Store Visit: Frances May

For the past 6 years Frances May has been the go-to shop for men and women looking for well made and designed goods. Owners Pamela Baker-Miller and her Grandmother Connie Codding have a shared passion for great design and quality and have done an immaculate job of curating the store. The name of the store hails from Pamela's Great-Grandmother, Frances May, reiterating the families wonderful aesthetic. The attention that goes into finding new designers while still carrying staple brands is one thing we love about Frances May. We know we can find classics like APC denim or something special by Rachel Comey. But what we love the most is when we shop there we always stumble upon a new designer. We also respect the way that local designers are mixed into the stocklist of the store. Frances May carries some of our favorite local Portland designers like; BTLN, Portland Garment Factory, Reif and Tiro Tiro. The environment of the store just feels right, from the high ceilings, comfortable ambience and the great service that greets you every time you come in. Enjoy the photos of the storefront as well as the great interview with Pamela Baker-Miller!

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1. Tell us about Frances May! 

We have been open for 6 years in April! I can't believe it's been that long. When we started, it was just Ashley and me and four sparsely spaced racks with a few garments on each one. Frances May started out as an idea first planted by my grandmother when I was 19. A close family friend wanted to open a shop in SF and asked me to be her partner/buyer. I was very close to dropping out of college when my grandmother suggested I finish art school and once I graduated, she would like to be my business partner.  Seven years later, Frances May was born.

2. What made you decide to open a store front?

Clothes have always been fun for me and thought I could contribute something unique. 

3. What is the concept behind the store?

We try to offer interesting and inventive designers and styles and we work really hard to create an inviting and approachable environment where people feel comfortable coming to shop and browse.  We play good music, too…although we could use some more…I listened to Paul McCartney’s Ram on repeat for a six hour shift the other day.    

4. How did you come up with the name Frances May?

Frances May is my great grandmother's name. She was a very special lady, ahead of her time and fiercely independent. The women in my family are very close, so it made sense to name the store after someone who means so much to both my grandmother and myself. 

5. How do you find designers you showcase in your shop?

I follow my nose. I'm always doing research whether it’s reading blogs, magazines, or word-of-mouth---following leads and asking questions. 

6. What are your top 3 favorite things in the store?

Too hard. I'm in love with everything right now! A few of my favorite collections are Shaina Mote. The fabric is dreamy and the cuts are simple and flattering. I'm obsessed with the men's French line Etudes. The hats are perfection, cuts unexpected & patterns off the wall! The Portland Garment Factory is killing it! They have really come into their own. I love seeing their evolution. 

7. What’s a funny shop story you have?

Well, I have an animal lover/bleeding heart employee and she rescued a “dying” mouse on her way to work one rainy day.  She brought the mouse to the shop and put him in a little box and checked on him frequently.  She peeked in his box after enough time had passed for him to dry off, and this “dying” mouse was maybe in better health than she had thought---he jumped off the counter and made a break for it.  She spent the rest of the day trying to confine him to the bathroom and then spent a good portion of the next day, her day off, locked in the bathroom trying to capture this tiny mouse.  There’s no AC in the bathroom and it was like a sauna.  She had her sister in there with her and they were sweating profusely, but they were finally able to get the mouse into a shoe box.  He was safely released outside.  Ashley, who is NOT a mouse fan, was hugely relieved to have him off the premises.

8. Who are your style icons?

Anyone with a strong point of view. I've always been intrigued by extremes.  

9. Tell us two truths and a lie.

My sister and I were both voted biggest partiers of our high school senior class.

My resume includes janitor, housekeeper & muralist.

I vacation in Greece every summer.

10. Where are you favorite places to shop?

Sadly, I don't shop very often but when I do, it's usually for little things like make-up, books & plants. That said, some of my favorite spots are:  Blush Beauty Bar or Lille Boutique for something small and sweet. I also frequent Pistils & Lowell for beautiful indoor plants & pottery, such a fun easy way to improve any space. Una & Odessa are my classic stand-bys for all things fabulous, even if just to drool over. I never leave Yo Vintage empty handed. Monograph Books is always a source of inspiration.