The buzz on the Stanley Marketplace began two years ago, and as time dragged on and opening dates were pushed back, people began to wonder what happened. But since January, the first of more than fifty restaurants, retail shops and services have begun to open their doors. Once the majority of those businesses have fully opened later this spring, the expected crowds will see why it took so long: Stanley is handcrafted with love, something rarely considered in the mainstream retail world, thanks to the grand vision and careful vetting of businesses by head creative and project overseer Mark Shaker of Flightline Ventures.
This became obvious to Stephanie Shearer, longtime co-owner of the Pandora boutique on Capitol Hill (now happily ensconced in Uptown), who admits that once she “swallowed the magic hippie pill” and committed to opening a business at Stanley, she never looked back. Shearer’s newest venture, Trunk Nouveau, opened quietly at the end of January with the first of its signature trunk shows, featuring handmade wares from longtime Pandora vendor Crow Jane Jewelry.
Shearer explains how, in preparing the former aviation facility for renovation, a room full of old luggage — in her own words, “a forgotten room, full of steam trunks and suitcases filled with forgotten treasures, the kind of trinkets that people hold on to, precious pieces that mean something — handcrafted and beautiful,” was found by the developers. She ran with the evocative and decided the shop would host monthly trunk shows from favorite vendors, and they’d naturally be displayed in old trunks.
But there’s more to Trunk Nouveau than its centerpiece concept. In some ways, it re-creates the tried-and-true retail magic that is Pandora (and its companion men’s store, SoulHaus). “The common thread weaving through all three stores is our commitment to local designers and small-label lines with a more than twenty-year commitment to donate a portion from every sale back into our community,” Shearer says. “I like working with actual artists. I want to know the person behind the creation, what inspires them and the story behind what they do. We have never been into the big trendy; I want people to treasure their purchase, whether it's a gift for themselves or someone they love."
So while it shares the upcycled fixtures, lines and accouterments of Pandora, the new store is designed to have its own flavor. “It will also offer some of our favorite local lines either in our permanent collection or in the monthly trunk show, but the location allows us to spread our wings a bit and offer a few lines that are a little broader in price point,” Shearer notes. “Not to say we are going to be expensive, but there are some incredible artists out there who create work at a price point that breaks Pandora's $100 price cap. So expect some new one-of-a-kind pieces and more specialized collections, in a more specifically curated space."
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And in the larger sense, Trunk Nouveau, and Shearer herself, are both part of a bigger movement — the overall sense of community and stick-to-itiveness among Stanley’s entrepreneurial denizens and outside cheerleaders. “If it hadn't been for the City of Aurora being so supportive of this project, the surrounding neighborhoods cheering us on all the way and the pit-bull determination of Flightline — this thing would have died before even one screw went into a wall,” Shearer says. “It's been a hell of a learning curve, even for someone who has opened five or six businesses — let alone for all the first-time small-business operators in the building."
Good vibes, it seems, mean good business. “I am so awed by the dedication we experience every day from all of the people who have a pinkie in this project — and the passion and the work ethic of my fellow Stanley business owners is inspiring and absolutely addicting,” she adds. “I love the collaboration I see on a daily basis out here, and it is something that I feel will be a role model for other projects of this type in the future. When we say ‘Stanley Family,’ we mean it. And it is of a quality and character that this small-business owner hasn't seen in twenty-plus years of operation.”
This weekend, you can get an inkling of what that two-year-old buzz was all about — and what’s still to come — while attending the first Valentine's Soiree, running from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, February 10, and noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, February 11, in Stanley’s Hangar event space. Friday’s Sneak Peek Night includes first-chance shopping at a forty-vendor artisan fair, special cocktails and door prizes; on Saturday, live music and swing-dancing performances will keep things lively, and lovey-doves can pose in a photo-and-kissing booth. And of course, Trunk Nouveau and the rest of Stanley’s growing family of operating businesses will be ready to meet the public, too. Learn more at the Stanley Marketplace website.