Record label, print-making shop and boutique home decor store Tender Loving Empire opened it's newest location on NW 23rd Avenue so quickly that even co-founder Brianne Mees says she felt surprised. The third location—TLE opened downtown in 2010 and on SE Hawthorne last fall—debuted on September 2nd. And Mees sat down with WW to explain the store design and what's next for TLE. 

WW: Why did you decide on this new location?


Brianne Mees: Our original mission was to create opportunities and support for artists. NW 23rd is one of the busiest shopping districts in Portland, so when we stumbled on the vacancy, it was too good to pass up. As for design, we worked with Fieldwork Design again, the same as the Hawthorne location.  We had already developed a lot of the aesthetic language with them last year, so the design and inspiration came easily.  The shapes and angles reference our logo, whitewashed wood with bright cheerful salmon accents help the focus remain on the artwork, but it still feels warm and joyful.  Every store has "You are part of this place" written somewhere in it to remind visitors that TLE was created for community exchange.  Also, we try really hard to be un-intimidating in two potentially intimidating industries: retail and music. 

What will be different about this store?

There will largely be a similar vibe at this store, but we've brought on a lot of new lines. Some higher-end lines as well  lines we love but couldn't carry at our other locations because of neighborhood crossover. And we added a few national handmade lines that we've been admiring lately.  

One of the most striking elements is the stores neon lights, what was the concept behind that?

We want TLE stores to feel alive and vibrant like the community they represent. We did neon in the back of the Hawthorne store and loved the result so much that we decided to use it again, but in a more dramatic way. The shapes are pieces of our logo, deconstructed. There are a lot of great stores on 23rd Avenue, so we decided putting it in the window would help us stand out. Also, the glare on the windows is horrible in that building, so we realized that no one would be able to see through to a traditional window display full of merchandise anyway. So why not have fun with it and do something a little unconventional?

Do you ever plan to expand outside of Portland?

There are no concrete plans at the moment, but I can't say we don't talk about it. Opening a store for the 4th time was much easier than the first, second or third, so it's definitely not as daunting of a prospect as it once was.  

Go: The TLE Grand Opening Party is at Tender Loving Empire. 525 NW 23rd Ave., 243-5859. Thursday, Sept. 17. 6pm.

photo from Tender Loving Empire