Brian Dittmar didn’t exactly plan to go into retail. He had run a successful interior design studio for 15 years in San Francisco, but when his partner accepted a job on the East Coast, Dittmar shied from starting that business over in a new place. Opening a retail shop was a nebulous, someday thought in the back of his mind, but a call from his Realtor nudged the idea into focus. “After showing us 22 houses in three days, she knew which one we would buy,” he says of their agent, who was on the brink of listing a popular, in-town shop. “She called and said she thought I should buy it,” Dittmar says. Two months later, he was the owner of Tenth Muse, a longtime centerpiece in Maplewood Village with a healthy following.
One of Dittmar’s challenges was making the space his own, which included renaming it to Maker + Muse. He also called on his design skills. “I didn’t do many commercial projects and had never done a store,” he says. The new, gallery-like space, accomplished in just six weeks, is thoughtful and airy. “I wanted it to be warm and welcoming so people can browse comfortably and discover what we have,” he says.
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The shop—about 60 percent jewelry, plus pottery, local fine art, home decor and clothing—is designed for tactile appreciation. “I want people to be able to pick things up to examine them and not have to ask to see prices,” Dittmar says.
“Nearly everything is handmade and branded with the artist’s name and biography cards,” he says. “It’s almost like a retail version of farm-to-table. You get to know something about the maker, where it came from. It connects you to the work.”
Settled in, Dittmar is feeling at home in town. “It’s great to feel such a part of the place I live,” he says. But in creative fashion, he admits already fantasizing about expansion. “I’d love to carry furniture, and I may start taking design clients,” he says.
FROM THE SHOP …
VINTAGE MADE MODERN: Antique French metal-lace pendant accented by Swarovski crystals by Maplewood artist Jamie Kole; $355.
FADE TO PINK: Montclair artist Johanna Howard’s ombre-blush, hand dip-dyed, baby-aplaca throw; $399.
BLOWN AWAY: Jersey native Gary Bodker creates these hand-blown, gem-hued reflection bottles in his Portland, Oregon, studio; $295 each.
HANDLED: Le Box Bag by Clare V is a standout with snakeskin leather and a candy-red strap; $325.
DROP-DEAD DANGLES: Rhodochrosite stone drops are paired with Ethiopian opals set in 14K gold by K. Mita Designs; $1,845.Click here to leave a comment