Amanda McClements’ boutique shops Salt & Sundry and Little Leaf offer a different kind of retail therapy
For Amanda McClements, owner of three home and lifestyle boutiques, it’s the small face-to-face moments with customers that give her work meaning in a competitive marketplace ruled by Pinterest trends and giant online shopping retailers.“If someone comes in and they’re 22 and they don’t make a ton of money, but they buy a little $6 incense with a $5 plate to put it on and they go home and have a moment to themselves—that’s amazing for everyone,” she says.
Both Salt & Sundry locations and sister store Little Leaf in Logan Circle are designed to be experiences that pull passersby away from their day-to-day routines and into a beautifully curated, colorful world of “urban-bohemian” design.Whether they’re sniffing candles, stroking textiles or fawning over lush green plants, visitors are invited to engage their senses.
McClements and her all star team thrive on the design elements of running the shops, sourcing products locally, nationally and from fair trade partners globally. Everyone is encouraged to deep-dive into the creative process.“It’s trying to get in touch with what we’re drawn to at any given moment whether it’s a color palette, a flower or a location in the world and letting that inform our window displays and buying decisions,” McClements says.
The North Carolina native wasn’t always into the business of selling artisanal goods. As a graduate from UNC, Chapel Hill, McClements used her journalism degree to write for Roll Call, where she carved out a restaurant vertical. In 2005 she launched her own food blog called Metrocurean and it was there, writing about entertaining, that McClements noticed her inclination toward design-centric pieces.That in combination with her personal frustration on where to buy dinner party wares that fit her boho aesthetic eventually led to the opening of the first Salt & Sundry boutique in 2012 at Union Market.
Most recently, McClements and her team launched a new concept in Eckington called The Sun Room, which serves as the brand’s headquarters and creative hub. The warehouse space is also available for private events including weddings—several of which are already on the books for this year. As for what’s next, McClements says that in a perfect world she will create a larger Salt & Sundry flagship complete with a champagne bar and more space for a growing number of collaborations.There is also buzz about designing pieces in-house.
Whatever the future brings, the same standards will underlie new projects – that shopping should be a sensory and aspirational experience.“I’m hopeful that gathering places where you feel a certain way when you walk in will never go away,” McClements says.At Little Leaf, which sells a variety of plants, succulents and greeting cards, she saw her philosophy play out after the 2016 election, when cold temperatures and the shift in administrations left Washingtonians feeling uneasy. McClements recalls visitors walking into the shop and not wanting to leave.“People were saying I just want to pull up a lawn chair and sit here because it’s making me feel better just being in the space.”
This article appeared in the February 2019 issue of Washington Life.