With the advent of the COVID-19 virus, everything in our world changed. One thing that is very different is the nature of shopping. This has been undergoing change with the rise of the internet but the pandemic accelerated this change.

Gone are the days when shopping for clothing and items in a store was a necessity. With the increase of e-Commerce it is easier, faster, and less expensive to order a shirt from the other side of the world than driving two miles to a store. But much has been lost through this process. You’re not able to touch the fabric, try on the item, or get the helpful advice of a trusted staff person. Also lost is the enjoyment of discovering an item you didn’t know you wanted.

In the past ten years, as designers of retail stores and shops, we have focused on making retail facilities not just efficient facilities for displaying and selling items, although these are certainly functions we try to achieve. We look to create facilities which showcase the core brand attributes and which make the exploration and shopping experience fun. This is sometimes known as “Retail-tainment.”

Recently, a store became vacant for one of the landlords and developers we regularly work with. The challenge was to divide the store into two parts such that each had the positive feeling of an upscale shop, with their own dressing rooms and storage area. Building occupancy and egress routes for each of the stores had to be calculated and designed. But most importantly, each store had to be designed to reflect the character of the product line in order to enhance the retail experience.

Dividing one large store into two in the midst of a pandemic was also seen as a time to upgrade the lighting to more modern and energy efficient models and to re-insulate the walls for both sound fire and energy efficiency reasons.

In the end we feel the two stores, Island Pursuit and Re-Sails, make a very nice complement to each other.

Re-Sails specializes in making bags and clothing from old sails. Island Pursuit sells clothing with nautical and resort flair. Both of these stores will be located essentially across the street from the current National Sailing Hall of Fame that is currently being built inside the old Armory Building on Thames Street in Newport, which is essentially the sailing capital of the United States. It is hoped that these stores will not only sell a good amount of product, but also introduce Newporters and visitors alike to the brands so that they become lifelong customers and continue to buy product from these companies over the internet when they cannot get to the store to experience and shop in person.

A4 Architecture was pleased to work both with the owner of the building and with each of the two tenants to help create retail environments that are designed to function perfectly in the modern retail landscape.


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