Earlier this month, I visited the mile high city without any major plans. Usually, for me, taking vacation mandates hours of research to find the best restaurants, boutiques, hikes…it's all part of the fun. Anticipation for the trip keeps me searching-memorizing neighborhood maps and identify the city’s best-kept secrets.
Maybe the everyday hustle was to blame, or maybe I were just unleashing some repressed, youthful spontaneity-- either way, on this trip, I just wanted to wander.
I stayed with kindred spirits: Denver transplants who still proudly drive around with Georgia plates, and who, without apology, sidestepped moving boxes to show us to our room. Needless to say, we felt right at home.
My friends suggested I check out the River North district for its dive-y bars, cool art scene and stellar eats.... Following the river to a corner of town with abandoned industrial parks and used auto shops, I eventually stumbled upon The Source, a collective marketplace housed in a brick foundry dating back to the late 19th century. Although recently renovated, the foundry’s retired past is commemorated with untouched traces of graffiti.
Outside in the parking lot, The Source’s bright blue entryway juxtaposed beautifully with centuries old, red brick, but it was a shiny airstream globetrotter that caught my attention. There, in the half paved, half dirt parking lot, I met Travis and Lauren of the road emporium, Small Room Collective. I was immediately inspired by their minimalist lifestyle and thoughtfully curated store and chatted with them to learn more about their romantic, roaming business venture.
How did you meet?
Through mutual friends in Pasadena, CA. I was visiting a good friend from college, and Travis was friends with her and her now-husband. We met my last day in town, and then… that was that—I flew back to Austin. But that wasn't that! We couldn't shake each other. I guess it was kind of love at first meet.
Which came first, the '63 Airstream Globetrotter (Bob Mapplethorpe) or the conception of SRC?
The concept for Small Room came first. We were traveling every three months for my other job—a pediatric travel nurse—and Travis continued to do his design work remotely. Because I had 4 free days a week, I began to pursue selling vintage finds at markets as a side gig. It wasn’t long before we were meeting all these great folks, stirring good stuff up in the cities we were in. That’s when the idea to develop into a curated shop and showcase came into play. Since we were traveling every three months, we thought, “What could be better than transforming an airstream into a shop and living space, and really making the lifestyle sustainable?"
You've been on the road for about 20 months now. How do you select your next venue and what do you enjoy most about your minimalist lifestyle and traveling?
We plan out the tour about 4-6 months in advance. For the most part, it's a lot of researching and then reaching out to people. Sometimes people who come into the shop in one town will recommend we check out another town. Now that we've been on the road for a while, people have started to reach out to us, which is kind of cool. We started out with the plan of doing summer tours, but they have progressively become continuous. We really love the freedom it allows—the ability to determine what is necessary and what is luxury, the ability to travel to parts of the country we’ve never been... It also allows us to stay connected with family, and new and old friends, in a really awesome way.
You curate your inventory of clothing, art and oddities from vintage shops and artists you meet during your travels. How do you decide what to display at SRC?
Everything in the shop speaks to us on a personal level—but the hope is that the pieces are universally enjoyed—that there is some bit of truth or beauty or happiness that can be gleaned from the process or the presentation. The other aspect—we have met most of the artists that we carry in person, and we can tell their stories. That is very important to us.
SRC made a stop in Minneapolis in the summer of 2013. What did you like most about the city and are there any spots that you look forward to revisiting on a future tour?
Interview by Emy