If there was a grownup equivalent of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, it would have to be Archer Hard Goods. Everything from the salt and pepper shakers and tea towels to the children’s toys and picnic blankets at Archer is as functional as it is an object of beauty. It’s easy to want to fill your home with conversation pieces from the unique store, all of which have been selected with care by husband and wife duo Dylan Adair and Amelia Burgos. We caught up with Adair and Burgos to find out more about how Archer came to life, and what their top gifts ideas are for the holidays.
Tell us a bit about the two of you. What should people know?
Dylan: I was born and raised in Montreal but have lived and worked in The US as well – specifically Ann Arbor, MI and Los Angeles, CA. I have a degree in Graphic Design from the University of Michigan and I have been designing both freelance and contractually (frequently for the apparel trade) for the past 15 years.
Amelia (Mia): I was raised in Los Angeles, CA and have a background in interior design and journalism as well as experience in retail management. I’m an avid reader, and I love to garden, knit and work with my hands. Both Dylan and I love to cook as well.
We have been together as a couple for almost twenty years and we’ve been married for the past 10. We have two daughters: Isabel (8) and Zoë (6).
Why did you start Archer Hard Goods and what kind of specialty items can people find at Archer?
The basic concept behind Archer began to take form when we had our first child in 2005. I think like many parents we were looking a lot more carefully at the kind of products that we choose for our kids but also for our environment at home in general. We were committed to finding well-made products that performed reliably and easily but that also were beautifully designed and reflective of our aesthetic. We would do a lot of reading and research before choosing, and if we couldn’t find what we were looking for locally, we would look online. The goal was invariably to buy better the first time and hope that the products we chose would stand the test of time and prove to be be solid investments in the long term.
So while we started searching specifically for children’s items, we eventually began to source cleaning products, food storage containers, cookware, toys and body care products that were safe, sound, non-toxic and made by reputable companies – many of whom have been in business for decades. Most of the things that we carry are basic, function-driven implements that we use every day in the kitchen, the garden or in our home. We test everything that we carry and make sure that it meets our criteria before we share it with our customers.
Archer Hard Goods doesn’t have an actual store, but customers can either shop 21st century style online or make private appointments at your showroom? What are the benefits of having your store this way?
We see the internet as a tool perfectly suited to storytelling and context. You can walk into any big box retail environment and see thousands of products – a veritable ocean of unrelated items – but it is a rare thing to find special care or focus given to any given product in an environment like that. Our goal is to engage the online community and develop a loyal customer base within North America based on the selection of goods that we carry and the way that we present them: focusing on the way they are made and the stories behind the people that make them.
What we like about our current set up is that we have the ability to engage with customers in a way that is completely different from the traditional retail model. At first glance, appointment shopping seems like a very “exclusive” thing but truthfully we see it simply as an opportunity to give our undivided attention to those customers looking to learn a little bit more about the products we carry, why we chose them and how they work. It’s not uncommon for us to sit down and have tea or coffee with our clients and discuss what they are looking for before they shop. It’s a great way to connect with our customers.
When finding new lines and products to carry at Archer Hard Goods, where do you look for inspiration?
We look at design blogs, follow respected tastemakers, source directly from craftspeople, engage creative communities such as Etsy and do a lot of unique searches in an effort to identify people that are making traditional items in fresh new ways. Ultimately our own lifestyle tends to dictate the product choices we make. We are concerned with quality, design, durability and we are also concerned about the environment, the economy and the success of other small businesses: these concerns inform our criteria for selecting any given product.
As an example: Mia and the kids love to bake, so when we went about sourcing basic kitchen whisks for the shop, we looked for a quality product that was responsibly made and (ideally) manufactured in North America. In our search, we ended up finding the last whisk manufacturer in North America and it turns out that their product is top-notch and their story is interesting. They are a great example of what we refer to as a perfect fit for Archer.
What are three items from your store that you’re both currently obsessed with and why?
Dylan: I love Duralex glassware. The company has been around a long time and their glasses are as structurally resilient as they are iconic in design. We love sipping coffee, tea or wine from them and they are also perfect as tea light holders given their resistance to heat.
Kaweco is another great range of product we carry and I am particularly fond of their Lilliput fountain pen. When closed, the pen is as small as a moleskine pocket notebook but the cap can be screwed into the base to make the pen standard length when in use. They write beautifully and are a perfect pen to travel with.
I switched away from pharmacy brand razors a few years ago in favour of a traditional safety razor and I will never go back. We carry some beautiful razors and shaving brushes from Mühle; the brushes use a synthetic fibre that is as effective as badger hair (the industry standard) while providing a vegan-friendly / cruelty-free option to the growing traditional shave market.
Mia: The Geo salt and pepper shakers from MGMY Studio in Brooklyn. They are so beautiful and they are a great example of a traditional object given new life through fresh design. Megumi is such a talented creator and we are thrilled to be her first retail partner in Canada.
We carry a number of bath towels and they are all lovely. My favourite right now is the Grecian linen and cotton towel. As with all our towels, they are flat-weave and are woven on the same vintage looms used to create towels prior to the invention of terry loop. They use less water and detergent to wash and they dry quicker. The Grecian is the thickest towel we offer and is a great option during the colder months.
A while back we collaborated with a local accessories maker to create a “go-bag” for kids. We usually eat at home, but when we go out we do so as a family; these little knapsacks are perfect for bringing crayons, colouring books and small toys along to keep the kids entertained. They are also a great carry-on option for kids while traveling.
The holidays are upon us. What are a few items in your store that you expect to be hot gifts this holiday season?
We have a number of interesting gift options, but we think the big winner this year will be traditional seasonal gifts that are reinvented and reimagined through design. We carry products from a German design collective that re-imagine functional objects and manufacture them using natural materials. They make an amazing piggy bank using wood and leather, a solid wood nutcracker, and a beautiful oak music box that plays an excerpt from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. We also think that nothing beats a great wool blanket at this time of year, and we have several options including some washable Merino wool throws made by one of the few remaining mills in North America.