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Simply Vague brings 'shop local' to Kenwood

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Posted at 8:02 AM, Nov 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-23 08:02:25-05

SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- Columbus-based retailer of locally made goods Simply Vague opened at the Kenwood Towne Centre on Nov. 17. It’s the company’s fourth Ohio location and first in Cincinnati.

“We want to bring the shop-local movement into the mall,” said Andrea Archibald, who started the business in 2012 with her husband, Nate.

Simply Vague, which operates stores in Columbus at The Mall at Tuttle Crossing, Polaris Fashion Place and on the campus of Ohio State University, seeks out expertly made, beautifully packaged merchandise from makers around the state, Archibald said. That means everything sold in the story is made in Ohio.

Andrea Archibald, who started Simply Vague in 2012 with her husband, Nate.

Cincinnati-made products at the Kenwood mall location include bath and facial soaps from Silver Birch Soap Company, Whirlybird Granola, tile coasters featuring photographs of Cincinnati landmarks from photographer Jess Sheldon, pillows from HaloMiner and T-shirts from The Rivertown Inkery and Cincy Shirts. Be Proud Ohio, another Cincinnati based T-shirt company, sells its now widely recognized dot map shirts in all four Simply Vague locations.

With such a strong emphasis on Ohio and local products, what's with the head-scratcher of a name?

“My mom and I started Simply Vague as vendors, selling pillows, candles, re-purposed furniture and other crafts at antique malls and shows,” Archibald said. “When we opened our first store in downtown Delaware, Ohio, we didn’t know what products would sell well and we didn’t want to be pigeonholed.”

So they kept the name…well, vague.  

All the merchandise at Simply Vague is sold on consignment, with the vendor taking 60% of the sale. On the plus side for vendors is exposure to upscale shoppers, Archibald said, but selling on consignment can be a daunting prospect for makers since they’re relying on the store to accurately track and report sales as well as deter theft.  

“Consignment is scary for anyone because you’re giving them product and hoping it sells,” said Robby Hansen, accounts and sales manager at Be Proud Ohio. “But Simply Vague is a no-brainer for us. They get so much foot traffic, they’re in the best locations and they know what’s selling and what they owe us. We’ve stopped doing consignment with anyone but them.”

Kelly Koeller, a representative at General Growth Properties -- the company that operates Kenwood Towne Centre -- discovered Simply Vague on a Columbus scouting trip and brought them in for a one-year lease on a 2,500-square-foot upper-level space between Williams Sonoma and Bare Escentuals.

“A temporary deal with a good retailer is a win-win for both parties. They get favorable lease terms and rents, along with exposure and traffic,” said Koeller, who has also brought Hillsboro, Ohio-based retailer Small Town Junk into the Kenwood mall on a short-term lease.

Under a temporary lease, the mall can move or terminate a tenant with short notice, Koeller said.

“I’d love to make Simply Vague permanent at the Kenwood Towne Centre, but they’ll have to do a lot of sales," Koeller said.