Attention Baltimoreans! Gearing up for holiday shopping but tired of supporting behemoth corporations? When you shop at independent stores with local makers, your money stays in the city you love. Made in Baltimore is proud to share this series spotlighting some of the Baltimore City’s most local-supporting retailers, created by our 2019 intern, Jacob Took.
Lesley Jennings opened up Doubledutch Boutique in mid-2006, less than a year after the idea first came about. She had just moved to Baltimore from San Francisco with her husband and kids, who were four years and 18 months at the time. Through an online message board, she met another mom with an interest in vintage clothing, and the two decided to partner up.
Stocking local designers and makers was central to the store’s mission from the beginning. Lesley explained that locally-made goods are more unique and better reflect the character of a city — which is why she looks for them whenever she travels.
“I like to support what’s happening with local designers and offer it in the store because I feel like with a boutique, people want to go in and find things that are different,” she said. “That’s what I’ve heard most from my customers year after year — they like the individuality of what we carry in the store.”
Amidst clothing racks which practically buckle under the weight of refined vintage taste, signs guide customers to displays featuring local designers. Doubledutch carries Made in Baltimore makers like Creative King — a line of handmade hats and other apparel — and This Sporting Life, which mixes sports history and vintage fashion.
These local brands, as well as others that are Maryland-made if not Made in Baltimore-certified, take up a good chunk of the store’s space. Lesley also told me about other partnerships with local makers — she plans to work with Made in Baltimore member SewLab USA to create a line of Doubledutch brand bags and accessories.
Made in Baltimore, she added, is crucial in connecting local makers to resources and opportunities.
“There is such a need for it in the city. There is a vast majority of artists and designers and makers out there that maybe need a little bit of help or guidance,” she said. “And it’s only been getting bigger and growing and getting more publicity with each year.”
In fact, Doubledutch supported Made in Baltimore’s 2016 holiday pop-up upstairs of their space on The Avenue in Hampden. The pop-up was a raging success, so much so that when Made in Baltimore moved out, during a period of vacancy in the space following, Lesley and her niece Lauren opened up their own version called Neighbor Goods.
Neighbor Goods operated like an extended pop-up, with local makers renting out space to display their goods. “A lot of vendors in Baltimore who are small brands don’t always have the capital to invest in a storefront,” Lauren said. “It felt good to give people an opportunity to sell their goods in a low financial-pressure way, and we had the space for it. Unlike traditional retail options with higher cuts of sales being deducted, aside from percentages we took out to cover rent and labor, everything else they made went back to them.”
She added that meeting local small business owners and watching their companies grow was the most interesting and fulfilling part of the project. Those personal connections with makers and artists are part of why Lauren loves working with her aunt’s boutique — and also why she thinks more people have started to shop locally.
“Locally-made products are popular because customers like the stories they come with, or may even know the maker themselves,” she said, “and the availability of locally-made goods has only increased.” Still, Lauren added that cultural attitudes can be slow to shift.
“Providing more opportunities to shop local, and educate consumers on the benefits of shopping small and local is crucial.” she said. She thinks that the trend of supporting local is growing as exposure and accessibility to these goods has expanded. Made in Baltimore, she added, is critical in supporting that growth.
“Made in Baltimore is awesome and collaborating with small businesses is key — it’s great for us and them,” she said. “It’s righteous, at the end of the day.”
Lesley said that the positive feedback from customers at the Made in Baltimore holiday pop-up and Neighbor Goods showed that people are more eager than ever to support local. Now, she points customers to Made in Baltimore’s North Avenue storefront for a wider selection — although she is committed to maintaining space for local makers inside Doubledutch.
“We’ll always support local — definitely,” she said. “I’ll always have a section in the store of the Made in Baltimore or made in Maryland people. That’s something that’s always been part of my idea for a store.”
Visit Doubledutch Boutique at The Avenue, 1021 W. 36th St. or online at doubledutchboutique.com.
To enjoy the benefits of a Made in Baltimore retailer membership, a store is required to stock three (3) Made in Baltimore-certified brands (though many carry more). Membership includes networking, business development opportunities, educational workshops and dedicated marketing campaigns. Interested? Sign up today: https://madeinbaltimore.org/become-a-member/