People We Think Are Dope: Helen Wade
Updated: Jul 17
The Stockist has become a quintessential 9th & 9th specialty clothing boutique that provides style, comfort, and quality apparel to the beautiful people of Salt Lake. It was 13 years ago that Helen and her brother, Ian, acknowledged a need for quality clothing in SLC, so they opened “Fresh” in the quaint 9th & 9th neighborhood. Fast forward to now, the shop has had a rebrand and a move across the street to truly showcase and share classic and comfy fits, shoes, and home goods.
As a female local business owner, we were thrilled to sit down with Helen and learn more about her story, her SLC experience, and her inspirations. She was even generous enough to give Salt Town Realty readers a discount code to her amazing shop! Use "SaltTown" for 10% your entire purchase. Don’t sleep on such a rad opportunity to buy or gift rad goods!
Hi, Helen. Thanks so much for chatting with us. We're a huge fan of your shop and are excited to learn more about your story to share with our community.
For starters, how long have you been in Salt Lake?
We moved around a bit when I was young, and the first time I lived in Utah was in middle school. Then we moved away right when high school started, and moved back after high school ended. I've lived here since I was 18, so it's been over 20 years now.
When did you start the shop?
My brother and I started it in 2009 with the name Fresh, across the street, so it's been around for about 13 years. My brother and I started it when we were young. We have a seven year age gap so he was 20 and I was 27. After our fifth year he was ready to explore, so he moved to New York and then I moved the store across the street to where we are now. We were at a point that we either keep growing or we just stay where we're at.
Is that when you changed the name?
Yea, we were slowly trying to rebrand around year three or four, but I knew the only way it would really stick is if we were in a new spot. So when we moved we fully embraced the new name.
Did the ethos of the shop change at all with the rebranding?
Not really. The Stockist is a very English word that means a store that carries quality goods. It just felt way more fitting than the name Fresh. Fresh didn't capture anything about the store, it was a name that was thrown out and we did, but there wasn't much thought behind it. To expand into this bigger space allowed us to bring in more of the brands we really love and look up to, and allow more local pop-ups and local jewelers. I wanted to create a safe and comfortable space for all to shop in. This spot has really grown into that vision and still has room to grow.
So you did expand quite a bit..
We went from 1000 square feet to 3700 square feet, which is insane.
How did things fair for you and the shop during the pandemic?
The first few months were kind of crazy and it was a terrifying time. Telling ourselves, "Ok, this is what we have to do and it's going to be fine." For the first few months when we were forced to be shut down, my daughter and I were here because she had to do school online, and I would be cleaning and fulfilling online orders. Fortunately we had a website, but it wasn't great, so the time allowed me to focus on that. From 3 to 5 in the afternoon we would go do local deliveries and drive around Salt Lake, which was cool because I got to see parts of Salt Lake that I didn't even know existed. We just doorbell ditched a bunch of people, and that was that! We were able to pivot and embrace the change, even though terrifying. I think a lot of small business owners were able to hide the fear, and now we're kind of through it, but dealing with the mental exhaustion.
Oy, that’s great to hear. Especially with some positives. No doubt a very scary time, especially for small businesses.
Throughout your time in Salt Lake, what are some notable changes you've seen?
This block alone... I came here right after high school and ended up going to the U, and would come here around six in the morning before my early morning classes and go to Coffee Garden, which was on the other side of the street. It's been crazy to see how much just this neighborhood and this block have changed.
You're definitely in a great spot.
We kind of scored. It was my friend who told me about the original spot. He saw a "for lease" sign in the window and I immediately called, not even realizing what a gem this neighborhood is. I just knew it as where I liked to go get coffee. We live only a few miles away, and it's very reminiscent of smaller neighborhoods in Portland, which is where we used to live, so it had a home feel before Salt Lake was home.
It's been fun watching so many small businesses pop up. Within the last five to seven years, the whole local scene has really grown. People I meet sometimes try to bag on Salt Lake, but it's pretty cool.
Yea, let's keep it a secret.
What other city can you be so close to skiing or trail running or any outdoor activity, and so close to the city? It's like a perfect balance.
So if you have visitors or newbies, do you have favorite local shares around town that you would show them?
I encourage all of my employees to know the neighborhood you work in. You want to be able to recommend clients, or customers, or visitors to the next store over. If they don't have success in our store, they're going to have success in the next store, and it's important they want to keep coming back to the neighborhood. Also knowing what's going down on Central 9th and that whole area. I call the entire 9th South the “9th South Corridor”. It's cool that it's kind of broken up, but it'd be even better if we were all one whole thing. I think in the next 10 years it'll become one huge thing. Also knowing what's going on Downtown and staying connected. I don't go out much, so knowing trails or outdoor stuff to recommend.
What do you do in your free time, and what are your favorite local gems?
We go camping a lot in our downtime. We try to get out and disconnect. I don't want to give away our spots, but you know, south in the winter and north in the summer. Even just running around the Bonneville Shoreline and up City Creek or Millcreek. They're so accessible and so beautiful.
Your shop has a creative element. You clearly have an eye and are inspired by aesthetics. What are some of your inspirations?
Right now I look at everything we bring into the store as, I want to know how it's going to age and where. I want to be able to pass down to my daughter. Like, would she want to wear this, or would you find these items in a vintage shop 20 years from now. I think that's how we should look at clothing. Yes, there's fast-fashion and fun trends to jump on once in a while, but I think we should be buying clothes for longevity. So that's what we try to bring in. Classics. Would I save this in my closet for the next 20 years or give it to somebody else?
That speaks to the quality items found in The Stockist. That makes perfect sense.
Is there anything in Salt Lake that inspires you?
I just think that everyone else doing their thing is inspiring. I know how hard it is to kind of put yourself out there and hope everyone likes what I'm doing and what I've envisioned in my brain. All the other small businesses. Whether I talk to them regularly or not, it's still inspiring to see they went out on a limb and did this. They put themselves out there. It's a lot of work, so I appreciate that, too. There's a lot of work people don't see. Every other business out here.
Love that. Anything else you'd like to put out there?
We said this during the pandemic, but it still rings true - it's the community's choice on how you want your neighborhood to look and feel. So when you're supporting your local stores, coffee shops and restaurants, you're allowing your neighborhood to survive. When you have a choice to go out to dinner, are you going to go to the Tap House or to some chain restaurant? Your choices matter where you shop. Even when you go out of town, go support the local coffee shop versus the Starbucks or coffee in your hotel. Go that extra mile. Local places appreciate it. I appreciate it. I understand that everyone that walks through our door is making a choice to walk in here, whether they're coming for a greeting card or a new fit. I appreciate every sale and everyone that walks in here. Your choices matter on how your community and how your neighborhood is going to look.
Amen to that! We’re huge advocates for supporting local, and agree with that message to the fullest degree. Thank you for putting yourself out there and sharing such great goods with your community!