Tuesday, February 5, 2008

On Location: 41 Wharf Street, Portland

Editor's Note: My "On Location" dispatches have so far been limited to the confines of Westbrook. However, this week's edition features the opening-night party of Rogues Gallery, a newly-opened clothing store in the big, bad Old Port of big, bad Portland. So from the Paper City to the Forest City we go...

Friday night was wet, cold, and icy. The Old Port's cobblestone streets, which are generally pleasant and charming, were unusually cruel. Every other step seemed to bring with it ankle-deep iced water. And where there wasn't icy water, there was just ice. Sheer and slippery ice. Which is another way of saying that it didn't seem to be the best night to throw a big shindig celebrating the opening of a new clothing store. Or, at least that's what you'd think.

When my very pregnant and very aggravated wife (see descriptions of weather and street conditions to understand why she was aggravated--but not why she's pregnant) and I walked into the Rogues boutique, we were immediately and warmly greeted by Alex Carleton, the creator and soul of the brand. Carleton's greeting wasn't the reception's only source of coziness, though.

The cheery lights of the store were warm, but not too bright. And the numerous people already gathered (it was only about 8:15p) were buoyant and lively. Hor d'oeuvres courtesy of the Browne Trading Company were tabled in the middle of the space. And two buckets of Shipyard beer on ice (the only time the i-word was welcomed) were placed by the hor d'oeuvres table and by the dressing room in the back of the space. (Personally, I wouldn't mind if they maintained the beer bucket as a permanent fixture by the dressing room. It sure would make shopping for clothes a bit more interesting.) Anyway, punk music on vinyl was played loud enough to hear, but not so loud that it overwhelmed the din of conversation and laughter. And the dress of the evening could best be described as earthy hipster. Scratchy flannel (not to mention scratchy beards) was the preferred texture. But it was worn in such a way that it was cool enough to be hip, but authentic enough so that it was not out of place on a rugged, wintry Maine night. The walls of the space featured shelves with clothing, mounted deer heads, and weathered nautical signs. Those in the know would agree that it's all very Rogueish (wow, I just totally made the company seem exclusive and, well, cultish). Also in the back was a comfy leather couch and a table where one could temporarily escape the crush of people and peruse a very small sample of the press Rogues has gotten over the years, including this sweet spread of the Rogues crew in the New York Times Magazine.

As the hour crept closer to 9p, though, more and more people joined the party until everyone's personal space shrank to the point where most everyone was shoulder to shoulder. The old lady's (sorry, I've been hanging out at Mill Side a bit too much) big belly was not meant to be crammed into such small spaces and, besides, it was getting close to our bedtime. So after weaving and (politely) shoving our way through the swarm of good times for a couple minutes, we were finally able to pop out the front door. But not before a hearty farewell from Carleton and crew. And not before we realized we'd forgotten our umbrella in the dressing room. Oh well, there was no way we were going to go through that crowd again. So much for the bad weather keeping people away.

- John C.L. Morgan

P.S. Full disclosure: I temporarily worked for Rogues Gallery last summer.

P.P.S. I'd link you to a very good article about Rogues Gallery's history, but the Press Herald is greedy (two bucks for an archived article?!) and Maine Newsstand still hasn't responded to my complaints that their articles are unlinkable (what? I'm sure they read this blog). Oh well, at least there's this piece from yesterday's Press Herald.

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