Sunday, August 10, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Springfield native Benjamin Glushein, 36, achieved a long-held dream to own his own boutique when he opened Port MA at 202 Main St. July 13. He took a circuitous route to get here, but that makes reaching his goal all the sweeter.
“Like an art process you plan for some things, as one thing happens it leads to another, things that you didn’t expect would happen, but it kind of worked out,” said Glushein as he took a break from stocking the store to talk to a reporter the week before the shop opened. Glushein,the store’s sole employee, lives in East Longmeadow.
After buying a pair of flip-flops at the store last week, customer Betsey Johnson of Amherst said she welcomes the new store because in her view Northampton could use more clothing stores along Main Street.
She also said that she owned a Mirling’s Bakery in Greenfield for about 11 years, so she understands the difficulty of small businesses, and will always frequent them over other stores.
For his part, Glushein said though he is nervous about his new enterprise, he has high hopes for it as well.
“I have kind of tapped in to this classic look that’s becoming a little more popular, which is reassuring because this is a risky thing I’m doing,” he said. “I’m putting it all in.”
Glushein said he originally intended to open a sneaker boutique 10 years ago in Providence with a friend soon after graduating from the Pratt Institute in New York with a degree in painting, but those plans fell through. He then went on to work in many jobs, including model-making for toy prototypes, working at video and candy stores, and being an independent contractor for Disney where he would go to local movie theaters and watch previews of the movies and report back.
He finally decided the time was right to go into business for himself several years ago — but from there the process took time. He originally envisioned opening it in Amherst, but decided that the town was not right for the type of store he wanted.
Once he settled on Northampton as his location, he said, his vision for the store began to clarify. The location had housed the store Unite for 11 years until it closed in March.
The shop, located at the top of Crafts Avenue across from Northampton City Hall, has a slightly nautical and classic feel, offering a line of clothing and accessories that Glushein describes as durable and sustainable. About a third of the merchandise he stocks is made in the United States, with other products selected, he says, to fit his theme of classic style, high quality, and affordability.
“I want a place for regular people where they can start to think about buying American-made goods in an effort to support jobs here,” he said.
Among the brands the store carries is the South Carolina-based Loggerhead Apparel — Port MA is the first Massachusetts retailer to carry the brand — which donates 10 percent of its sales to protect the loggerhead turtle and is entirely American made. The company literature boasts that even the cotton is grown in the United States.
The store also carries Armor-Lux, a unisex shirt company in France, Woolrich shirts and blankets, and shirts made by California-based Jungmaven, which are made entirely of hemp and organic cotton, among other brands.
In addition to clothing, there are bags by Baggu, a New York-based company, stationery from Terrapin Stationers printed in New York, and several types of shoes that are described as sustainable.
Glushein said he handpicked each item over the last year, with the goal “very much about utility, about comfort.”
He chose the name, Port MA, because it has a minimal feeling, and embraces the shoreline vibe of much of the clothing. “Fashion becomes a little more ruled by utility as you get closer to shores, and I like that, it fits with the feeling I was going for,” he said.
Glushein said that timing has never been in his favor with other endeavors in the past, but everything seems to be working out this time.
In the store last week, after wandering around for about 10 minutes, Elizabeth Quilter of Northampton said she appreciates the selection offered at the store.
“I liked that there were a lot of clean lines in the clothing and it had a simplicity to it, while still being unique, and I liked the feel of the fabric,” she said. “It’s sustainable and made in this country, so I hope it keeps going because we need more of that.”