Shop Talk: DANO

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The space is a dream of daylight—the soft, slowly-fading sun illuminating its desert-hued components. I step in on a Saturday, and the afternoon light reaches across the floor, catching the objects and illuminating everything found within.

DANO, nestled amongst the restaurants, coffee shops, and other store fronts that pull so many to Portland’s SE Division Street, is the product of Melissa Grandkoski’s eye and affinity for color, a soft weaving of earthy pinks, terra cotta, and a multidimensional cream that grounds that palette.

This impression is one of the first things I notice, and one of the first things I ask Melissa about. She identifies the specifics of my observation immediately and her eyes glitter with the sort of interest that comes with speaking to something you’re passionate about, “I love peach. My kitchen at home is peach—it’s such a warming color.” 

And it’s true: The pinkish-yellow tint is reflected everywhere I look: In earthenware bowls placed on top of one another in artistic stacks, beeswax taper candles hanging in a thoughtful gradient on the wall, and even the minimalist labeling on the assortment of skincare and beauty products carefully laid out on the shelves.

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Before Melissa opened DANO, the space belonged to Field Trip, a charming collection of personal care and home goods by small designers and makers. In addition to her work as a freelance designer, Melissa could be found at Field Trip two days a week. “I had worked in retail before and I loved it. I was always thinking that one day I would have my own store. Working at Field Trip was a great experience, and when I learned that it was closing, I didn’t want the shop to go to something not ‘Field Trip-y.’ I think this space suits that type of product well. It’s a beautiful backdrop to products focused on self care and wellness.” 

That concept is clearly displayed, and I ask Melissa about the idea of DANO, about the seemingly-disparate parts that come together to condense and communicate its inspiration in a comprehensive, but beautifully-cohesive product.

“The idea of the shop was always in my head, but I had just never put it down on paper. Intuitively though, everything about DANO felt right. And I just acted upon that internal sense of knowing.”

Before she even called the broker, Melissa reached out to Lauren, owner of the vintage-modern clothing boutique, Mister Sister. “I knew I wanted to rent the space and share it with another creative,” Melissa reflects. “I had always loved the idea of having a sister shop.”

Prior to renting the building together, their correspondence existed only on Instagram, but given the visual nature of the platform, they were able to acquaint themselves with the other’s style, eye, and focus. Lauren’s aesthetic is a fitting complement to Melissa’s own, favoring handcrafted goods, and flowy, breezy, and delicate design. 

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Melissa builds upon this conclusion, elaborating and noting the unity of what they each create: “Lauren is from Arizona, and she keeps to more white, calming, and neutral colors. Funny enough, the color I chose for the walls is Arizona Peach.”

DANO is a reflection not only of Melissa’s vision, but of her lifestyle as well.

The conversation takes us away from color, and we move towards content. DANO is a reflection not only of Melissa’s vision, but of her lifestyle as well. She curates and collects objects and products she uses herself and wants to share with others. I ask Melissa about this, and how what she offers at DANO plays into her own routine.

“I practice clean beauty and internal wellness in my daily life, and that’s something I wanted to bring to the store. The make-up I carry is small-batch and multi-use—which I love.”

Melissa’s words seem to reflect a patterning I’ve begun to notice: Many of us have moved away from bold color in favor of a more natural, subtle look. It’s a sweeping generalization, sure, and maybe this aesthetic is concentrated in Portland and the west coast, but Melissa and DANO are models for the sort of beauty found in simplicity.

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I dive further into the products: How does Melissa discover the brands she carries and what criteria determines whether or not they can be found on DANO’s shelves?

“I look for products that are made using quality, responsible ingredients. Brands like NOTO Botanics and Manasi 7 do an amazing job with that. Their packaging is beautifully-minimalist, and I love that you can feel good licking your lips. That’s definitely a bonus.

“Some of what I have now in DANO I discovered when I was working at Field Trip. They’re mainstays, and I knew that a lot of people would come back here for those specific things. And honestly, I find so much through Instagram. I’ll discover a company on social media and will reach out and test samples. I always try products first myself, and if I like them and they fit the criteria I’m looking for, I’ll bring them into the shop.”

I turn the conversation and think about everything Melissa does: Between owning DANO, her freelance work, and being a mother of two, Melissa keeps her schedule full of purposeful tasks and meaningful events. I pause before asking Melissa the question so many women today get: How do you balance it all?

“Lauren helps immensely. She’s also a mother, and so we can take turns with who’s in the shop. It’s great, because I can bring my kids here if I need to. I knew that with having a family and becoming a mother, I needed that flexibility. But it’s exactly that, a balance back and forth.”

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Melissa’s creativity is infectious, and immediately apparent upon meeting her. I know it’s an inherent quality, but I also believe that creativity is something we each practice and build upon. The most inspiring people I’ve met actively seek out that inspiration, and I discover that Melissa makes it a priority to do the just the same.

“So many people knock on Instagram, but I find it so inspiring. For women especially, seeing other women do their thing and to be so amazing at it is empowering. Being able to see that and to connect with them in a way that hasn’t been accessible before, it’s creating community around the things that people are passionate about.”

“So many people knock on Instagram, but I find it so inspiring.”

Melissa’s reflection on the positive influence and impact of the social platform alone is inspiring. I brighten and find hope in what she says—while the dominating discussion today focuses on the isolating and addicting nature of Instagram, Melissa’s perspective turns me to the potential for real-life collaboration and connection it fosters.

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It’s a truth I’ve subconsciously known, but which has never been fully realized: It isn’t the device, it isn’t the platform, and it isn’t the technology. It’s how each are used, the habits that we build and develop on our own accord. Just as we can become cripplingly reliant upon our phones and computers and the constant stimulation they permit, we can also choose to see them as a catalyst, a point from which we can choose to build.

I ask Melissa more about where she finds inspiration, though now as it specifically relates to DANO. What, truly, is in a name?

“That’s what I want to bring to DANO. I want people to feel comfortable as soon as they walk in.”

“DANO was what I called my great-grandmother when I was little. She would always tell me she was ‘bohemian’ before I really knew what that meant. But I began to see it and understand: I remember as a child visiting her home, and she had everything. Fake fruit on the tables, chandeliers with crystals, costume jewelry. There were cuckoo clocks, macrame planters, and she always wore muumuus. It was a kid’s heaven—so much lightness and whimsy. She made you feel very comfortable in her home. That’s what I want to bring to DANO. I want people to feel comfortable as soon as they walk in.”

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Our conversation slows, and I pause, taking inventory of what we’ve discussed, determining the focal point, and reflecting upon the core of what I want to say. 

What does it mean to tell a story, and what does it mean to share someone’s narrative? Caught in my reverie, a couple walks in, and Melissa politely excuses herself to greet them. As I watch the interaction, the answer to my questions begins to reveal itself. It’s a matter of drawing connections, of seeing more than the details—it’s the thoughts, the nuances, the things said and left unsaid. A narrative unravels in the interest and passions communicated in a product and in a store. A story is built in the simple welcoming of someone into your space, and the offering of a glimpse into your life.

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Isabelle EymanComment