Southern California is blessed with many things: year-round beautiful weather, close proximity to the ocean as well as the mountains, and MIDLAND. Founded by Paige Appel and Kelly Harris, the shop has two locations in both Culver City and Silver Lake, and operates by the philosophy of selling only well-chosen goods that resonate with both women and their customers. Home goods, beauty products, and apparel have been curated specifically from makers that Paige and Kelly either know directly or have at the least met in person. Each product must have a connection to something higher than commerce, and ideally it all comes back around to community. For June’s Design Store(y) we spoke to both women to find out what makes MIDLAND tick so successfully.
Why did you pick this city/neighborhood/storefront?
For Culver City, it was an untapped neighborhood for quality boutiques. We drove by this space everyday on our way to our event studio and watched it come for lease, jumped on it, and then gutted and renovated it. It was laborious and not without hiccups, but the space has such good energy and we love the aesthetic we’ve created.
Where did you get the name for the store?
The name has many meanings. One being that Culver City is in the middle of the L.A., so literally the Midland of the city. Two being the name is not too feminine or masculine and has a Western ring to it. Three, it reminds us of an open field or prairie in the Southwest, much of where we take inspiration from.
Has it changed much since it opened? How?
Yes and no. The idea and ethics and aesthetics haven’t changed, but about 30% of the products we carry tend to change. We are still learning about makers we align with and those we don’t. It has also become more of a clothing store than we originally imagined, but it is proving viable and fun to have a good selection of quality clothing.
What’s one of the challenges you have with the business?
It’s challenging to figure out what customers want without compromising our values or makers. It’s a strange world in retail right now where people want cheap and fast, and that’s not what we are about. Marketing without being obnoxious, carrying the products we believe in without over-saturation of products. It’s all a balancing act, and honestly what works and doesn’t changes all the time.
What other stores have you worked in before opening this one?
None! We have backgrounds in film and advertising and event planning. This is our third career iteration, so it’s not only exciting and challenging but also a new road to go down.
What’s your favorite item in the store right now?
Paige is always partial to the Navajo pottery and Kelly is partial to the apothecary, specifically the Saipua soap Clary Sage with Dill.
What is this season’s theme/inspiration/story?
Spring is always about transition for us. Moving from corduroy pants and sweaters to flowy sundresses and lightweight jumpsuits. We don’t shy away from pops of color that reflect natural seasonal elements such as a violet Kkibo dress the color of wisteria. A peach Rachel Craven caftan the color of a sunset. A wheat colored jumpsuit from Ilana Kohn. Our inspiration is always an effortless look made from natural fibers, and doesn’t overpower the person wearing it. Unfussy, but chic. Same with our home goods and other products.
Are you carrying any new products and/or undiscovered gems you’re particularly excited about?
We are very excited about our line of scents. They are the perfect organic unisex blends that don’t overpower but are significantly earthy and interesting. They don’t imprint on someone else when you hug them but rather leave a longing for a place elsewhere… Midland, Heartland, and Hinterland. People always ask us what the amazing smell is when you walk in the store and we say it’s an olfactory concert of the three natural formulations.
What’s been a consistent best seller?
Coffee mugs! Can’t keep them in stock. We love all our potters, but right now the custom colors Ivy Ivy Ivy is making for us are beautiful and flying off the shelves. They pair well with the coffee bean blends from Canyon Coffee we sell.
What’s your process for selecting + curating the objects in your shop?
First, we have to love the product ourself. We have to try it and know it’s flawless. Second, it has to have a connection to something bigger than commerce. Ethics and quality of product is key. Third, it helps to connect with the designer/maker. We are big on community, so feeling like we are carrying our friends and people we have met and adore makes it easier for us to stand behind the product and sell it. We are not interested in detachment or lack of familiarity. Beauty organizes the mind and when something aligns in ethics, detail, and humanity – it’s truly beautiful.
Any special events/exhibits/pop ups/collaborations coming up?
We host pop-ups quite often. We just did a wonderful collaboration with our friend Karen Kimmel and the artists she works with at Tierra del Sol. They empower people with development disabilities through art and job development and we are now carrying their pillows, textiles, and ceramics in the Silver Lake shop in some of our chosen color-ways. These soulful artists really inspired us, emotionally and creatively, and giving back to them is beyond fulfilling. We also have a pop-up coming up with Jungmaven, Paradise People, and You Swim for summer, and are hosting a beach clean-up with our dear friend Christy Dawn. We are more than just a shop, we believe in a life of substance beyond our walls. The Midland customer cares about more than just incense and soap.
Do you have anything from the store in your own home?
We have pretty much something from every maker in our home. Pottery, clothing, apothecary, etc. We both have a couple of the Agnes Baddoo bags carried in the shop. The custom hunter green and canvas is exclusive to our shop and we are obsessed. Agnes has been a wonderful collaborator and made the “Midland” green bag for us before we opened, as a deep Essex/Hunter green is our signature color. We each carry her bags and swear they are the only bag you need. They get better with age. Durable, beautiful, and holds just what you need. The compliments are endless for these purses.
What’s been one of the most fulfilling aspects in opening your store?
Connecting with people, customers, and makers. Feeling the joy of making someone’s day with our goods. Creating a space to gather, explore, and discover the craft of so many talented and sincere people. It has been fulfilling to have more control over our content and creations. Previous work was more client-centric and that sometimes didn’t align with our values. This is 100% our curation, and maybe it’s not for everyone, but that’s okay as it’s for us and by us and someone resonating with it makes us happy.
What’s one lesson you’ve learned since opening your store?
Don’t buy anything for the shop without seeing it, testing it, and getting a feel for it’s energy and quality. We made the mistake of buying product from line sheets without knowing it in real life and quite a few were not meant for us. Kind-of like online dating… it may look good on the screen, but you gotta meet for the happy hour to know if you really resonate with each other.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to follow a similar path to yours, what would it be?
Just do it for yourself. It won’t make you rich. It won’t make you famous. Find your intentions for the space and follow that. People can tell when it’s authentic and it benefits everyone, especially you, when it’s done from your heart and soul.
Visit MIDLAND at 8634 Washington Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232 or 1404 Micheltorena St. Silver Lake, CA 90026 or shop-midland.com.
Photos by Morgan Pansing.