Instincts and Friends, a new shop in Northampton, shoots for big-city vibe

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  • Animal Instincts apparel designer Jamai Lowell leafs through his work at Instincts and Friends, his new shop on Main Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • In addition to Animal Instincts apparel, Instincts and Friends on Main Street also sells prints, puzzles and more.

  • A selection of bags made by Lady Alamo, of San Francisco, for sale at Instincts and Friends, a new apparel, gifts and home shop on Main Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Instincts and Friends is a new shop on Main Street in Northampton opened by Jamai Lowell, who designs Animal Instincts apparel. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Animal Instincts apparel designer Jamai Lowell leafs through some of his work, like these infant onesies, at Instincts and Friends, the shop he’s opened on Main Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A BUG, or Bug Under Glass, by Kevin Clarke of California, is one of the handcrafted lines Jamai Lowell offers at Instincts and Friends, his new shop on Main Street in Northampton. Photographed on Friday, Jan. 8. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Instincts and Friends is a new shop on Main Street in Northampton, at the top of Crafts Avenue, opened by Animal Instincts apparel designer Jamai Lowell. Photographed on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Instincts and Friends, which recently opened on Main Street in Northampton, plans to add locally-inspired designs. STAFF PHOTOS/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jamai Lowell, designer of Animal Instincts apparel, has opened Instincts and Friends, an apparel, gift and home shop, on Main Street in Northampton. Photographed on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/20/2021 4:11:05 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Jamai Lowell was running a store where he sold his line of apparel, Animal Instincts, and other gifts in the financial district of San Francisco when the pandemic struck.

“With the pandemic, it just completely cleared out,” he said of traffic. “There was just kind of no end in sight there.”

He closed up the store, Instincts and Friends, and knew he wanted to reopen elsewhere. When his wife, who grew up in Amherst, got a teaching job in western Massachusetts, his family moved to her hometown in August.

“That was kind of my catalyst, he said. “It made sense to move (the store) to Northampton.” The store opened in downtown Northampton in early December in the space that used to be home to A Child’s Garden.

“My brand was started in a big city. I’m used to being in a city, and I feel like my stuff lends itself to being in a city. I also have visited Northampton a lot. I really like how it seems to be a shopping destination almost for the area,” he said.

Instincts and Friends sells clothing for kids and adults, fine art, puzzles and gifts. All Lowell’s designs on the Animal Instincts clothing are original artwork. The store also sells products from local artists, like candles, and he hopes to work with more local business in the future.

Lowell has always been interested in art. In high school, he made silk-screen printed T-shirts for his friends, he said.

“I wanted to create something more fun and hip for kids T-shirts — not something that’s super cutesy. I kind of saw a market for that.”

He started selling his clothing wholesale and at fairs and festivals, and then opened a brick-and-mortar store several years ago.

Many of his clothing designs feature animals and some of them feature California-inspired images, like a dinosaur on the Golden Gate Bridge. Some western-Massachusetts inspired designs are on their way, he said.

“My plan is really to start developing designs that are local and focused to this area,” he said. “I’m gathering inspiration and figuring out what’s going to be good designs for this area.”

During the pandemic, small businesses around the country and in Northampton have closed their doors.

“A lot of people are like, ‘you’re so brave to be opening a store right now,’” he said. “And I think for me, I look at the store as kind of the engine of my business — I sell my stuff online and I offer my line wholesale as well. So I use the store not just as my store,” he said, adding that he does work like filling online orders in the space. “My goal with the store wasn’t to come out the gates and have really busy retail. It’s just to keep my business alive in a sense.”

So far, foot traffic has been quiet, but feedback from customers has been good, he said.

“I feel really good about the future here in Northampton,” he said.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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