttercream frosting, she sold out and then the Wegdams had her send them around to a bunch of other locations to do the same thing. We’re supporting small businesses in exchange for social media and connections and really to enhance the customer experience in the store.
Why have birds in the store? [There are two small birds by the register.]
I thought it would be fun to have a store dog, but these guys can stay here; they just need water and a little love. They get attention all day from customers. And it’s relaxing to watch them. We had them in Leesburg, too.
The birds are named after the store: The blue one is Brick and the white one is Mortar.
What are you excited about for this location?
It’s got a unique demographic. There’s a socioeconomic range here that makes this a real place. ... I think the intent really is to get as much participation from the community as we can and it’s so creative here I think it will be really easy. There’s a lot of interesting things going on here. Tons of talent.