Without knowing, I have apparently been scheming my way into seeing Shawn and Chad’s home for years. Shopping at their boutique inside the old Union at the Biltmore mall, browsing their selection of antiques at Modern on Melrose, running into them at events like the Phoenix Flea or mutual friends’ birthday parties, I had quietly been laying the ground work. So, on my latest trip to For the People in Uptown Phoenix to purchase my new BluDot desk, Shawn and I were chatting it up when I asked if he and Chad would be interested in sharing their story and space on the blog. Without a second thought, Shawn replied, “that would be great!” In that moment, I felt an instant sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, only upon reflection of all these years of casual encounters did I understand why….I had really been wanting to see their house!
If you haven’t been to their shop on Central, just North of Camelback, you’re missing out and if you have been, you go often. Shawn Silerblatt and his partner Chad Campbell have shaped the specialty boutique scene in Phoenix, offering a shopping experience that feels like stepping into a Parisian concept store or Soho showroom; offering new and unique home goods, products from local makers and emerging artists all expertly curated and thoughtfully displayed. The store is a stand out in Phoenix and has paved the way for new and vibrant specialty stores to stand a chance within our urban sprawl.
The day had arrived! Fully caffeinated, I rode the elevator up, took the hallway down and knocked on the door. Chad opened up and I can barely remember what he said, because behind that door was just too good! The colors, the light, the fireplace, oh…the furniture…it knocked me out…it made me love lofts…and over the next two hours of chatting about the evolution of their business….made me fall for these guys.
N: First, how did you find this space? I have been in this building a bunch and all the units are so different, this one is really spectacular.
C: Thanks! We were living in a three story townhome prior to this, which we really liked, but it was difficult to entertain. The spaces didn’t “speak to each other” and we found that every time we had people over, we were all crammed in the small kitchen. We always knew of this building. When the right unit came along, we acted quickly. The direction this unit faces and the rooftop with views was ideal, plus the whole home is open and is really easy to engage throughout the space.
N: What is the story with that fireplace? What a statement!
S: We were on our way back from Palm Springs and stopped at a vintage shop on a whim. We couldn’t believe they had this particular Adrian Pearsall piece, it was something we coveted for years but knew they were extremely rare- I had only seen one in a magazine up until that moment. We knew we couldn’t leave it behind.
N: How long have you been a small business owner? Where and how did FTP start?
S: We have been small business owners for about 8 years. FTP started as a small design store in the Union at the Biltmore Fashion Park in 2012. How we got here was very organic. I have always loved modern design, I studied architecture, and have a background in hospitality. Coming from the Midwest, Chad was a lover of antiques and beautiful, older architecture. Upon moving to the desert, he quickly fell in love with the mid century modern design of Phoenix’s past. On weekends and during our travels, we would collect vintage objects, and started selling them in a 10’x10’ space on the Melrose curve. A bit later, becoming co-owners in a large vintage store which included many different Arizona artists and collectors.
N: Was that Modern on Melrose? Can you tell a little bit about why you parted ways with that business?
S: When Chad and I became part of it, it was located in a large space on 7th Ave and included a large industrial salvage yard. We leased part of the space to various talented artists, vintage dealers, and a metal craftsman. It was this experience that sparked our passion for retail, or at least, retail that blurred the lines between a community space and a retail store; a place where people felt free to linger, connect and create. Instead of just shopping, people were spending part of their day in the store. We loved that. We ended our partnership with Kevin only because of the growth of FTP.
C: It’s still there, currently curated by Kevin, one of the original founders.
N: What was your vision of FTP and how has it evolved and changed?
S: FTP’s vision has always been to bring beautifully-designed, useful-objects into people’s homes and lives. It has evolved from it’s humble roots at the Biltmore location into a 3000 sq ft space on Central Ave featuring specialty coffee (Kream), the studio of Heidi Abrahamson Jewelry and beautiful modern objects from around the globe- including over 30 Arizona based artisans. All housed in a building shared with celebrated Valley architect Wendell Burnette and the perfect space to host community events. Chad and I moved the store to our current Central Ave location after the Union concept was shuttered.
N: Can you share a little about your architecture speaker series you do at the shop?
S: Of course! The PHX Architecture Forum is a place where people interested in our built environment can meet, socialize and discuss current projects taking place in our community. We host the evening with Wendell Burnette Architects. Each evening is facilitated by a revolving set of forward thinking valley architects and creates an open forum for dialogue. In other words, it’s a fun excuse to hang out in the store on Thursday night with the ability to meet some the most talented Arizona architects and discuss current and past work.
N: Where do you find new designers? What do you look for in the products you carry?
C: Everywhere. First and foremost, we ask, do we love it and would we put it in our own home? If it sparks a visceral reaction in us, puts a smile on our face or would add aesthetic or functional value to our life, then we hope our customers feel the same. This is one of the most enjoyable parts about curating FTP. Plus our semi-annual buying trips are fun excuse for a vacation!
N: What was your last big spending splurge?
S: Probably the dinner we ate while in NY on your latest buying trip.
N: How has the evolution of Phoenix changed your business?
C: The renewed interest in Phoenix’s central core and the growing collaborative, creative community has made it possible for our store to continue to grow. Not only as a place to find a unique gift, support a local artist, furnish the interior of a home or commercial project, but also as a community hub.
N: What is your favorite building in Phoenix? Favorite architect?
S: The Burton Barr Central Library. It’s a great example of “desert modernism.” Its form truly does follow function. Not only being a very beautiful structure both inside and out but a machine in the desert. The structure harnesses light to avoid the costs of lighting in an environment like the Sonoran desert. It’s also a timeless use of materiality. It was built in the early 90s and is just as beautiful and relevant today. I love how the central elevators become a kinetic sculpture for the center “canyon”. The fifth floor reading room is one of the most beautiful spaces in all of Phoenix.
Favorite architect? Thats a tough one, but we have to say Wendell Burnette. Not only is he our building suite mate and forum co-host, he is also truly one of the most talented architects of our time. He was one of the original architects on the design team of the Central Library and his career has spanned over 23 years to include some amazing projects around the world.
N: Now let’s get into the favorites! What is your favorite piece or room in your house?
S: My favorite piece in the house is a brutalist sculpture that we purchased a few years ago. We’ve done a lot of research on the piece but unfortunately we can’t find anything about it. It’s a magical yet mysterious piece that conjures up so many interpretations as to what it’s about.
N: Favorite dining out spot? How about for drinks? Coffee?
N: What do you want people to know about your shop that they might not already know?
S: Our Central Ave location was originally built in 1953 for the Mehagian family as a stand alone television store, an extension or their downtown Phoenix appliance store. It served the post-war boom of uptown Phoenix by helping furnish a brand new beautiful Magnavox television cabinet in everyone’s living room. Most of the building’s facade, the large iconic cat-eye shaped pool sign, and interior structures are original. It was gently renovated by Wendell in 2009.
C: Stop in, grab a coffee, and say hello!
Shawn and Chad give new meaning to “bringing your work home,” it is so clear they love what they do for a living and enjoy bringing their vision to others. Their loft is a true reflection of their creativity, eye for design and appreciation of architecture.
You can visit For the People at 5102 North Central Avenue, Phoenix 85012
Mon-Fri 10-6, Sat 10-7 and Sun 12-5.