Photos: Gabriella Sturchio
When we took some time at the beginning of this year to review our numbers, one account that stood out to us was Portland Dry Goods - particularly, the fact that they were one of our fastest growing accounts in 2013. Via the northeastern coastal town of Portland, Maine, PDG has been building a strong 3sixteen following for several seasons now. The shop also recently partnered with local shirtmaker Seawall to launch seawallshop.com, a collaborative ecommerce site that houses both brands. We checked in with PDG co-owner Michael Force to learn more about what makes their hometown special and the role it plays in their retail operations.
It seems like everyone who visits Portland, ME has nothing but great things to say about the town, from its innovative food and drink scene to the shopping. What is it about your hometown that breeds this community of independent creatives and entrepreneurs?
Winters keep everybody who doesn’t actually want to be here away. You can be sure that while the summers and fall are beautiful — they don’t call it Vacationland for nothing — they’re not enough on their own to get you through the winter or mud season. If you don’t see and appreciate the amazing community and people we have all around us then you won’t be here for long. At the same time, when you take how long you spend shut indoors and combine it with the New England work ethic, you get people that have to grow things to stay engaged. Lo and behold, you get lots of small efforts. It’s kind of nice, actually. Mother Nature helps us weed out the people that are half-assing Portland.
PDG is part of the David Wood family of shops in the Portland. Tell us more about David Wood and his vision for how PDG fits into the overall lineup.
David Wood grew up with Portland. Dave, the owner, has a perspective on men’s fashion that combines some of the traditional values with New England prep, and that angle has set him apart from the pack for decades. We look at PDG as the natural offspring of David Wood, in that it’s sort of answering the question “What would the child raised by David Wood grow up to wear?” We can trace what’s similar — commitment to quality, practical pieces, and classic styling — while also celebrating our departure from traditional fashion into pieces that are more contemporary. Some customers love both stores, and others are more committed to one over the other. There’s really something for everyone.
Portland is a popular New England tourism hub, especially since it’s a major cruise line port. How important is tourism business to the shop?
PDG is built around our great local customers. Of course, tourism is a part of the business, but we’ve always looked at that as the icing on the cake. Running a shop that lives and dies by the seasons doesn’t keep you in business for 30 years (as David Wood has been). We think that picking a product selection and aesthetic that is useful and appealing primarily to the community around us (read: Mainers) gives us a unique perspective that visitors to Portland like even more. Developing a product collection that serves our local customer base lets us present shoppers from outside of Maine with an authentic view on what fashionable Mainers are wearing now. It helps keep us true to our community.
What are some of your favorite small businesses in your area that you like to support?
Without sounding too much like a small-business elitist, it’s hard to patronize any business around here that’s not a small or regional operation. We’ve got killer home-grown coffee, drinks, food, and art all. Below is a list of some of our local favorites.
Portland Dry Goods
237 Commercial Street
Portland, ME 04101