Name: Maggie Stoll
Current City: Long Beach, CA
Hometown: Lebanon, OH (Greater Cincinnati area)
Occupation: Boutique owner
Originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, Maggie Stoll, founder of Burke Mercantile, began her journey 10 years ago when she packed up her Toyota Corolla and headed west two weeks after graduating college. Like most people, she instantly fell in love with Southern California and began to create a home for herself in Long Beach.
Throughout the last ten years, despite thinking she would land in the world of sports due to spending many summers with her dad who was a High School Athletic Director, she fell into the world of fashion where she worked her way up the chain of command at Urban Outfitters. Now, after noticing a personal shift within herself, she took the plunge and is a proud owner of Burke Mercantile, an eco-conscious boutique located in Long Beach.
What is the origin story of your Burke Mercantile, as well as the inspiration behind the name?
After eight years at a corporate fast fashion company, I was entering my 30s and my personal style, as well as my conscious shopping choices, began to shift. I started to feel disconnected from the brand I worked for and started to discover some amazing small, independent fashion and design brands through Instagram. I began to educate myself more on the fashion industry and the slow fashion movement, learning all of the harms done to the environment and to workers (in the fast fashion industry).
I started to feel very jaded by this and started my own personal pursuit to support these smaller brands through my own personal shopping. I found that it was difficult to find places to shop for these brands in person near me, and that was when I got the idea to have a shop of my own to both support these brands, and to bring these products to my local market where they did not exist.
A few things I knew I wanted to have when I started were unisex/gender-neutral offerings. I wanted to focus on sustainability, and also on modern, contemporary design. All three of these things felt unique to me in terms of what was already being offered in Long Beach.
Burke Mercantile was the first name I came up with, and it just stuck with me.
Technically, Burke should be my real last name. By blood, I am a Burke. My great grandfather on my dad's side was George Burke. That's all I really know about him, that and he died when my grandfather was a baby. My grandpa then took his adoptive father's last name of Stoll, which is the one I carry today. It's always been a mysterious part of my heritage that has never been explored, so I wanted to pay tribute to that name. Also, some of the money my grandfather had left me when he passed helped me start the business in the first place.
I added Mercantile because I felt that it offered a sense of a "market", and wanted a name that would allow for the shop to evolve and change over time without taking away from the essence of the idea. I want to be able to play with different product types from clothing to home goods, to self-care, etc. and have the opportunity to shift those at the times when it feels necessary.
I wanted it to be a lifestyle shop more than just a clothing shop, and I also wanted the name and logo to not feel either too feminine or too masculine. The logo was created by my friend Patrick Meyer, and like the name, it was also the first logo I saw and I knew it was perfect right away!
Why was it important for you to have a shop that placed an emphasis on eco-conscious fashion and brands?
With a history in fast-fashion, it became tough to not have any control over general practices by the company, even from things like the waste we created from day to day operations. I really wanted to feel like I had some control over making an impact, no matter how small.
I also decided to start the business around the time when Trump was elected. It felt like such a crazy time for us in our society and our country. There were so many important things happening that we needed to be paying attention to and participate in
It put a lot of things into perspective for me in terms of rights and privileges of myself and others, the threat to our climate and environment, and I felt like so much work needed to be done. With all of this weighing heavily on me, "opening a store just to sell more things" seemed so trivial. I knew that if I was going to go through with it, it needed to mean more and do more than that, especially during this fragile time we are in. So I made sure to abide by these values from the beginning.
How do you determine which brands/products you will carry in your store? Outside of being eco-conscious, are there any other standards they must meet?
Yes! Having established myself a bit now as a sustainable shop, I get a lot of sustainably made or eco-friendly brands reaching out to try and sell their products here. While I am glad to see so many adopting this effort, I also have a very specific visual curation in the shop in terms of design. I look for brands that offer modern, yet classic pieces. Pieces that feel fresh and have unique details, but are simple and classic enough to outlive seasons and trends so they can live in one's wardrobe for years.
This means I don't carry a lot of prints, and I generally stick to a more muted color palette (though I am going to play with some bold colors for fall that I am excited about)!
I also look for brands that either offer both men's and women's styles, OR offer pieces that can be gender-neutral. If they have an extended size range - that is a huge bonus as well! So many small shops are size limited to small sizes, and I have quite a few plus-size customers that I love being able to offer sustainable options to!
Finally, the price point! Slow, sustainably made fashion created by very small brands is just more expensive than what we are culturally used to. Better production practices, fair wages and working conditions for workers, and producing high-quality product in small batches that are intended to last a long time just cost more. But it can be a lot for a consumer to justify or invest in. So I try to search for sustainable brands that have these values but that still offer an attainable price point.
What aspirations do you have for Burke Mercantile moving forward?
When you're running your business by yourself, dealing with all the day-to-days, it is really hard to think too far ahead. Sometimes being a small business means figuring out how you are going to survive each month!
I also see a lot of small businesses after a few years start to panic about not growing faster or making more money or expanding. So I try to remind myself when I worry about these things that those aren't the reasons I opened the business in the first place. I started it to support the small change-makers in the industry, to provide something special to my community, and to offer myself control and freedom over my work, my schedule, and my daily life.
I don't ever intend to be a huge company, but I would love to potentially expand to offer more home goods and even furniture/decor in the future (I am highly inspired by and passionate about interior design and architecture), as well as finding ways to collaborate and work with as many creatives as possible whether temporarily or permanently. I would also love to get more involved in the local community of business owners to bring attention to Long Beach whether it is creating more local events, finding ways to advocate for and give back to local non-profits, etc. Wherever it takes me, I always want collaboration and community to be at the forefront of my decisions.
Outside of your shop, how do you show love to Mother Earth?
I have started to try to reduce waste at home to improve my own personal impact on Mother Earth. I live alone, and I do not cook at all, so it has definitely been a challenge for me! But I have an amazing shop neighbor two doors down, Julie who owns BYO Long Beach, who has taught me so much already, and is an amazing resource for me to have to help me on my journey!
I use my own straw, cup, and utensils on a daily basis, and am working to do better in terms of to-go containers and less waste grocery shopping.
I've also worked to educate my family on plastic pollution and reducing waste as they live in the midwest, where this conversation is barely happening at all yet! I started reducing how often I do laundry, and stopped drying my clothes in a dryer altogether, and instead hang dry to save energy.
Another reason I wanted to open a shop in Long Beach was to have a commute to work that was less than 2 miles. I had been commuting 20+ miles to work each way for years, and reducing that reduces emissions from my car. They are all small things, but committing to small things at a time helps me feel like I can achieve some actual progress and continue to tackle more!
Do you have a morning routine (or maybe even afternoon or evening) that grounds you?
Honestly, I don't and I should, though I am working towards some things. I currently work three freelance jobs outside of the shop to pay my bills, so some mornings during the week I am at a job before I come into the store.
Some of my "days off" from the shop are spent on another job, therefore my schedule is very inconsistent, which has made it hard for me to create a "routine". Instead of feeling like a failure for not completing a routine, I am working on trying to find small chunks of time whenever I can throughout a day to have some self-care.
I bought a yoga mat and found a good youtube channel I like of yoga videos, and usually try to do a 15-minute routine sometime throughout my day – whether it is before I leave for work or when I get home.
I also try to just walk on the beach with a friend when I can.
Whenever I do have a long drive somewhere or time to myself, I listen to podcasts or audiobooks - most often political ones to keep myself engaged and educated. For me right now, finding any small amount of time to clear my mind of work and also get my body active and moving is important! Hopefully, I will be able to slowly dedicate more and more time to these things.
If you could give one piece of advice to young individuals around the globe, what would it be and why?
I have a card framed in my apartment that I received for (and have had on display since) college graduation that always grounds me when I remember to see it and read it. I think it is the best advice - Keep learning, stay awake to amazement, be kind rather than right, and remember that being loved is better than being rich.
If we can remember these human values of always learning, staying humble, being kind and spreading love - ourselves and the world around us will be better for it.
Discuss the importance of paying it forward.
I think this goes off of my piece of advice well. In our current society and the age of the internet, it is easy to feel like we are always right, and we have all the information to prove our own points at the tip of our fingertips.
The internet and especially social media is set up to cater to what we already know and believe, and it's easy to stay in our little bubble and serve ourselves. But I feel like we need to balance out the world and challenge ourselves now more than ever. It feels like a lot of the world is out of balance right now and I find it important to take any opportunity from the privilege and the platform I am given to do something good, give back, speak out, improve myself, and help someone else.
As an individual, it can be easy to feel like your single actions don't make a difference in the grand scheme of things, but if you help just one person or inspire one other person to do the same, it matters and it can have a domino effect without your knowledge. I think that's the other thing to remember with our generation being used to always getting and wanting so much instant gratification - you shouldn't pay it forward to just feel good about yourself or to receive a little self-gratification.
Paying it forward is about doing something for others because you can whether anyone knows it or not, and that being the only real reason. I often deal with very heavy overwhelming emotions when I think about all the things going wrong in the world, and knowing there's nothing I can do about many of them. So, I try to focus on what I can do and focus on my own community - that is always where change starts.
What/who are you grateful for?
Oh man, I am grateful for so many people and things!
For one, my boyfriend and partner Omar who I was dating when I decided to dive into this insane journey of running my own business. He has stood by me with constant selfless support and love, even when it has taken a toll on our relationship and our time together, and he has been my rock when I feel like I'm going to be a total failure. I'm not sure I'd have stayed mentally stable this far without him!
I am grateful for my family and friends who have never ever once doubted my abilities through all of this and have instead, been my greatest cheerleaders, fans, and supporters. They have shown me support in ways I will never be able to pay back, and it's been incredibly humbling and encouraging to know I have them.
And finally, I am so grateful for the Long Beach community, and particularly the LB small business community. I have lived in Long Beach for ten years, and it wasn't really until I started my business or started working in the small business community that I really understood how tight-knit this big city is.
I have been able to meet SO many incredible people here from customers to peers to neighbors who constantly show up for each other, support each other, and promote each other! I feel like I can go almost anywhere in town now and say hello to people I know. I have people I can call on for help in my shop, and my three freelance jobs are employed by other local small business owners (women at that!). It just feels really great and crucial to be tied to a supportive community!