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Retailer Spotlight: Guevel.

Retailer Spotlight: Guevel.
Flannels hanging in Guevel KC
Some shoes on top of a rack of clothes.

We get along with Cam Niederhauser, founder of Kansas City-based retailer Guevel, as though we've known each other for decades. Beyond having a deep respect for each other's businesses and operations and a bevy of shared interests, a big part of our friendship lies in the fact that Cam has been on our side of the business before venturing off to open his own retail store. Cam spent five years with Baldwin Denim, starting out as an assistant manager at their retail store and ending up as an account executive on the wholesale side. We believe having experience on the brand side has given him unique insight into building his own retail experience.

His journey into opening his own shop is an interesting one as well. One of the accounts he serviced during his time at Baldwin was East + West in St. Louis, MO - which was at the time owned by his good friend Brian Simpson. When it came time for him to step out on his own, he partnered with Brian to open up the Kansas City branch of East + West, which gave him access to the same brands that Brian had worked so hard to establish relationships with. Once Brian had moved on from the business and sold the shop to new owner Roy Brady, the opportunity presented itself for Cam to rebrand the shop and carve out his own perspective - and with that came a name change to Guevel. 

Now approaching his fifth year in business, Cam remains focused on bringing brands that he is excited about to Kansas City while venturing for the first time into shop-branded clothing that he designed and managed production on himself (some additional skillsets he picked up during his time at Baldwin). As the year came to a close, we linked up with Cam to chat about his story and where he's headed in 2023 and beyond.

Guevel shop floor
Cam using sewing machine

Guevel is an interesting name that has deep personal meaning to you. Can you explain the origins of the name and give us the backstory?

For sure, Guevel is my mom's maiden name. It's a French last name and certainly looks bizarre and presents a lot of options for pronunciation (it's pronounced GUH-VEL), but I loved that it was unique and genuinely felt personal. My late grandfather was also something of a representative muse -- he worked his entire career at the Ford plant here in KC after spending some time in the military as a younger man, and now the shop is full of denim, workwear, and military reproduction pieces that pay homage to that earlier era of men's dress. It felt right.

That wasn't the original shop name though; you went through a rebranding in 2020. Share with us what that was like.

Rebranding from East + West to Guevel was a big undertaking. I kept thinking of names and then sort of back-filling a meaning. Guevel was our way to lead with something personal and meaningful and then hope people would get the pronunciation down over time (laughs). Our designer Ben Kocinski really grabbed the reins and took us in a great direction when it came to the identity and imagery. Unveiling it gave our clients and friends in KC something fresh to grab onto and celebrate. Opening as an extension of the East + West name was incredible and getting to present our new name and identity in the middle of the pandemic was scary but ultimately happened at the right time for our shop.

An overhead shot of Guevel from outside.
Rack of products in Guevel KC

Can you tell us a little about the neighborhood that Guevel is in? What are some other shops or restaurants that are nearby that you'd recommend to someone visiting from out of town?

Our shop is in the Crossroads Arts District here on the south edge of downtown. It's a fascinating neighborhood, and is representative of several now-burgeoning areas in a lot of small cities across the midwest. Downtown KC and its surrounding neighborhoods emptied out in the 70's and 80's while the suburbs exploded. At that time, our neighborhood was mostly a mix of businesses and other industrial buildings. Eventually, graduates from the Kansas City Art Institute started turning these low-slung, affordable brick and concrete properties into studios and DIY galleries. These days, the neighborhood has grown into an increasingly residential and entertainment-focused arts district. There's a vibrant brewery scene, James Beard nominated chefs, art galleries, and obviously shops like ours. We're huge fans of Duet, a home goods shop meets art gallery meets ceramic production space, run by our friends Emily Reinhardt and Sasha Santillan. The food side of the neighborhood is almost too much to pick from, but my perfect day would be lunch at Baramee, afternoon wine at Big Mood, or a drink at Mean Mule, and then Corvino or Farina for dinner, topped off by jazz at Green Lady and burgers at Town Topic. Come to town and stay at Crossroads Hotel -- you'll have a blast.

You spent many years with Baldwin both as an account executive and as a buyer. Can you speak on what's like transitioning from working with a single brand to running your own multi-brand shop?

Working for a brand is really special -- you have an entire team of people working to communicate a super cohesive point-of-view and unique brand perspective in everything they do, from the product down to the retail spaces and online presence. Part of my job as a buyer was obviously evaluating which lines would sit best next to ours in the retail setting, so brand-mix and assortment considerations were nothing new when I launched the shop. The most exciting challenge of opening and running a multi-brand store was establishing an audience for brands that had never been carried in Kansas City before. The internet has given people access to and awareness of a ton of different brands from all across the planet but the most exciting thing I hear on a day-to-day basis is some version of 'I can't believe this piece/brand/etc. is available here, in KC.' As a small retailer in a mid-size city, that's something I get a lot of joy from.

A beautiful grey dog sits on a couch.
Shop floor of Guevel KC

We see that just about all of the brands you stock are also brands in your own personal wardrobe, but what is it about the brands that you decide to bring into Guevel? Is it only brands that you will wear yourself or is there more to it?

We don't add and drop a lot of brands from our assortment, so when we decide to carry a brand, it means I really want to build a long-term relationship and develop a customer for the brand in our city, if there isn't one already. In that way, our assortment has become almost a dialogue between the shop and our customers. We take notice of what folks are wearing -- maybe more importantly, what they're not wearing -- what they ask us for, what categories where we're underrepresented, and synthesize all of that feedback as much as we can. That said, if it's a brand I've had in my closet, it's almost certainly been our list of potential additions to the shop. I'm mostly balancing making our assortment more dynamic and interesting with what I have a personal interest in and what we can afford, which has grown as our shop has grown.

As we approach 2023, what are some new developments that we can expect from Guevel? What are you most excited about?

Our shop officially turns five years old in late February and my wife and I are preparing to welcome our first child in early March, so 2023 is definitely going to keep me busy! We've got some fun collaborations lined up for the year to celebrate five years, and we'll roll those out slowly so I can balance being a shop owner and being a new dad. We're also dipping our toes into some of our own product development -- putting our name in the back of more product is an exciting new chapter for us. Definitely most excited for the baby, though, if my wife is reading this.

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