Like many local small businesses, Coco & Toulouse has been deeply impacted by COVID-19. Closed for 3 months, relinquished 1500 feet of space, and squeezed everything into remaining space. Coco & Toulouse then had to reshape remaining physical space, which included reducing inventory. In sum, Coco & Toulouse downsized after serving the heart of the Sellwood community of Portland, Oregon for almost 19 years.
If I stop the story here, it would be a purely sad ending. It is not, besides, the way the owner, JoEllen, tells the story, it really is a combination of both happy and sad resolutions. JoEllen talked about the stress of the closure and reopening with very light customer traffic but then quickly adds that the smaller space is easier to manage.
I have visited Coco and Toulouse before COVID and I have to say if JoEllen had not mentioned the changes I might not have noticed. The store, as it is intended, still has a little bit of everything: home goods, fragrances, jewelry, cards, toys, and clothes. Like browsing the neighboring antique shops, there is so much to see, and the space is bright and cheerful, and so are the staff!
Business is slowly returning. The customer profile remains the same: over age 30, and a sprinkle of solid customers in their 80s. First time customers tend to check out the unique greeting cards and then linger over to the clothes. The clothes! They are fun, casual, and mostly unstructured pieces that you can mix and match to add structure. And don’t forget the accessories! Everything from handbags to jewelry-some of the jewelry is made by JoEllen.
The song, “Downtown” comes to mind when I think of Coco and Toulouse. “When you’re got worries, all the noise and the hurry……you can always go to Coco and Toulouse”.