Beam & Anchor

Portland, OR

Robert and Jocelyn Rahm of Beam and Anchor take the idea of locally-made to an entirely new level. Many of the products they sell in their warehouse are made from local artisans that design and create their products in a space directly above their store. They also hold workshops and creative dinners throughout the year that bring together people in the community.

Your store is kind of off the beaten path.

B&A: Being in a highly trafficked area just costs a lot more. We like the mystique of being in an industrial sort of landscape. A lot of artists in the area have shifted the energy and changed the dynamic in the location our store is in.

We’ve got the train yard right across the street and there’s kind of a romance to the area that we really like and works for our brand.

M: Definitely. I’m sure locals find you pretty easily.

B&A: We’re kind of banking on that because you’re not getting all the accidental foot traffic.

M: Not only are you selling products, you’re making products here. You don’t see that too much.

B&A: We knew that we wanted to have a store that had a connection to something where’s there’s a little bit more meaning. Our background is actually not in retail. I’ve done a lot of community building work and my husband was a therapist for ten years. Robert dabbled in furniture making and I have two somewhat dormant art degrees. We wanted to do something creative but not without the interpersonal aspect. We also liked the idea of fostering dialogue in the creative community and bringing people together to generate connection.

M: I met some of the people that work upstairs. They’re great people. Did you know these were the people you wanted to go into business with? Or did you meet them along the way?

B&A: Technically, we’re not in business with them. They lease space from us and sell their product downstairs. It’s kind of this beautiful, cyclical thing, where they’re paying us rent but then we cut them a check every month for their product. Everybody kind of wins, which is nice.

We hoped for some sort of cross-pollination and just a lot of conversation. And so we found people who brought different things to the table, different perspectives, a different angle, and creative process. That was the number one thing. And then the other thing was that we just really wanted people who were actually invested in what we were doing, because we needed the help.

M: Your store is the antithesis of an Amazon shopping experience. Do you get a lot of positive feedback about the space? Do you feel like you get to know customers on a personal basis?

Definitely. This business is able to work in Portland because the people, the consumer in Portland, is definitely interested in being a lot more conscious and considerate about their consumption.

We absolutely have a lot of relationships with customers who support us because they like what we’re doing and the idea resonates with them. Buying something that’s going to be an heirloom—and spending more, obviously—but buying something that’s going to carry meaning for a long time to come, is in alignment with their agenda. So we’re in the right place in terms of that.

M: What was the leap that made you say I’m going to stop what I’m doing and open a store?

B&A: There was a confluence of things. One of which is that we were both disillusioned with our respective career paths. We were burnt out and tired. We had historically been somewhat risk adverse in our decision making and life planning. Which is not that uncommon, but it felt more and more that we were not in alignment with what we were doing with our days. We knew if we stayed on that path it was going to be problematic. There were several years of dialogue about it. Trying to figure out what the change would be. We had a lot of untapped creative energy that needed to be channeled somewhere. B&A became that thing. And ultimately when you’re doing something of any real scale and consequence and you’re risking your ass, you have to put it all out there, which is what we did.

M: Where do you see yourselves in five years?

B&A: Right now we’re most interested in designing our own products. So that is probably the thing that we’re most curious about investigating. That said, opportunities show up along the way.

M: Would you guys say that the store brings you a lot of fulfillment?

B&A: For sure. It’s been an amazing experience. Fundamentally uplifting. The people that we get to engage with, the relationships that have surfaced because of it…

And doing something that’s scares the shit out of you—it teaches you a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of, and what you do when things get tough. It shows you what you’re made of.