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Jewelry and accessories truck parked in downtown Contoocook. Photo by Allie Ginwala.




Gone shopping

Where I went: Niche Boutique and Moonshine Truck
The experience: Both trucks are cozy— a handful of people could peruse  at one time, but not too many more. I visited Niche Boutique on a late Sunday morning in Laconia and Moonshine Truck on a Tuesday night before an event in Contoocook. No other shoppers stopped by while I was there, so I had the place to myself. Both trucks had wood floors, decorative mirrors and lots of hanging jewelry displays, allowing the wares to double as decorations. The overall aesthetic at Niche Boutique was classy, elegant and chic; colorful tops, skirts, shorts and dresses ranged in price from $16 to $82 along with marked-down graphic tees with phrases like “Jeep hair don’t care” and “mornings are for mimosas.” There was even a dressing room with a full length mirror and long curtain hung from copper piping. At first glance it really looked just like a shop that happened to end up in a truck, but with a closer look I saw how a vehicle that used to have closets for fire gear now has compartments perfect for shelving. My favorite fixture was a wooden table with what appeared to be a casually opened drawer display full of bracelets, but was actually drilled into the wall next to a cushion-lined display space that doubles as an extra seat (equipped with seatbelts, of course). Moonshine Truck has more of a free-spirited and quirky vibe. The walls were covered with earrings, a shelf of headbands and hats perched on pegs. The jewelry, ranging in price from $7 to $50, was whimsical and funky— earrings with a pattern of leaves or even large golden bugs (which Hopf was wearing during our interview). The flat spaces were adorned with little clay pots, mason jars with sipping covers and plenty of sunglasses.
Coolest cheap thing: A host of paper products at Moonshine Truck. The sticky notes and memo pads shaped like pandas, puppies and llamas are all under $5.
Coolest more expensive thing: A detailed mini purse at Niche Boutique. It comes from a company in the U.K., sold for $42. 




Oh, the places they go
Reimagining retail with mobile businesses

08/13/15
By Allie Ginwala aginwala@hippopress.com



Three shops on wheels opened in the Granite State in 2014, and they’re back on the street this summer, selling everything from jewelry and clothing to hats and handmade goods.

 
Inspired to go mobile
Kim and Beth SanSoucie, the mother-daughter team behind Niche Boutique, wanted to open a mobile business as a way to spend more time together. They toyed with the idea of a food truck but decided that what New Hampshire could really use was a fashion truck.
“We finally realized that we both love to shop [and] it would be great,” Kim SanSoucie said. “We’d have a lot of fun together.”
Mary Hopf of Moonshine Truck always wanted to own a jewelry store and decided to open one on wheels as a cost-efficient option. 
“I have vendors from all over the place,” Hopf said. “That’s the goal, [finding] stuff that you can’t get anywhere else, that’s different than the other stores.”
Alison Murphy has operated Concord Handmade, a pop up shop in downtown Concord, during the holiday season for the past four years before she decided to buy a camper and take Concord Handmade on the road. 
“I’ve always wanted to own my own storefront, but the commitment of having a permanent physical space is too much for me,” she said. “I’m an artist, so I was connected to the craft community in New Hampshire and New England already, so I decided I wanted to take Concord Handmade and some of the artists I sell during the holiday season and sell them year-round.”
 
Wares, local and international
Niche Boutique’s inventory comes from a number of sources, including online shops, local artisans and the New England Apparel Club Show in Marlboro, Mass. SanSoucie said they like to visit the show to get a feel for the clothes in person.
“We even take pictures and put it out on Facebook and say, ‘Yay or nay?’ just to get some feedback,” she said.
Hopf gets her jewelry and accessories from vendors across the country and overseas, trying to get as broad and funky a range as she can. 
“Quite frankly, everything in here is something I would own,” she said. “It’s great to be a store that kind of has stuff before all the huge mall stores have it. I like having fun, cool things that people can’t find anywhere else.”
The handmade items in Murphy’s shop are all New England-based — some are her own work, like skirts and leather bracelets, while other items like jewelry made from repurposed materials, prints and children’s toys come from artists she features in her pop-up shop. 
“When I started Concord Handmade as the pop-up shop, I wanted ... a place [people] could go back to buy something that has that story behind it and meaningful production,” she said.
 
Putting it all in place
While the insides may look effortlessly put into place, all three shops require a lot of TLC when it comes to preparing to open. Niche Boutique can take up to an hour to set up and 45 minutes to take down. The clothing on the racks stays in place with a bungee cord while the purses, jewelry and handmade items are packed into totes for travel. 
Hopf has a similar system for Moonshine Truck— anything on a flat surface is packed away, jewelry displays are taken apart to help preserve them and anything wall-hanging gets bungeed in place. For Concord Handmade however, nothing can stay in place in the camper during travel. Products, display pieces and basically everything that’s not a shelf gets packed away, leaving Murphy an hour and a half to set up and 45 minutes to take down.
One thing that sets the mobile shopping experience apart from the storefront experience is the atmosphere. An oddity by nature of simply being a store on wheels, the shops attract the type of customer who seeks out the unique. SanSoucie said people who come aboard Niche Boutique almost always start off by asking, “so what’s your story?” With conversation coming naturally, they avoid that awkward hovering shopkeeper-customer interaction.
“Here, it’s just like we’re girlfriends and we’re just talking and having a good time,” she said.
 
Follow that shop
Niche Boutique: Find them parked regularly on the corner of Oak and Messer streets and at Faro Italian Grille in Laconia. (See curbside dates and other events at facebook.com/nicheboutiquenh). Their season runs from late March through November.
Moonshine Truck: Mostly event-based; follow posts on Facebook (facebook.com/moonshinetruck) to see where Moonshine is heading next. Her season typically continues through January.
Concord Handmade: Every Saturday for the rest of the month, she’ll be at the Concord Arts Market in Bicentennial Square. Check Facebook (facebook.com/concordhandmade) for other events. The season continues through November, when Murphy shuts down the mobile shop and opens the holiday popup. 
 
As seen in the August 13, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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