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House of Boutique

One retail outlet and Nashville-focused fashion experience doubles as a learning lab.

Written By:  Megan O’Neill

Photographers:  Lindsey Grace Whiddon

Situated just before the curve as Belmont Boulevard turns into Portland Avenue, House Of is one of many neighborhood boutiques attracting buyers with well-curated local design. Inside, exposed ceilings are painted white and a minimalist backdrop takes hold. Raw wood shelves, built out by Fort Houston’s Josh Cooper, display Branded Collective cuffs, Garner Blue textiles, and Omega Apparel sweatshirts.

But where it differs from its retail peers is in its mission: Invisible to the unknowing eye, House Of is a retail concept run entirely by students through Belmont University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and in association with the Nashville Fashion Alliance (NFA).

The program exists to provide experimental learning outside of the classroom and to offer insight into the fashion business. Since its opening in April 2016, House Of is facilitating both such goals. Its business plan, expenses, finances, marketing, merchandising, and buying is done entirely by a core group of students, including store managers, Kate Hornberger (20) and Jennifer Mouthouta (22), both full-time students.

It’s through various mentorship programs that retail principles are also absorbed. Two Son’s founder and NFA mentor David Perry worked with students to add retail expertise to the business strategy and to bring an outside perspective on everything from accelerating the launch to choosing the store’s wall color.

“For me, it’s important to connect our students with the Nashville community before they graduate,” Elizabeth Gortmaker, director of Belmont’s Center for Entrepreneurship, says. “So, building relationships, whether it’s with the NFA or area designers, creates a broader learning experience. It also stands with Belmont’s mission to be a resource for the city.”

Through a rotating selection of hand-crafted home furnishings, accessories, jewelry and clothing, House Of currently carries more than 20 Nashville-area labels. Pieces are clustered by designer—Hey Wanderer’s hand-dyed and sewn pieces hang amongst Zamrie’s versatile basics and Two Son’s woven shirts. Shelves stack Thistle Farms’ lotions, Bela Begonia’s pottery, and Ranger Station’s hand-poured candles. The store reflects an increasing fluency in regional labels on the part of buyers, but it also spotlights a community investing in the success of young enterprisers at both retail and wholesale levels.

2006 Belmont Blvd, Nashville, TN 37212; houseofnashville.com

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