By Barbara McMurray, Special to the Laguna Beach Independent
Just five weeks after signing a lease, Amii Schenk is in the eye of a whirlwind she created with her newest retail space, Bluebird Mercantile.
The collective, located at 1515 South Coast Highway, across from the Surf and Sand Resort, occupies the space of Vertigo. The popular Danish design-influenced home goods store opened in 2009 and recently closed.
“We are a co-op of little shops-in-a-shop,” commented business owner Schenk. “We’ve invited artists and makers to rent space to show their collections of handmade or hard-to-find goods. I wanted to bring many genres under one roof, each with their own look.”
The sunny, 1,600-square-foot shop showcases ceramic artists, furniture importers, vintage clothing finds, men’s, women’s, and unisex clothing lines, homewares, handmade accessories, natural apothecary, flowers, plants and jewelry.
Vertigo founders Chris Oswalt and Martin Ulrich closed shop but now offer goods online. However, a wall area at the Bluebird Mercantile still provides a sampling of items representative of their playful but practical design aesthetic.
“We are so excited to bring talented people and unique finds to our community and to have it all under one roof,” said Schenk. “(Vertigo owners) Chris and Martin gave us big shoes to fill, but we intend to do our best to give excellent customer service and to make everyone feel welcome.”
A serial retailer and seasoned seller of attention-grabbing goods, Schenk exhibits Super Ready’s line of upcycled Army garments repurposed into modern silhouettes and classic vintage Levi’s 501 jeans; Mary McDonald’s Double M Pottery; macrame artist Jim Olarte’s organic, oversize creations; MexDirect, which possesses a coveted export license to deliver custom-made artisanal wares to the U.S.; bandana pants and scarves from Artisan Collage out of Joshua Tree; Towne, a popular Palm Springs men’s clothing store that offers stylish MacKeene fashions; stunning vintage garments curated by Rachiel Macallistaire; Found Rentals, high-end furniture for sale or rental for home stagings or parties.
Schenk creates a cohesive shopping experience with an assembly of host gifts and garden and home goods not seen in other stores: Moroccan candles, candlesticks from Kenya, Portuguese pottery, baskets, tea towels, and more.
Schenk is known as the energy behind clothing stores Little Bohemian, Bohemian Kids and trucker hat label NBRHD. After a break from retail, she threw herself into pottery for five years before diving back into the retail game with Bluebird Mercantile. Her power team includes co-managers Nika Shalala (who also operates Neat by Nika, her organizing side hustle) and Carol Gonzalez, whose experience as a manager for Vertigo adds a dash of secret success sauce and a handy bridge between the former store and the new emporium.
Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. A website is in the works, but the shop can be followed on Instagram at @bluebirdmercantileLB.