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July 27, 2017 | last updated July 27, 2017 2:28 pm

West Elm: National retailer with 'a small business mentality'

Photo / Peter Van Allen
Photo / Peter Van Allen
West Elm, a home-furnishings store that opened at 164 Middle St. in Portland, sees a market opportunity in residents of the new apartments and condos going up around the city.

The newest retail offering on Portland's Middle Street is expected to complement area retail.

West Elm, a home-furnishings store that opened at 164 Middle St. Thursday, takes over 12,000 square feet on a prime retail stretch that includes Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Stonewall Kitchen, Angela Adams and other Old Port retailers. A prime retail location across the street, at 75 Market St., is on the market.

"It's more about the actual location and the community, being in the Old Port, being surrounded by shopping, dining, entertainment and residents," said West Elm's marketing manager, Dru Ortega, who offered Mainebiz a tour of the store before its grand opening party Wednesday.

"We have a boutique mindset, but we operate with a small-business mentality," Ortega added. "We want to be a gathering place for workshops, pop-ups, Pride events."

It's store No. 101 for Brooklyn, N.Y.-based West Elm, which is part of San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma Inc. (NYSE: WSM), which also owns Pottery Barn. The Portland store will have 30 employees — and many of them were immersed in training on Wednesday.

Furnishings on display seem targeted to residents of the new apartments and condos going up around the city, with prices ranging from $699 for the mid-century pop-up storage coffee table to to $2,498 for a "chaise sectional" in the Urban Collection. West Elm sells living room sets, dining room tables, bedroom furnishings, chairs, lamps, artwork and other items.

It offers a Style + Service decorating service that ranges from $129 to have someone come in and help with setting up things like flat-screen televisions, to $499 for design consulting.

The store prominently features goods from 10 Maine artisan-vendors: Elizabeth Benotti, Eliot; Fiber and Water, South Portland; GKS Furniture Maker, Portland area; Hearth and Harrow, Rockport; Maineland Design Co., South Portland; More & Co., Portland; Portland General Store, Portland; Port Living Co., Biddeford; Weft & Warp, New Gloucester; and Katharine Watson, Portland.

The Portland store is in a brick building with high ceilings, skylights and rough, wooden floors — features Ortega cites as integral to the West Elm sense of style. In recent years, the building was the White Cap Grille.

West Elm is in some regional malls, but many of its stores are in repurposed, historic buildings. Its most recent openings were in Phoenix and before that two Texas cities: Plano, where it is in Legacy West, a mixed-used development built around pedestrian thoroughfares, and San Antonio, where it outfitted a former bottling plant in the city's Pearl Brewery District. In Atlanta, West Elm went into the Ponce City Market, itself in the former Sears, Roebuck & Co. store. In Reno, Nev., West Elm took over an old post office.

"We like to invest in neighborhoods," Ortega said.

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