As downtown and campus retailers are talking doomsday, squeezed between high rents and online competition (see, for example, the closing of Dancing Dog Gallery, below), an interesting counterpoint is the number of businesses moving into neighborhoods and buildings off the main retail corridors.
Annex of paredown is the latest example. Next to the Party Center convenience store at the Jackson/Dexter divide, Brenda Brown has created what looks like a very pretty living room stuffed with mid-century collectible pottery and Depression glass, along with some new kitchenware and utensils. “The moniker is ‘new and vintage home furnishings and fabrics,'” Brown says.
Though her merchandise ranges from furniture and handmade couture to lemon squeezers, a good bit of it clusters around what she calls the “hostess gift” range–around $20. The walls are draped with upholstery fabric remnants; they’re for sale, but she also turns them into things. Her sewing machine and a tiny sewing studio occupy the back.
“Most recently, my thing is coats made of upholstery fabric,” she says. “I’ve always had an interest in fabrics, sewing, and upholstery–a little bit for money, but mostly for passion. In years past I’ve done bridal dresses and skating and dance costumes.” Three of her handmade coats are currently on display: a thigh-length boucle in a Chanel-like design, a fleecy-looking number that is made from a vintage Fieldcrest blanket, and what she calls “a basic duster,” though made from sumptuous brocade. All are lined so flawlessly they look reversible.
Brown, a petite and chic woman, moves with the sort of purpose and confidence that suggests a French accent might come out of her mouth, but she’s a Midwesterner and “an old hippie. My first house was in Ypsi–I dyed burlap and made curtains for it.” She worked in the book production industry for years, but several years ago started a business called paredown: “I help people downsize and organize, so they can move or rework their spaces, maybe carving out a rental space.”
She’s accrued a lot of the Annex’s inventory by helping customers pare down theirs, and the rest from a lifelong habit of haunting estate sales. “With the furniture, I’m trying to appeal to the size and style of homes in the neighborhood,” she says, pointing out a couple of upholstered occasional chairs and a set of pristine mid-century vinyl dining chairs. Her latest project is in the center of the shop: an old paint-crusted butcher-block workbench. “I think it would make a good kitchen island. I’m thinking of stripping the top but leaving the sides as is.”
Annex of paredown, 1608 Jackson Ave., 834-9024. Wed. 2-7 p.m., Thurs. & Fri. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m-5 p.m. Closed Sun.-Tues. annexofparedown.com.