In Good Company: Brick + Mortar
Words by Clair McLafferty
Photos by Robert Peterson
Whether you’re in the market for one-of-a-kind antiques, candles, or goods from new Atlanta brands, Brick + Mortar is a good place to start your search. Though Brick + Mortar focuses on vintage and antique goods, it’s nowhere near your typical antique store, says founder David Kowalski. “The shop has a very diverse selection, but it all fits within a kind of Americana-industrial vibe. Everything that’s in here is something I would put in my home.”
The shop’s offerings are as varied as David’s own history and current ventures. When he first started sourcing and selling unique pieces, he had just been laid off. He decided to start a booth in Ponce City Market. As his business grew at the booth and online, he began doing pop-up shops with brands from the Southeast and, eventually, from all over the country.
During one of these pop-ups, he met one of the owners of Westside Provisions, a retail and restaurant district in Atlanta, and ended up pitching them the concept for Brick + Mortar. Originally, the name encapsulated his hybrid Americana-industrial style, especially in that most of the store’s contents would go well with exposed brick.
“There was something serendipitous about the words,” he says. “I was pretty transient for a while, and [most of] my business was online. The idea behind the pop-ups in my shop was to be able to give smaller brands like mine the opportunity to be in one of the best developments in Atlanta, to give them a brick-and-mortar home.”
Brick + Mortar has, inadvertently, turned into a connective place. “A huge part of what I do is connecting people with pieces, helping them understand that these pieces have a history and a story,” he says. “I try my best to [stock] stuff you don’t typically see at antique stores, stuff that’s unique.”
The luck, hard work, and intuition on which he built his business have also helped it to expand in unexpected directions. He started making candles about a year and a half ago to have something low cost, yet high quality, to sell to his friends. In the eighteen months since he started pouring candles, he’s picked up about twenty wholesale accounts, and his candles are now available on Huckberry.com, House.com, and several other websites.
“That’s ended up becoming a huge part of my business,” David says. “I’m currently focusing on growing the candle business and finding the best stuff I can for the shop.”
For good measure, David also consults and designs spaces for local clients. All that stemmed from being hired to design a restaurant called Ladybird, which went on to win awards for its aesthetics. Word spread about his abilities, and he’s since styled or designed several restaurants and offices around Atlanta. To add another layer, he started an Airbnb in a vintage 1974 Argosy trailer that he restored and keeps in his backyard.
At first glance, all of these ventures don’t appear to fit together, but they do: They’re all centered around useful (and popular) interpretations of David’s eye for design and aesthetics.
Since every part of his business is based around his own style, he’s committed to being personally involved in most aspects of it. “It’s really important to me to have a cohesive vibe that fits with what I like,” he says. “It’s grown into something else. These different pieces aren’t perfectly matched, but they’re all part of that same aesthetic.”