Only way is up for Atelerie
For entrepreneur Heather Macdonald, today’s grand reopening of her concept store Atelerie represents the culmination of a dream that began with an exploratory walk through the upper reaches of Washington Mall.
It was there, at the end of a hallway, that Ms Macdonald’s mother and co-worker Charlene and store manager Ci Ci Araujo peered through glass doors into a large, vacant open space with a cement floor — and knew that it held the answer to Ms Macdonald’s desire to expand her business.
“We had quickly outgrown our 650 sq ft space, so we were looking for alternatives but there was nothing available in central Hamilton,” Ms Macdonald recalled.
“Then Ci Ci and my mom said ‘have you seen the space directly above the store? You could go up’.”
The shop was moved into a 1,600 sq ft pop-up location elsewhere in Washington Mall in January 2018 so that renovations could begin.
Ms Macdonald engaged Brooklyn-based design/build practice, Tri-Lox, architect and designer Jonathan Chesley of New York design firm inc_a (it stands for “it’s not corporate architecture”) and Bermudian contractor Peter Araujo of Araujo Construction to help her realise her vision for the space.
“I knew design-wise how I wanted the store to look. I have firm tastes, I know what I like,” said Ms Macdonald, a former full-time oil painter who studied art and design at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The designer and craftsmen, Ms Macdonald said, worked with her to create an even better concept.
Today, after a stunning renovation, a dramatic cantilevered staircase invites customers to climb to the second level of what is now a 2,400-square-foot retail space spanning two floors.
Atelerie’s aesthetically pleasing design elements include customised lighting, spalted maple furniture, open painted ceilings, a chandelier from Los Angeles-based lighting and furniture designer Brendan Ravenhill, an abstract painting by Atlanta-based artist Kristen Giorgi, stained concrete floors, a cast-iron interior window at the top of the stairs, seagrass wallpaper accents, and vintage carpets.
Ms Macdonald said she is “overwhelmed” by the store’s new look.
“I am very excited. It is a surreal process to design it and then see it actually happen. The response of our customers has been overwhelmingly positive, too, and that has been incredibly gratifying.
“I was nervous about what the response would be, but people have loved it.”
The store’s aesthetics provide a showcase for a carefully curated range of products.
Ms Macdonald and the store’s buying team — her mother and Ms Araujo — make regular trips to New York to ensure that Atelerie stays on trend in the areas of fashion, homewares, gifts, health, paper goods, and food and wine.
She calls Atelerie a “concept store based on lifestyle”.
The first floor carries a wide range of products including organic and biodynamic wines, champagne, cocktail kits; olive oil, mustard, vinegar; organic coffee, artisanal chocolate; candles, diffusers, soaps; kitchen items such as cutting boards; and fine jewellery.
On the second floor, products include women’s fashions, shoes and accessories, “green” apothecary products for men and women, paper and party supplies, and more jewellery.
“Retail is completely different now than it was when I first opened in 2008,” Ms Macdonald said.
“Today, retail needs to be an experience. People need to enjoy a store, be inspired by it, and find products to help them. People are investing in their health and wellbeing.
“The products that we bring in are those that work for my life and how other people’s lives work here. The model is definitely for people living in Bermuda.”
Today’s grand reopening at 9 Reid Street becomes official with a ribbon-cutting at 5.15pm.
The Tri-Lox and inc_a teams will be on hand, as will jewellery designer Sofia Zakia who will be showing new pieces as well as reading customers’ tarot cards. Reserve a reading by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The store will remain open tonight until 6.30pm.
Anyone who makes a purchase today or tomorrow will be entered into a draw for prizes — two, $250 gift certificates and two bracelets by French designer Gigi Clozeau. Prizes will be drawn at the end of business tomorrow.