Matt Bramlette hopes customers walk into his Mid-Coast Modern shop and find something unexpected.
The Kansas City native and graphic designer who formerly worked in advertising was looking for a different career when he decided to open a retail store. It features home and personal items he describes as design-centric creations from makers, artists and other “indie” business owners. Many of the artists are from Kansas City, but Bramlette brings in goods from across the country.
He recently moved from a location in the Crossroads District to Westport. The move allowed Mid-Coast Modern to double in size and provided a maker space for Bramlette’s growing soap brand.
Q. Why “Mid-Coast”? What does that mean?
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A. When I was younger, it seemed like all the cool stuff was coming from the East or West Coast. Cool designs or art and music were from the “coasts.” I feel like in the last 10 years or so, the Midwest has been producing more cool stuff that is not derivative of the East or West Coast. So, I thought it would be fun to play on that idea.
Q. What are the strengths of “Mid-Coast” makers?
A. They have just developed their own style. I don’t feel like people in Kansas City have to imitate stuff that is going on in other parts of the country. That might not have been the case in the past, but I feel like we have our own thing going on now and Kansas Citians react very well to locally made stuff. I carry stuff from makers on the East and West Coast but the Kansas City stuff sells best, even if the buyer can’t necessarily tell it’s made in Kansas City.
Q. Why was it important to you to feature individual makers and artists?
A. I get to deal with people who are creative and happy with what they are doing, which is nice. I like being a part of a community. I like the connection. I am connected with every person that I carry, whether they are local or not. I meet people and get to support them. A lot of these folks are my friends, and I’ve gained a lot of new friends, which is great. About half of the products are local.
Q. Why bring in both local and national makers?
A. The reason I don’t do 100 percent local is that it was already being done by other stores. I feel like my job is to find neat things and bring them locally. A lot of times I meet people going to craft events or maker events locally, but I also meet people around the country. It brings a greater variety, and it is easier to find unique stock for the store.
Q. Tell me about your soap.
A. It is called Bear Soap. Once we got the store open and running, we wanted to start making something too. The store was an easy avenue to sell what we made. I also design and have things made for the store. We have pillows that we get made from fabrics we really like. The soap started from a do-it-yourself kit. We did not have a big plan, but we thought it was fun and we decided we should just do it on a bigger scale and see if people liked it. They did and it’s turned into a second job.
Q. What is most popular?
A. Our top three selling items are Bear Soap, candles and apparel. We also sell a lot of art prints. We have kitchen and barware, cool bottle openers and flasks. With the soap, we’ve noticed once people buy it, we have a return customer.