Local Spotlight: Se Vende Imports
My, how time flies. Do you remember one of my first posts here at TLAC called “Friend Request” where I chronicled the time I had a mini-reunion with a friend from my tiny hometown in her store in Portland? Three months later, I’m proud to call Olive a friend, and she comes with some great bonuses too. One, her mom, Sage, who is a source of never-ending entertainment for us all (and I mean ALL of us, because she will gladly entertain anyone she damn pleases, regardless of whether they’ve elicited her attention.) Two, their beautiful store, Se Vende Imports, which has recently graced a new location on Exchange Street with its beautiful unique jewelry and home decor (imported from Mexico, Nicaragua, Turkey, Israel, Africa and Peru), rustic antique furniture and architectural salvage. (Personally, I’m a sucker for the Turkish gold earrings, and bracelets but you should decide for yourself!)
Olive and Sage travel together and work together and, when it’s late, the store is open the next day and they don’t feel like driving back up the coast to go home, they actually share a futon together too. One of my favorite insights on their relationship: the funny nicknames they have for each other. Sometimes, Olive calls Sage “Sagey” and it’s crazy endearing that Sage hollers the greeting, “Hey, Buddy Girl!” when Olive arrives, regardless of how long she’s been gone.
I was lucky enough to help Olive and Sage move in to their new location in the heart of the Old Port (only about 2 blocks from their old location on Market Street) in January. It was absurdly fun to set up the space and then arrange and merchandise everything, run ideas by each other, play around with the displays and end with happy hour nearby where we could think outside the box over margaritas. I even got to live out a little fantasy of mine when they went to Mexico for a shopping trip in early February and left me to handle the store. “Playing store” was so fun, but Portland was definitely ready to welcome these ladies home.
Without further adieu, I present to you Se Vende Imports and a little interview with Olive (unfortunately, Sage is diving/shopping in Nicaragua, so she’s unable to answer these questions!):
What prompted you two to start an import store and how did you decide what products to sell?
Sage started it by accident while cruising around Mexico for most of the year for the sake of warm weather, adventure and a genuine love of the country. She “discovered” Taxco while I was waitressing in Florida. First when she would call me from Taxco she’d talk about this beautiful city built on the side of a mountain with its amazing architecture and history. Then she noticed that there were many hundreds of jewelry stores selling sterling jewelry for not that much money (this was 2002 or 2003) and she sent me a big box of it. I spread it out on the picnic table outside the staff dorm where I worked and had a little jewelry yard sale. Over the years she would set up card tables in “downtown” Round Pond, Maine during tourist season, at festivals and gift fairs, and she even loaded up a backpack with pounds of jewelry and flew to Europe where she traveled for months exploring and hawking silver in places like Croatia, Greece and Austria. In 2008 someone casually mentioned that we should open a store in Portland with all our great stuff and get out of the boonies. Next thing we knew, we were looking for a space and I took out a big ‘ol loan from the bank in order to buy into the store and make myself a partner. Deciding what to sell was simply a matter of what was for sale, whether it beautiful and handmade. Each village that we traveled to specialized in something different that they had been crafting for hundreds of years in that village.
Which of your vendors do you have the best relationship with? Any good stories there?
It’s all pretty positive. There is one woman that we always hope won’t be there when we stop by to see her designs (which are awesome), but on the whole we have made alot of friends. Ten years ago a designer named Miguel in Taxco used to drink tequila with us and try to teach us how to dance Latin style and take us driving in the mountains. Now he has two children with Lissa from Canada, who is an amazing jewelry designer as well, so it’s been fun working with someone for that long and seeing how they’ve grown and changed (and not changed). Sharaga in Israel met with us at his studio at the end of a long and frustrating day of driving our rental car around Israel trying to find his place, not even sure we would like his jewelry once we did find him. He gave us cookies and offered to let us sleep in his wife’s yoga studio. Very kind and positive man. Finding jewelry in Morocco was almost impossible. We drove and drove and ended up at livestock auctions in the middle of nowhere and antique stores on the edge of the Sahara. The hotel rooms have no windows and the food is cumin flavored to the point that finding a McDonald’s in Marrakesh brought tears of joy to my mothers face, and she doesnt like McDonald’s! In the end we came away with some of the most unique jewelry in our store, the designs from the Tuareg tribe.
Few mother/daughter duos could handle the stress and pressure of working together and traveling together – how do you make it work?
We are lucky enough to have a similar sense of humor, taste and work ethic. We get better and better at these forms of teamwork. If one person is frustrated and stressed out, it is the others job to stay calm and keep their mouth shut. You take turns being the monster and the saint. Also, i’m always right and she’s finally learning that.
Tell us something most people don’t know about Se Vende.
We have no idea what we are doing. Actually, anyone that knows us probably knows that. We both dislike shopping in general.
Se Vende has been nominated for Best Jewelry store in Portland! They are in the running with a few other fancier jewelry stores which really makes them stand out from the crowd so please take a minute and cast your vote! (Don’t forget the part where you enter your email address, or it won’t be counted.) Also, do yourself a favor and stop by their store the next time you’re strolling the streets of the Old Port. If you can’t make it here, visit their (presently under construction) website: http://www.sevendeimports.com.