a chat with ana mari from the archive, our new favorite store

 

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The Archive, in South Miami is the nicest store around. Not just around South Miami, around all of Miami. It's a new store that does exactly what a store should. It inspires, it looks like what you wish your life would, it surprises and it sure as hell feels like the hands behind it know what they're doing. Ana Mari and Alicia look at this a little less like a store and a little more like a collection of collectibles, some of those are art, some are specially chosen candles and some are paint and canvas art pieces. 

There's an epidemic of stores in Miami that feel like all they took was some cash, a lease and a quick trip to IKEA. The Archive is the opposite, it proves that with time and love and good taste a nice space that is both inspiring and practical is possible. 

I spend a little bit of time with Ana Mari Portuondo and she told me the story of The Archive, how proud she is to have her mom's art work (seen above) in the store, who coincidently was my elementary school art teacher, and gives us the scoop on the nicest spots around her nice spot...

 

The Archive is our favorite new store. Who are the people behind it and how did you wind up there?

Well, the people behind The Archive are myself (Ana Mari Portuondo) and Alicia Cuervo. I am an Interior designer and Alicia is a Civil Engineer. How we wound up here is kind of a funny story. Before The Archive, Alicia and I met at my previous job. I was working as the Marketing Coordinator for a construction company and she was working as the Regional Director of Business Development. Even though I liked my job, my secret dream had always been to open up a store. One afternoon, Alicia walked by my office and saw a few pieces of art hanging on the walls, she stopped to admire them and asked me who the artist was. I immediately told her it was my mother and emailed her the link to her website to check out more of her work.

A few months later, Alicia and I ended up driving together on our way to a meeting when she pitched to me an idea. An idea in which she wanted to open up an art gallery and represent various local artists. At this point, I had been trying to market my mom as an artist on the side, so I took this opportunity to invite Alicia over to my house to see her work in person. She came the next day and was blown away.

To give you a little background into my family, I am an interior designer, my father is an architect and my mother is an artist. We come from a long line of Interior Designers, Engineers and Architects. As children, my brother, sisters and I we were always taught to think outside the box and see things with a more creative eye. We would have discussions about art and design on a regular basis, and that afternoon at my house was no different. Between all of us, we brainstormed what is now “The Archive | Fine Art & Collectibles”. Here we are a year later making it happen and watching our dream turn into a reality!

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What else can you tell us about yourself and how you ended up with The Archive? Is your background in putting together perfectly curated shelves and styling a table just right? Basically, how did you figure out how to make it look so dang good in there?

As an interior designer, I have been trained to think compositionally, figure out the big picture and translate it in a way that tells a story. However, my curating days date as far back as my childhood. When my brother, sisters and I were younger my mom would have us clean the shelves and reorganize them to give them a “new look”. Our goal is to help paint a picture for our customers and help them visualize how our products could look in their home.

As a side note, many people have a tough time envisioning what their walls could look like with artwork unless its up on the walls (myself included), which is why we offer the option of taking the artwork to see exactly how it would look in the setting.

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So, you have an interior design background. I think every girl entertains the idea of being an interior designer (or, maybe I should just speak for myself, I definitely have day dreams about shopping for bed linens and picking wall colors) – how does your more formal training influence your day-to-day work at The Archive?

Well, as an Interior Designer, when one deals with a retail store it’s important to think of the brand, product and end user. It’s important to have a full grasp of all three in order to figure out the proper spatial layout, circulation, lighting, furniture arrangement and material selection.

Once those elements are in place, then comes the fun part, product display. What makes our store special are the vignettes we put together that fuse original local art with one-of-a-kind home décor collectible items. They are ever-changing and always tell a story. 

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Tell me about the type of stuff that you have for sale? It’s not your average boutique or your average gallery space…

Between Alicia’s extensive Civil Engineering experience and my Interior Design background we are constantly traveling throughout the United States searching for items that make great conversation pieces in a home. At one point, these items served a purpose, but throughout time have been tossed aside collecting rust and dust. We take the time to restore each one and bring it to life to serve as unique home décor.

Why South Miami?

Alicia and I both live in the South Miami/Coral Gables area so we figured what better place than close to our homes?

Who should shop at The Archive? Gift givers? Home decorators? Art collectors?

We find The Archive to be a one-stop-shop for the curious mind. For the gift givers we have incredible unique gifts such as candles and soaps. For the home decorators, we have one-of-a-kind home décor items that give life and add character to a home. For Art Collectors we have original artwork from local artists at prices that range to fit anyone’s budget.  

Our goal is to give our customers a preview of what their home could look like just by walking in. If one wanted to redecorate their home with unique and interesting pieces they can find them at The Archive.

Can you tell me a little bit about some of your favorite pieces right now?

Man that’s a tough question...Since Alicia and I restore all of the items we find and put a lot of time into each piece, it’s almost guaranteed we are going to get attached to them. When we see them go we’re like “Wait! Come back to me!” It’s a bitter sweet feeling, but at the end of the day we know they are going to good homes.

It smells so dang good in there. Why?

One of my favorite parts about working in the store is surrounding myself with our incredible candles! Each day we light a different scent, and since our doors are always open, people find themselves walking in saying “I want my house to smell this good!”

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What’s something that you think every Miami home should have?

I think every Miami home should have a good conversation piece. Whether it’s a unique collectible item that sits on your coffee table, or an art piece that you have a connection with, your home will start to develop its own personality. To me, that’s what makes a home special.

Is there a common misconception about home design and art in Miami that you think you could rectify?

I think when people think unique home design and original art they automatically think they will have to take out a loan in order to pay for it. We’re here to change that. Our artwork and home décor collectible items have been chosen specifically to appeal to a broad audience. We know not everyone can afford to purchase artwork that costs thousands of dollars; which is why each one of our eleven artists (so far) have a range of work at different price points. This way, if you love a particular artist, chances are, there is a piece just for you.  

You guys carry only local and American products. Some vintage, some new, a few books, a chair or two, huge paintings, small mixed-media pieces. How can you tell what’s going to work in the store and what won’t?

Well…Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes a lot of experimenting and trial and error to see what’s a big hit and what isn’t. The beauty of our store is that it’s ever-changing. We are constantly experimenting with our artists and our collectibles allowing us to see what works and what doesn’t.

You guys have a lot of new talent that’s never been seen before. How do you find your artists and what’s your relationship like with them?

Well, each artist has a funny story as to how they’ve stumbled into our Archive world. Some have come into our lives serendipitously, while others have reached out to us. We’ve been fortunate to have surrounded ourselves with such great people with incredible talents. Each one is so unique and special that we’re honored to have them as part of our Archive family.

If you stay posted, you will soon be able to get inside the world of each of our artists. I’m leaving it at that for now…

Black or white?

White.

Is it ok to have a hammock in the living room?

Of course! Who said you couldn’t?

Do you have any neighborhood spots around the store or around your own homes that you can share with us? Secret places to grab a bite, shop or even people-watch?

I am a woman who likes routine, so when there is something I like, I have to have it all the time. As far as places to grab a bite in the area, I absolutely love…

Whisk Gourmet Food & Catering:

If you like southern gourmet dishes I definitely recommend Wisk. If you see a “Be back in 10 minutes” sign on my door in the middle of the afternoon, chances are I’m picking up my lunch since they don’t deliver….I actually close the shop for them!

(I have never seen their restaurant empty…ever.)

La Provence:

It’s on my route every morning as I walk to the store and I always order their cappuccino. It’s delicious and made with love…who can say no to that?

If you want to shop…

Respice:

They are a new retail store down Sunset Drive that specialize in high-end clothing accessories such as sun glasses, belts, watches, shoes and more. I’ve honestly never seen a store like them in the area and feel as though they bring a breath of fresh air to the community. Plus, the husband and wife owners are adorable.

Giancarlo Designs:

Prepare to be entertained! This family owned jewelry store has been a part of the South Miami community for years, and it gives me great pleasure to say there is never a dull moment! They are located in one of the best spots down sunset drive in the courtyard building that’s connected to Starbucks. Talk about people watching, prime time location!

 

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