When Erin Krohn left a two-decade design career to launch Hammer + Awl, she was leaving career stability for something a lifetime in the making — the chance to own a shop all her own.
Krohn said leaving her career to launch the shop with her husband less than two years ago “has been the scariest yet most rewarding thing I have ever done.” It was no easy task, as she and her husband performed the entire build-out process themselves. Their hard work hasn’t been without reward though — customers and menswear brands have certainly taken notice.
The Seattle-based menswear accessories boutique is well on its way to delivering (as Krohn says) “modern equipment for the American man.” The shop stocks everything from tailored Aloha Sunday swim trunks to indigo chore coats from California-based Apolis. Other staples at both the brand’s crisp Web store and lovely physical space (at 1137 4th Avenue in Seattle, if you go), include eye-catching pocket squares from General Knot, indigo ties from The Hill-Side and hardworking bags from Billykirk.
The entire product range fills a unique niche that Krohn says encompasses “that finishing touch, that extra layer, the equipment that helps define your style.” What’s more, the store and Web shop’s offerings encapsulate products that are all either locally or American-made, or else fairly sourced “from brands that have a story to tell,” Krohn said.
She looks for core staple pieces like workwear-inspired jackets or tough henleys and buttondowns, and rounds out the rest of the shop’s smaller-scale offerings, like bags and small leather goods, by looking for functionality and unexpected finishes or materials. This process leads to a tightly-edited selection that’s still broad enough to satisfy anyone with an interest in menswear. Denim fiends will be especially pleased, for instance, that the shop stocks Kiriko Selvedge Denim.
Grooming supplies from Malin + Goetz ensure that buyers can leave with both a stocked closet and toiletries bag. “I gravitate toward less trend and more updated classic styles that have longevity for a person’s wardrobe,” Krohn says.
But, as with any bootstrapped operation, the work never stops — Krohn manages the store’s entire E-commerce operation on her own.
“I think it can be easy to lose sight of what you have accomplished thus far and get down or frustrated, so I try to look at it in small steps that can be improved upon each week, month (and) year,” she said.
The fact that the shop recently relocated points to that continual improvement Krohn strives for. The business is also carving out a niche in the community, and last month launched the summer edition of its Seattle Spaces and Places Guide, spotlighting noteworthy small businesses and spots worth a second look in Seattle.
As in the #menswear world at large, evolution is a big theme in Krohn’s business philosophy, something she’ll continue to focus on with the help of those around her.
“You learn with every step, and I know more than I did when I started, but there is still so much more experience to gain when owning a small business,” she said. “Two years ago, none of this even existed in my life. When I look at it like that, it makes me pretty amazed and still sometimes seems like it’s not real.”
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