Retail's New Architects: Mill Mercantile

September 26, 2012 BY CAPSULESNEWS

Mill Mercantile

3751 24th St., San Francisco

Retailer Todd Barket seems to have the recipe for creating shopping perfection. His three UnionMade stores in California have become focal points for the global menswear market- offering a stellar brand list of heritage and locally made products, and great quality merchandise that’s simple, classic, yet right on trend, alongside books, international magazines, apothecary, accessories, lifestyle items—a general store for the modern man. Now Barket turns his sights on womenswear, with a new boutique in San Francisco, Mill Mercantile, which opened in late August 2012.

Barket is a former Gap executive who honed his craft for close to two decades at the retail giant working with legendary retailer Mickey Drexler. He opened his first Union Made shop 2009, with a carefully selected group of casual and formal menswear brands, grooming products, new and vintage books, footwear and accessories in a pre-1906 earthquake Victorian storefront at on the border of San Francisco's Mission and Castro districts.

Barket built Union Made into a destination by offering exclusive product capsules designed specifically for his store by many of the world’s most sought-after labels. “We like working with people who are experts,” he explains, which is why you’ll find impeccable classic white oxfords by New England Shirt Co., specially designed outerwear by Golden Bear, and saddle shoes by Alden, to name a few, exclusively made for Union Made.

Following a direction that’s similar to the way he approaches menswear, but with a more feminine point of view, at Mill Mercantile Barket offers a range of high quality fashion and lifestyle staples, recommending all the trappings for a lifestyle which is sophisticated and timeless, while edgy at the same time.

Located in a clean, pared-down modern interior in a former liquor store in the Noe Valley part of San Francisco, Barket’s vision of how women should dress is demonstrated through his careful curation. A lookbook, shot by photographer Andrew Paynter, on the store’s website, further demonstrates Barket’s classic, almost gender-neutral aesthetic.

Mill Mercantile offers handcrafted jeans by Raleigh Denim, accessories by Rth, striped tops by Saint James, and Chance, small leather goods by the Italian Il Bisonte, printed wovens by Gitman Sisters, footwear by Sven and Birkenstock, and a well-assembled, international array of art and design magazines, books, and home goods all merchandised to serve as blueprint for a new breed of women’s boutique.

We caught up with Barket just after the store opened to touch base.

So why did you decide to open a women’s store?

I did women’s at Gap. Women’s is what I started out doing. With UnionMade we always had plenty of gender-neutral products because of foot traffic--we already had women shopping in the store. Women kept requesting more stuff for them.

How would you describe the look and feel of Mill Mercantile?

It feels very San Francisco. It’s located in a broken down liquor store on 24th street right above the Castro. The aesthetic is clean and the buying is eclectic. There’s a classic point of view without being preppy at all. We have Japanese indigo and a nice home area, which we surround with clothes. Many of the men’s brands we carry also have women’s collections, so we bought from those people: Woolrich John Rich, Gitman Sisters, Rth, and classics like Il Bisonte, and Chance – who make great nautical-striped shirts. We also have a great Aesop shop in shop- we’re the only store to carry the full range of Aesop products.

What types of items do you buy?

I don’t like it to be too overexposed. I have a similar filter for women’s as men’s. Everything should be great quality – be well constructed and well made, and have a bit of history.

Do you see differences between how your male and female customers shop?

Women, unlike men, really shop. When guys come in, they’ll buy one thing. Women buy multiples. They’re more into it. They hunt for things in a different way than men do. Guys are more straightforward. Girls like a bit of a hunt. And like to be surprised. And they’re not as brand loyal. If they find something that fits and looks great, they buy it. It’s not so much about the brand as the look, fit and quality.

What will you be buying for SS13?

The color aspect is still really about intense vegetable ones. Bright colors are calming down to deeper goldenrods, fatigue greens and softer oranges work for me. Dresses are still important in a big way for women—anyone can wear a dress. Lots of Liberty print florals. I am still seeing soft, pretty pants for women, in silks- so they have a lot of flow to them. We also try to have plenty of indigo-based products in the store, and create special exclusives with our friends. Small Trade Company is doing a linen capsule—9 pieces, and locally, our friends at Golden Bear are doing some easy pieces for us.