Artistry At Work: At Space Montrose, There’s “Always A Story To Tell”
Space Montrose (1706 Westheimer) is a boutique of handcrafted curiosities. Cheeky greeting cards, handmade jewelry, carefully stitched baby moccasins, one-of-kind cuff links, heavily scented soaps, rustically hewn coasters and artistic t-shirts are just a handful of the items you’ll find on any given day. Also found in-store on any given day is Carlos Peraza, one half of the husband-and-wife team behind this refreshingly creative retail shop. Sitting behind the counter, he meticulously wraps three purchased items in light blue tissue paper and finishes each package with a thin, gold ribbon. All the while, he asks questions of the customer, conversing as if he’s known them for years.
While cheerfully manning the store last week, Peraza was happy to give some background on Space’s conception, discuss the pros and cons of working in a family business and explain why he feels it’s an important part of his job to meet each and every artist exhibited in the store.
How did you get the idea for a concept like Space Montrose?
Leila [Carlos’ wife and partner in the store] and I met. We were working in the hospice industry, maybe for three years. We loved what we were doing. We loved the calling and we learned so much about the end of life and how that affects different families and how it affects you as a person involved in that process. Living through this, it came to a point where we wanted to do something on the other side of the spectrum; something that had to do with the creative process. We saw the place near Brasil was up for rent [the store has since moved across the street] for a manageable price and started talking about what we could do that would still allow us to work in hospice, but also express our creative side to relieve the mind of so much pain. It was also something we thought Houston was missing.
Space has evolved so much since opening four years ago, can you explain that process?
We started with five to six different concepts [renting spaces to them], almost nothing to do with what we have going on right now. The first big artist who said “yes” to our consignment agreement — we used to do only consignment in those days — was Tim Doyle. Tim Doyle is a screen printer artist from Austin. He’s big into movie scenes, especially Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson. We wrote to him and asked if he would like to send us some of his posters. I think he started a wave of people accepting the concept and wanting to check us out. In the last year, we’ve shifted, moving more to wholesale, which allows more freedom.
To what do you attribute your growth?
As the business has grown, we’ve learned so much about the Houston crowd, the Space Montrose crowd and what they want along with what fits with the overall aesthetic of the store. The store has taken care of itself and taken us with her. Now we’re getting to a point where we’re on the saddle and really taking the reins, but the store took us to this point. We’ve always wanted to build it quietly through word of mouth, because that’s a passionate connection.
How do you find new artists to feature in the store?
There are trade shows all over. We love meeting artists face to face. We come in and do our pitch, tell them about the store, tell them about Houston. Houston is not the handcrafted city where independent artists find it easy to make it; we are this huge, corporate city, jungle of concrete with puddles of oil everywhere and all of the sudden there’s this little unicorn called Space Montrose and everyone wants to touch it and see how cool it is. Meeting the artist is key. Learning why, how, when. That relates and shows when we’re in store and our client comes with questions and we’re already educated on those answers. We take a lot of pride in representing each one of the artists we have in the best possible way. We want to be able to tell you their story.
How many artists featured are local and how many are national?
Of the 170 artists, half of them are Houston- and Texas-based. We always try to keep the local element heavy in the store. But we also like bringing in concepts from Chicago and New York because they’re so much different.
This is a business you run with your wife. How does that work with two sons under the age of four at home?
It was 60-percent easy and 40-percent a learning experience. It’s easy, because it allows us to be with our kids all the time. If I’m here, it means that Leila is with them at the house. If we switch, it means that I’m at home with them. From the beginning, it’s been us taking care of the kids or taking care of the store. It gives us our own liberty in some sense. In the last two years, we’ve added people to the Space Montrose team. There are now five of us, so that takes a lot of pressure off and gives us more time to be with our kids, to research and see what’s out there. It’s been easier than it has been tough.
What are your favorite things about working in this business?
In this store, the creativity and the reverberations of the creative process are still alive. In most stores, where things are designed here, but then made elsewhere and shipped back here to sell, the spirituality of the piece gets lost. Being that much closer to the artist, it feels different. I hear people come into the store and see them laugh, maybe even get mad at some of the concepts. There’s actual emotion going on with the items, which is very powerful. People gravitate towards that. There’s always a story to tell. It’s a very rewarding place to be. We are all born this way. We are all creators.