Goldyn’s Storied History: Vanessa Barcus on Mortuaries and Luxury

In anticipation of Goldyn’s 8th birthday celebration this Thursday, May 28th, I’ve trained the halogens on our very own founder slash owner slash buyer Vanessa Barcus to chronicle the store’s colorful history. She’s poured much of herself into the boutique while infusing it with the mood of the space’s previous occupant, the ‘hood-famous Olinger mortuary, to create a personality for Goldyn as special as the carefully curated goods it peddles. This extra-special profile has Vanessa’s sound-off on everything from the importance of good energy in a brand to the mad scientist who inspired Goldyn’s interior design.

Goldyn founder/owner/buyer Vanessa Barcus

Goldyn founder/owner/buyer Vanessa Barcus

I know Goldyn started as purely an e-commerce site. What was your vision for the store when you first started it?

The idea really was just to bring more progressive, fashion-forward design to Denver as well as the middle states.  I had recently moved back from Los Angeles and was missing the availability of smaller, independent brands and more conceptual, avant-garde design.

On a personal level, I was also eager to get back to working in fashion, and had always had in the back of my head the idea that I wanted to own a boutique.  It just happened to come about a little earlier in my life than I initially thought.  My former partner and I launched Goldyn as an online boutique that did pop-up shops and trunk shows around the country as a way to test the waters and keep it flexible.  That way we were able to see what really worked and feel out different areas and demographics.

Fairly early on I knew a brick-and-mortar was in the cards, but at that point the recession hit, so it was nice that we were just online and could stay nimble.  We did get in on the online game at an earlier point that was beneficial to us.  Nowadays (I sound like an old lady!) the e-commerce world is so much more competitive.  I’m glad we carved out that niche for ourselves when we did.  And the brick-and-mortar came about at just the right time… things with the economy were turning around, and we found just the right space for ourselves, in a progressive neighborhood that really resonated with our values.

Obviously, Denver is kind of sartorially-challenged. How have you carved a niche for the store in the sea of North Face and Patagonia? But conversely, is there anything about Denver’s fashion scene that has surprised you?

You know, that is really changing quickly.  I often find myself pleasantly surprised when we carry something that I’m concerned will be too “out there,” and I figure it will sell online to someone in NYC, and then it ends up selling out in Denver.  Denver is quickly becoming more and more cultured and sophisticated.  

That being said, comfort and versatility for an active lifestyle still reign supreme, no doubt.  So I always try to keep that in mind with our buys.  I am always trying to find the balance between fashion-forward pieces that are still comfortable and easy to wear.  That formula works for Denver.  I find that Denverites are very receptive to things that are progressive and conceptual, so long as they’re cozy and soft and versatile.

About the design of the store – what were your major inspirations for the aesthetic?

When we found our space, I wanted to make sure that we paid homage to its roots and kept it as authentic as possible.  Our space was originally the garage of the Olinger Mortuary building, and was built in 1938.  I wanted to keep most of the design to that period, with a tinge of the dark and macabre as a nod to the mortuary, but with our own spin to include some modern, minimalist elements.  I wrote a little story when we were first designing the space, about a Mad Max-like laboratory scientist who worked in the mortuary, and Goldyn was his lab.  Hence the antique apothecary bottles, lab equipment, gurney, etc.

Store interior with period details such as Edwardian bulbs, chandelier and rough wood accents

Store interior with period details such as Edwardian bulbs, chandelier and rough wood accents

What has been your favorite thing about running the store?

Hands down, that would be getting to know some of the amazing friends that I’ve met through Goldyn.  Whether they be customers, artists and designers, or other vendors, I’ve found some incredible lifelong friends doing this, and that’s a pretty magical thing.  

Beyond that, of course textiles and jewelry are my two loves in the material world, so being around them every day brings me joy too.  I think the other wonderful part about running a boutique is just crafting a memorable experience for customers – making sure that every detail is right, that the music and the mood are set to complement the intention put forth, and making everyone feel welcome in the space.  

You’re always picking up new designer lines and occasionally dropping ones that don’t do so well. Can you give some insights into what makes it feasible for you to decide to carry a new line? 

Buying and cultivating the store aesthetic is always an evolution.  Over the years I think we’ve really honed in on what our aesthetic and vision is, and I’ve always got a running list of new brands to check out who I think align with that vibe.  This industry changes so quickly, with new collections coming and going, trends coming and going… but that’s fun to me.  It keeps me on my toes.  

In terms of what makes a line feasible to carry…well, firstly it has to work within our aesthetic and price point of course, and beyond that I’m looking for quality of construction and materials, fit, and that the designer’s intention and vision mesh with our own.  More and more, I find that last point to be crucial – I want to work with brands/artists/designers who create conscientiously; who put positive energy and intention into what they do.

In retrospect, what’s one thing you’ve learned about running a business that you wish you’d known at the outset?

I have a tendency to try to do everything myself, to a fault.  It’s something I’m still working on, but delegating and partnering yourself with people whose strengths are your areas of weakness is a must.

Goldyn’s birthday party is Thursday, May 28th at 6pm in the store. To find your outfit for it, shop the store’s collection of irresistible new arrivals.

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