At Standard Collective in Melbourne’s Eau Gallie Arts District, customers can buy apparel and accessories for men and women, view and purchase works by local artists, and attend comedy night performances. There’s also aerial yoga twice a week and live music some nights, often catered by nearby businesses.
Owner and designer Tony Soland recently relocated his six-year-old retail “lifestyle boutique” from Melbourne Square Mall to a corner shop in the heart of the district. “Boutique” is a bit of a misnomer, though. Standard Collective is a mashup of designer atelier, urban cafe, and beach-side surf shop. It’s part of a retail trend in which independent businesses integrate shopping, dining and live entertainment, offering experiences that lure customers away from online “socializing” and focus on community.
Places like Institution 18b in Las Vegas and Two Old Hippies in Nashville are the antithesis of online retail giants like Amazon, which recently launched its own menswear line. They’re also different from popular markets and food halls like Orlando’s East End Market and Atlanta’s Krog Street Market in that everything takes place under a single owner’s shingle.
Soland and store manager Alana Robey opened the EGAD location when their mall space was leased to another vendor. “This location is more suited to what we’re doing anyway,” said Soland, a Brevard County local. The EGAD move is in keeping with his original goal of showcasing the local artist-designer community and its shared inspirations: fashion, art, boardsports and music.
The Eau Gallie Arts District is a grant-supported Florida Main Street Community anchored by Eau Gallie Civic Center and the Renee Foosaner Education Center. Once home to a few antique shops, the district’s foot traffic has grown in recent years along the walkable Highland Avenue and its tributaries. The change was spurred in large part by two relatively new businesses – Intracoastal Brewing Company, which opened in 2013, and Anaya Coffee, which opened last year. Both helped lure millennials and others looking to shop, drink, eat and hang out with like-minded creative types.
"I think the coffee shop compliments what Intracoastal brings," said cafe owner Mike Anaya. "The coffee shop brings people to EGAD during the morning and lunch times while Intracoastal attracts the people getting off work and into the evening." Those who are increasingly drawn to the district, he says, support small businesses and appreciate the "from-scratch, craft aspect" of its dining and retail offerings.
Standard Collective's Soland fits right in. He's a self-taught designer who got his first taste of “experiential retailing” – combining carefully edited merchandise with live events – while working at the groundbreaking-but-now-defunct Groove Tube boutique, which opened in Indialantic in 1992. “It was way ahead of its time,” said Soland, tipping his entrepreneurial hat to Groove Tube owners Diane Young and her brother Dave Settgast, now a top agent at Sotheby's in Melbourne Beach.
Young says Soland’s always had a strong fashion sense and eye for style. "His lifelong involvement in the surf/skate industry and the fact that he’s grown up in the same town where he launched his business are part of what makes him such a visionary," she explained. “The idea of a ‘lifestyle’ store isn’t really a new concept, but deciding what constitutes the inventory of such a store is unique to the times.”
The new space has a workshop feel, with projects constantly underway. Soland designs Standard Collective’s private-label apparel and accessories, including the Whiskey & Water line of custom-printed T-shirts and leather goods – plus custom handbags crafted from painted vinyl LPs and used skateboards. Robey and Soland both create original jewelry at a worktable on the main store floor.
Activity on a recent Sunday afternoon perfectly illustrates Standard Collective's appeal: In between customers, Robey worked on a custom T-shirt order for Codecraft Lab – a coding program for kids whose national headquarters is nearby – using a direct-to-garment printer tucked behind the cash register. Friends ambled in and out, checking on custom orders and checking out the latest offerings. By collecting all his favorite things under one roof in an artsy part of town, Soland’s unique retail format feels right at home – and right for its time.