In recent years the South End has become known for its outstanding restaurants, bakeries and cafes. Yet the neighborhood is far from being a destination for foodies only. Dotted throughout the area lie distinct stores that help the South End keep its artsy, creative feel.
Two such retailers are and .
A purple flag with Motley’s logo on it alerts passersby to the shop, which is on the basement level of a brownstone. Once inside, the store seems smaller than it might appear to be on the street, but the space is utilized well, packing a lot of items in without making customers feel cramped.
In 2004, co-owner Jason Chehade was working as a buyer in the retail industry with no immediate plans to open his own store when he learned that the current owner was closing Motley. Chehade, along with his brother Joey, decided to buy the store to keep their favorite clothier from going out of business.
“We’ve kind of kept the same feel in the store,” Chehade said. “Motley’s always been about the unique products that customers come here to get.”
The shelves are stocked with clothing for men and women, including staples like jeans and t-shirts, as well as accessories like hats and watches. Many of the t-shirts have been locally screen printed with South End landmarks on them – including the South End resident parking sign and the Waltham Tavern.
The store also carries “a ton of cool gift items” in every price range, from $5 key chains to a $500 watch. The diversity of merchandise reflects the range of clientele the store serves, the owners said.
“We get all sorts of people in here,” Chehade said. “In addition to our regulars. We get a lot of young professionals, gay and straight people, and a lot of people who come in off the street. Motley doesn’t cater to one thing or another.”
Although having such a wide customer base can be challenging, Chehade said one of the driving forces behind his decision to purchase the store was to keep another independent retailer in the area.
“There aren’t a lot of independent retailers still left around the South End,” he said. “Small businesses are important to the neighborhood. Otherwise we’ll be a street that’s just restaurants.”
Another independent retailer among the sea of renowned restaurants lies just a few hundred feet away from Motley, at the corner of Dartmouth and Tremont streets.
With bright merchandise lining the windows and a funky sign, is hard to miss. Owned by artists Marie Corcoran and Luke Adams, Gifted sells an array of artisanal crafts, from jewelry to baby toys, to wall art and blown glass.
Gifted opened in 2008 at 53 Dartmouth St., but soon grew too big for the small space and expanded to its current location in May of 2010.
The shop sells “handmade and unique” items that are made mostly in the United States, Corcoran said.
“I try to buy from local artists, and I would say about 80 percent of the store is from the U.S.,” she said. “There are so many creative people out there that we’re constantly looking for new artists.”
Although Corcoran said it is harder to sell pieces made by American artists because they can be “pricier and harder to find,” that may be what makes Gifted different from other artisanal gift shops.
Gifted fills the niche for American crafts in a way that is accessible to many demographics, Corcoran said, including tourists, young to middle-aged women, gay men and others.
“I think that’s why we’re constantly changing the inventory,” she said. “We don’t want to appeal to just one type of customer.”
Motley is located at 623 Tremont St. and is open Monday - Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 617-247-6969, www.shopmotley.com
Gifted is located at 2 Dartmouth St. and is open Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Monday - Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Thursday - Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.