imogene + willie: definition of a retailer

imogene and willie backyard concert venue nashville tn

I have been meaning to talk about imogene + willie for months – absolutely perfect for my made in america: contemporary project.  But today, I received the kick in the butt I needed.  We will get to the fashion in another post, but this is about what it means to be a retailer – lessons for every business.

imogene + willie is a wonderful denim brand, based in a former gas station in Nashville, TN.  And their story is amazing.

I learned about the brand early 2011 and was entranced and inspired.  i + w start their story by saying this: “It’s probably exactly the same as yours… just different character names.”  Interesting, because their brand is inspired by their grandparents and this site is inspired by my great-grandfather’s general store (pictured below) and I regularly feature my amazing grandparents on the site (here, here, and here).

The more I learned about Carrie and Matt, the owners of i + w, I realized that they are my kind of people – the ones that exemplify the traits that make this country so great:  industrious, adventurous, patriotic, curious, brave, problem solvers, trailblazers.

One of the things I love about the brand is the commitment to the community – really embracing the ideals of a local merchant wholeheartedly.

That’s one of the reasons I am passionate about the concept of the general store – and why my site is what it is – in my mind, it’s less about the merchandise, but more about providing a place of community and fellowship.

I believe their monthly supper + song events really embodied what it means when a retailer takes their role in the community to the next level.  I learned about the supper + song events this spring when i + w tweeted this:

And then later that evening, they posted this picture to instagram:

What?!? That looks amazing!  Taco trucks, ice cream stands, BYOB, music, all in the backyard behind the store?  Love.  I am going.  In my head, I renamed the supper + song to southern salon.  That’s what I imagined in my head, a group of diverse friends and strangers sharing ideas, food, and music under the stars.

This morning,  Carrie posted about the challenges they have had with supper + song.  And how with deep regret, they will be ending the event.  I strongly suggest you read her article.

The article demonstrates the thoughtfulness, caring, and hospitality they have shown through the years, how grateful they are about the opportunity they have had to share their world, and how fulfilled they have been by the simple, but generous act of hosting evening after wonderful evening for their friends, neighbors, and anyone else who wanted to show up.

I am so sad that I was not able to attend a supper + song evening.  I know that these events exist here in Brooklyn, but for some reason, my brain registers the i + w evenings as something very special.  I want to thank i + w for honestly sharing your challenges and life with us.

And I wish you success on your next adventure as a retailer and manufacturer who is working to make the world a more beautiful place, one connection at a time.  Your journey is inspiring to us all.

All images excluding instagram by Don VanCleave via imogene + willie | i + w blog & imagesi + w storyshop mens | shop womens

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