Antigos, genuínos e deliciosos produtos de criação portuguesa

In "The Shopkeepers"

24 Fevereiro 2016

"In the age of online shopping, opening a store and becoming a shopkeeper seems like a bold move. Yet from Vienna to Vancouver, storefronts are emerging once again as worthy opponents to commercial corporations. Customers embrace individual businesses that share the distinctive knowledge, personalities, vision, and humor of their owners.

Whether brand new and based on innovative ideas or passed down for generations and revamped, the stores and their shopkeepers featured in this book stand out for the singular experience they provide to their customers and the personal selection of items they sell.

The shopkeepers celebrates the diversity and creativity of brick-and-mortar businesses, telling the stories of the shops and their unique owners.

Pride & Preservation: A Vida Portuguesa

Journalist and author Catarina Portas redirected her skill for research on Portuguese traditions into a business model. Showcasing only legacy brands that still make thins the old-fashioned way, her shops celebrate Portuguese craft while saving their dying industries.

Celebrating the best of Portuguese products, A Vida Portuguesa, which translates to “the Portuguese Life”, brings Portugal’s distinctive legacy of goods and wares together under a single roof. The flagship store, named the most beautiful shop in town by Time Out Lisbon, stems from an investigation undertaken by the then-journalist and author Catarina Portas into old Portuguese products. The Lisbon-born founder became a journalist in 1989 and wrote actively over the next years about society and culture for numerous newspapers and magazines. Her research began to focus on heritage goods that have been around for decades, that kept their original packaging, and that are still involving handcraft and quality manufacturing techniques. In November 2004, these products were gathered in boxes according to different themes and Portas launched the brand Uma Casa Portuguesa. Three years later, in May 2007, the brand was reborn as A Vida Portuguesa in the Chiado neighborhood of the capital city of Lisbon.

This first flagship location occupies the significant centennial warehouse and perfume factory of David & David. The scrupulous renovation kept as much of the historic and bewitching interior intact as possible. This careful preservation includes everything from the original cabinetry to the jars of poder left behind. The spirited restoration displays unique everyday products rescued from the memory of the country: A demonstration in how retailers can open new stores while fully preserving and honoring the past. Customers can explore selections of Portuguese jewelry, embroidery, ceramics, toiletries, stationery, books, and toys. A wide range of cleaning products, food, and drink complete the comprehensive retail experience. The staging of the atmospheric interior with its arched walkways and vintage apothecary look feels purposefully untouched by time. 

Surprising and enchanting its visitors, the store met with such success that Portas opened a second shop in November 2009 in the Clérigos neighborhood of the northern city of Porto. This storefront, a result of a partnership with Ach. Brito, neighbors the famous Lello bookstore. The location can be found on the first floor of the building’s hundred year old shop Fernandes Mattos, which still operates out of the ground floor, A Vida Portuguesa Porto sits at the top of an elegant interior staircase. Inside, the restored and impressive 3,230-square-foot space boasts gracious windows and original period furniture. A sofa, the only added furniture element, allows guests to take a moment to admire the view of the Clérigos tower beyond. Here, customers will find all the sections, brands, and products available in the Lisbon shop that sums up the best of Portuguese production. 2009 also marked the launch of A Vida Portuguesa’s online shop. Believers in collaborative efforts, the company launched the website in partnership with Feitoria. The online shop specializes in a refined collection of the same Portuguese handcrafts and brands found in the stores. Those who don’t live in Lisbon or Porto can enjoy the same access to the local goods worldwide. Many of the exclusive products available in the two stores can also be found in other partner shops both in Portugal and abroad. 

The team behind A Vida Portuguesa believes that objects can tell extraordinary stories. These products back-stories reveal a culture’s particular taste and lessons about a society’s context, history, and common identity. “Saudade”, Portuguese for nostalgic and untranslatable longing, plays part in the experience of these stores. Classic wrappers and unchanged details awaken memories and sensations buried deep inside their customers’ psyches. The deeper visitors delve into the store and respond to the products, the more they end up revealing about themselves and their past.

A Vida Portuguesa was born out of the will to create an inventory of the brands that survived the passage of time, to highlight the quality of Portuguese manufacturing , and to showwcase Portugal in a new and surprising light. Portas and her team have spent the past few years searching the coastal country from the north to the south in pursuit of locally created and fabricated products. The goods that find their way back to the shops have been in production for generations and retain their handsome native packaging. These historic items owe their longevity to their undeniable and unsurpassed quality recognized both nationally and abroad. With time, inventiveness, and hard work, these staple goods have reached a level of indispensable perfection that makes today’s trend of mass production pale in comparison. Trademarked memories, such speciality items represent a way of life and reveal the spirit of the industrious Portuguese people. 

Portas has established fruitful partnerships with several old Portuguese brands to develop exclusive A Vida Portuguesa products. A few of these custom products include soaps crafted by Ach. Brito and Conifnaça, pencils fabricated by Viarco, ceramics made by Secla, as well as notepads and notebooks specially designed by Serrote and Emílio Braga. Arguably the company’s most interesting and ambitious initiative, the ongoing collaborative effort involves research, design, development, and promotion of the quality brand and their touching nationally made products.

Investing in the future of the past, the rapidly expanding company opened a homeware shop in Lisbon’s Largo do Intendente in 2013. This location began by selling soaps and has since expanded all the way up to bathtubs and wood ovens. More than 3,000 products sourced from all corners of the country come together under the same roof inside the extraordinary Viuva Lamego tile factory.

Customers gain an intimate understanding of the Portuguese life told through and recreated by its products. Portas channels the love of her country into a business model that supports and honors her country’s handcrafts and traditional production methods. The products she carries in her stores, designed by and for the Portuguese people, depend on a flawless know-how that has been passed down from one master craftsman to another over decades. The company runs on a model of commerce that Portas describes as “delicate trade”. This simple business concept centers on the notion of respect for those who sell, those who purchase and the goods that change hands in the process. A model that works, the business has inspired a number of new shops throughout Portugal to rediscover the value of the venerable brands of their country. Reviving the economy around regional and local craft, A Vida Portuguesa acts as a form of retail conservancy for endangered production houses and family businesses across Portugal. A source of national pride for local customers, the shop empowers the community to support its finest craftsmen through these new channels of exposure and distribution."

The Shopkeepers
Storefront Businesses and the Future of Retail

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