As certain parts of downtown become something a little more corporate, Poketo takes comfort in seeking out creative hubs.wwd.com
LOS ANGELES — Poketo has been a stalwart of the Arts District, banking on the funky neighborhood with a handful of other independent business owners and artists years before the big brands decided to give it a shot.
Come the holidays, the design firm is relocating to the Row DTLA project, which recently inked deals with Midland Clothing, Mission Workshop, Banks Journal and Bridge & Burn.
Poketo’s current flagship building, currently on bustling 3rd Street — where there’s also Apolis, Shinola, Phillip Lim and what was the Louis Vuitton x Supreme pop-up — is set for redevelopment and with that came the push to new digs. The 3rd Street store is expected to close at the end of the month.
Poketo’s departure in some ways represents a shift in how the area is evolving as more attention and development has given way to an influx of galleries, housing, restaurants, stores and global and national brands looking to be part of the scene.
“When we moved to our location in 2012 it was a metaphorical ghost town,” said Poketo chief executive officer and cofounder Ted Vadakan. “We were just one of two boutiques. It was just Apolis and our space. It was boarded up. There wasn’t even a front door. All the windows were blacked out….It felt very neighborhood-y. Everyone was really looking out for each other. Everyone felt they were the pioneers of the district.”
Moving to the Row would place Poketo in an emerging neighborhood aimed to serve creatives, an environment befitting the brand.
“We love being part of those types of neighborhoods and knowing that we’re on the ground level and really growing it,” said Vadakan, who started Poketo in 2003 with wife and creative director Angie Myung.
Poketo’s new flagship is set to be almost double in size, totaling 3,000 square feet. It will boast two entrances. One will be for the store while another will welcome guests into a rotating space for workshops or art installations. That last point has been key in building Poketo’s following, with workshops ranging from sandal-making to a more recent Houseplants 101.
The space will be stocked with the same mix of local and global emerging designers across apparel, stationery and home. The housewares category accounts for about 40 percent of the inventory, with apparel anywhere from 15 to 20 percent and stationery and office rounding out the rest of the mix. Apparel will likely see a boost with greater floor space and there are also plans to add the category to Poketo’s online store for the first time in the fall.
Once the company packs up from 3rd Street, it plans to open a temporary shop in Little Tokyo at 360 East 2nd Street as early as August as well as a pop-up with exclusive merchandise at MOCA Grand Avenue slated for opening in October.
While many businesses call their online flagships their largest door, the opposite rings true for Poketo, with bricks-and-mortar — which also includes a store at The Line Hotel in Koreatown open since 2014 and a third door in Culver City that opened in February — accounting for the largest share of revenue.
“It’s exciting to see your customers and your friends just walk through that door,” Vadakan said. “You see them. You have a conversation with them. To build a really different experience for retail, I don’t solely see our shops as a store. It’s really a place for the community, which is why we have our art events or workshops….We just get so excited about that real-life experience.”
The company also continues to have a wholesale business, which Vadakan said is around 500 doors globally, ranging from boutiques and museum gift shops to larger stores such as Anthropologie and The Container Store.
More retail growth is in the cards for Poketo. Vadakan said the business covers the east and west sides of Los Angeles good enough at this point, so where its store might expand to next remains to be seen. The company has looked at San Francisco real estate and has had property owners nationally and internationally reach out to them. But nothing’s certain.
“We have to be excited about it and we’re also careful about where we want to have Poketo be,” Vadakan said. “It has to feel right. There’s not necessarily a multiyear plan to have X amount of stores. Retail, it’s not easy. It’s a tough business, but at the same time it’s exciting building that community, seeing something grow, being a part of the city and seeing something change.”