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Retail is having a moment—or, rather, “a weird moment,” says Zeppelin Development’s retail director Mathieu Mudie, who oversees the shopping and cultural experiences at the company’s industrial-chic marketplaces, including Zeppelin Station and the Source Hotel and Market Hall. “I don’t think brick and mortar is dying; I just think it’s redefining itself.”
That sort of reinvention mirrors what’s happening in Denver, which is why, in part, Mudie decided to move from Montreal to the Mile High City in February 2018. The other reason: Mudie, who ran a leather-goods business with his wife, was enticed by Zeppelin Development’s executive team to bring his entrepreneurial mindset and vast network of artisans and designers to RiNo’s hottest new marketplaces.
Among other retail projects—including a vintage shop and a storefront in the Source Market Hall called Eyes Open, which focuses on carefully crafted apparel and lifestyle products—Mudie oversees a pop-up concept called “Made in a City” at the Zeppelin Station food hall. The idea: Fill the Station’s airy retail spaces with a vibrant collection of artisan-made homewares, apparel, and artwork from a specific city—then pair the shopping experience with culinary vendors, music, and artists-in-residence from the same locale. After three months, change the city and offerings and repeat. After all, Mudie says, these days, people don’t really go shopping with a singular focus. They meet friends for coffee, work on their laptops, and explore a space before and after making a purchase. “When you’re traveling, you wander around and discover new things,” he says. “We want to recreate that mood.”
This dynamic brick-and-mortar concept bucks Amazon-era shopping trends by focusing on maker-buyer connections (read: understanding where that gorgeous piece of pottery actually comes from). Following Montreal, Portland, and Reykjavik, the next featured city, debuting in June, is Mexico City. Mudie is especially excited about this theme’s cultural vibrancy; expect a focus on art, home goods, and food versus fashion, he says, with offerings that are “modern and design-forward, but still feed off of Mexico City’s heritage.”
Part of what fuels Mudie is the creativity borne of a blank canvas, so to speak, which is essentially what Zeppelin Development offered him. “Denver is a city of transplants; people come from all over,” says the firm’s president, Kyle Zeppelin. “There is a built-up demand for a more elevated experience, but we’re in uncharted territory with retail, and we need to stay relevant.” Mudie’s background in fine craftsmanship and the branding of his own products, plus, as Zeppelin says, his “receptiveness to experimental ideas without having to follow a model or script,” made him a natural fit for the job.
Mudie’s approach to merchandising walks the line between avant-garde and mainstream, a balance intended to showcase many aspects of a culture while encouraging interaction among shoppers. “I’m really community-driven,” Mudie says. “I couldn’t evolve in an environment that’s just [about] buying and selling. For me, it’s important that there’s something more.”
Bringing Mexico City to Denver
Zeppelin Station launches its latest “Made in a City” pop-up shop in June, and you’ll find these makers’ gorgeous goods among the offerings.