Northbound to Happen

new ‘men’s mercantile’ shop headed to downtown EC

by Samantha Kobs, photos by Andrea Paulseth

THE BAR’S NOT FAR. Partners Jeff Reuter and Matt Schwahn show off the new espresso bar stationed within their soon-to-open Northbound Supply Company.
THE BAR’S NOT FAR. Partners Jeff Reuter and Matt Schwahn show off the new espresso bar stationed within their soon-to-open Northbound Supply Company.

Thinking downtown Eau Claire can’t possibly get any cooler? Wrong. There’s a new business opening up, and it’s about to knock your summer socks off. Local business partners Matt Schwahn and Jeff Reuter will be introducing their shared-custody brainchild, Northbound Supply Company, to the community by the end of the month.

“We want to have cool stuff, cool conversations, and have that clubhouse feel, but where everybody is welcome.” – Jeff Reuter, co-owner of Northbound Supply Co.

Northbound Supply (as the cool kids call it) is a men’s mercantile that Schwahn can’t help but jokingly describe as “basically a toy store for grown men that also has a coffee and espresso bar in it.” Located at 215 N. Barstow St., the shop is nestled next to Good and Sturdy Vintage, whose owner Jon Schemick is at least moderately responsible for the partnership – because Matt and Jeff were introduced to each other through Jon at his shop. Both men quickly realized that they shared similar visions for a future business and a love for the aesthetic that Good and Sturdy Vintage has created – where there’s more than just a business transaction. To them, their new business is all about the vibe and atmosphere.

“Other places … you don’t go there to hang out. You go there to get what you need that you know they have, and you get out,” Reuter said. “That’s not what this place is about. We want to have cool stuff, cool conversations, and have kind of that clubhouse feel, but where everybody is welcome. It’s a place you can come in and hang out and shoot the breeze, whatever.”

With businesses such as The Oxbow Hotel and The Lakely, Good and Sturdy Vintage, The Lismore, and Revival Records just minutes away, it seems that it won’t be difficult to create such an ambience.

For those looking for unique goods, this is the place to go. Reuter describes it as a hand-selected and evolving curated inventory. There will be nothing coming out of a big box, but rather, the items sold will be small-batch, limited number items (the word “boutique-y” kept coming up). The majority of items will come from U.S.-based companies, though some, such as a wallet that caught Reuter’s attention while on a family trip to the Netherlands (“basically James Bond’s wallet”), are being brought in from elsewhere. Ultimately, whatever Reuter or Schwahn like, they buy.

The business model that Northbound Supply is using is one that encompasses high-quality products as well as the genuine interest of both owners. “Yes, we’re trying to sell you something, but we’re here to help you,” Schwahn clarifies. “We’re knowledgeable about the products. If you have questions about something, we could probably bore you to death with advice. We can tell you how it’s made, what it’s good for, why it’s a good product.” This means constantly researching products and suppliers to ensure that Northbound Supply has only the best. Another fun fact: Most merchandise can’t be found elsewhere in the Chippewa Valley. (Goodbye, excruciatingly long car rides to the Twin Cities!)

Beyond merchandise, there will be a specialty coffee and espresso bar, too. Schwahn, a known coffee aficionado with a knack for experimentation – he’s the brains behind Honest Roast Coffee – says he’s dreamt up some “wild and crazy concoctions” (while also paying tribute to local businesses like Infinity Beverages and The Brewing Projekt for their bold experimentation). Northbound Supply will offer a variety of hot and cold coffee and espresso drinks, cold brew, nitro cold brew, growlers, and kombucha on tap, to name a few.

With 95 percent of the renovation complete (largely by their own hands) and products ready to line the shelves, downtown Eau Claire’s newest independent retailer is just about ready to go.

Keep your eyes peeled for updates on Northbound Supply’s grand opening through their social media feeds or join their mailing list at northbound.supply.

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