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Meet the Owners of Analog, D.C.'s Cutest New Retro Boutique

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Photos: Adele Chapin

Melissa Esposito and Lisa Rowan joke that after years of hauling merchandise around to sell at flea markets and craft shows, their new Brookland shop Analog is a retirement home of sorts. The two friends went in together to open Analog at the new Monroe Street Market development in September, which has dedicated rental space for artists. And now with a retail space and work space to call their own, Melissa and Lisa filled their charming, nostalgic shop with beautiful and quirky pieces, like 60s coats from Lisa's Beltway Vintage or library card stationery, prints, and vintage paper notebooks from Melissa's Craftgasm collection.

We talked to them about the Monroe Street Market artist application process, how the shop came to be, and the piece of furniture they inherited with a D.C shopping pedigree. Get to know the Analog owners after the jump, and meet them in person at Monroe Street Market's big "Arts in the Mix" festival this Saturday.

When did you meet?
Melissa: I would say in 2011 or so.
Lisa: I also used to work at Nana in Mount Pleasant. I originally started selling vintage there, and every now and then we would do a pop-up shop within the shop. Melissa would be one of vendors most or the time. So I would know of her items. Probably for two years we've been running into each other, and we always had this pipe dream, oh, we could have a shop. Or maybe a shop on wheels?
Melissa: We were looking at RVs for awhile
Lisa: We were looking at school buses.
Melissa: We went to see the Warby Parker bus.
Lisa: We went to spy on other people's buses. And they would want to show us their products?
Melisssa: We're just here to look at your shelves. How did you get the lighting in these shelves?
Lisa: Who drives the bus? How did you get the generator? So people were totally intimidated by us scoping out their trucks. We always sort of thought, if we found affordable space, wouldn't it be great to join forces. When this development started to go up and Melissa found out they were offering the whole first floor to artists, she was like, "Don't you want to do this? Isn't this a great time to get more creative and get your stuff out of your house?" I was like, you know what? Maybe we have a shot. I knew Melissa had a really good shot of getting in here, because her work is very visual and very creative and she needs some space to do it if she's doing printing or something like that. With me, I was like well, if she needs someone to share with, I'll share. The more I thought about it, any time that I use a sewing machine or a needle or thread to improve something, that counts as art.
What's the process? Is it like a jury?
Melissa: Yes. We applied in January, they apparently got sixty-some applications for twenty-some spots. We got an interview in April.
Lisa: At the end of April, they picked us out a spot and said we think you'd be good in this spot if you'd like it. But with the construction, and then trying to organize 27 of us, it took till mid-August for us to get in here.
How do you feel about the location?
Melissa: It's fantastic. It's right on top of the Metro, tons of foot traffic, there's people who live upstairs. It's great.
Lisa: Everyone who is moving into the artist space, their talent is so diverse. Everyone is so fun and so willing to help.
You each have your own specialization, but you feel like you are in it together?
Lisa: Yes. It's technically two separate businesses. We still both have Etsy stores, but we've come together under the name Analogue.
Melissa: We didn't want to have two separate cash registers. That would be ridiculous.
Lisa: We share the space. And sometimes I'll come across an old book that would be great to sell. Or Melissa will find some clothing. We can help each other and not have to worry about whose tab it is on.
Where do you source your finds?
Lisa: Just today we put up this little map we found at a thrift store so we can mark off all the places we shop. That's really the best part, when you travel around the country, you may think you are going to this really touristy spot, but there's always this little charity shop or flea market. And you can find just amazing stuff. And totally different styles in different parts of the country. It's all hit or miss, local charity or local flea markets. Now and then again, you find someone on eBay who helps you fill in the blanks from a part of the country you can't get to. It's from all over. I have some fairy godmothers, women who keep an eye out for me and send me little care packages. And once you pick it up, it's a matter of what you do next. Does it need repair? Does it need to be hemmed six or eight inches to make it more modern? It all depends on what it is.
What about a source in D.C.?
Lisa: I really like the St. Albans thrift shop up near the Cathedral. It's cash only, and it's open from Tuesday to Saturday. You can get some really good deals at the turn of the season.
Where did you get the all shelving and merchandising pieces in the store?
Lisa: We had this counter at Nana, in both of the locations. So when Nana closed, Jackie [Flanagan], the owner, asked me if I wanted to take it. At the time I had no idea if we'd have this space, so I put it in storage, and prayed. The cool thing is that she told me someone had given it to her, so it's been passed down through a couple of shop owners. It originally came from the Garfinkel's department store, which by total chance we have a hat box from. so this is from the heyday of fashion in D.C.
Melissa: I don't think anything in the store is new, except the wood shelves. And the iPad. Which isn't new, we bought it used.
Lisa: Our sustainability is through the roof.
Do you have a favorite era?
Lisa: I love the 50s or 60s but it's not always easy to find at this point. I'll take anything that's fun.
Melissa: I kind of like 60s stationery best, but 40s clothes.
Can you describe your style in a few words?
Lisa: I would say geek chic.
Melissa: Vintage librarian.
· Monroe Street Market Books The Sartorialist's Scott Schuman [Racked DC]
· Analog [Official Site]