When Melissa and Christy Gallagher were children growing up in Florida and later Georgia, their family nicknames were “Coco” and “Mischa.” Their close relationship is mirrored by their closeness in age, with Christy 14 months older.
So when Melissa wanted to open a temporary pop-up shop in Decatur in December 2015, she enlisted Christy (now LeClair) as a business partner. Offering local handmade gifts and vintage goods, they called it “Coco + Mischa,” and Melissa revived the name when she opened a brick-and-mortar store.
Melissa always had a soft spot for makers, especially those in the jewelry and ceramic business. In 2015, she saw that Decatur had a gap in small boutiques that cater to handmade makers with modern styles. Pop-ups like Root City Market and Indie Craft Experience only temporarily filled the need. Despite almost two decades in the restaurant industry as a bartender, she kept coming back to her main passion.
“We had a lot of artist friends and small business friends that we felt like we could feature, and [Christy] was game for it,” Melissa says. “I talked to the City of Decatur. They want to see retail expand and they love exploring new, creative ideas of just getting people into the town.”
Melissa nabbed a spot for her pop-up shop next to the Decatur Welcome Center over the 2015 holiday season. They had less than two weeks to set up a nearly 3,000-square-foot room, normally an event space, and invited local makers like Paper Raven Co., Fossil & Hide and vintage clothing sellers to fill up the store. The month-long operation was a success, catering to last-minute shoppers into the wee hours of its last night Dec. 23.
Following the pop-up’s success, Melissa wanted to set up shop permanently in Decatur. Around the same time, Christy announced she was having triplets and had to step away from Coco + Mischa. Melissa moved forward with her business plan and found a space in downtown Decatur’s ARLO Apartment Homes building.
“I really love to shop, and even before the pop-up I was sort of taking notes,” Melissa says, “I definitely wanted to veer away from anything too folksy. I do feel like Decatur has a lot of really great folk art, and I didn’t want to repeat or duplicate.”
The shop supports small maker brands like Paper Raven Co., Native Bear and Honeycomb Studio, as well as Atlanta maps by graphic designer Sarah Lawrence and knives by Santa Fe Stoneworks. The store also carries vintage clothes, ethically sourced lingerie and skincare products. Melissa was going for a clean, modern aesthetic for Coco + Mischa while staying affordable.
Shortly after her one-year anniversary, Melissa packed up her Decatur store and moved to Ponce City Market in a joint venture with metaphysical supply store Modern Mystic Shop. The move promised more foot traffic and a new neighborhood to explore.
“I wanted to be the in-between — a modern day gift store, something that you could come in and buy a gift for your husband, your wife, your best friend, or a new baby,” Melissa says. “I lean slightly more toward the modern handmade movement.”
The heart of Coco + Mischa’s brand is stocking only sustainable, handmade products and selling lightly used vintage.
“I do all vintage or vintage handmade or ethically sourced, so it’s fair trade and sustainable,” Melissa says. “My margins could soar if I were willing to bring in some of these brands that look handmade, but aren’t. I just feel like it’s ripping off artists and I try really hard to not do things like consignment because I want to pay artists outright and say, ‘I believe in you. I trust you … and I want to buy your stuff.’”
To promote the store’s support for local artists, Melissa created the #shopwithheartatl hashtag on Instagram. It encourages buyers to share products they’ve purchased from local makers, and for boutiques to promote their sustainable, locally made products. The hashtag currently promotes more than 100 locally owned boutiques.
Despite the move to the Old Fourth Ward, the boutique’s customer base of business women continues to support the brand.
“There has been a very strong feminine response with a lot of female creatives wanting to get together,” Melissa says. “They want to talk business. They want camaraderie. They like to just collaborate and to work together.”
While Christy cheers on her business venture from afar, Melissa has found an overwhelmingly positive response from new “sisters” among Atlanta makers.
Coco + Mischa. 625 Ponce de Leon Ave., Suite N-214. 678-793-9234. cocoandmischa.com
Instead of taking lightly used clothes to Goodwill, consider the store’s clothing swaps. You can donate your clothes or just swap clothes with other women.
Follow Coco + Mischa’s social media as Melissa often holds maker pop-ups inside her store, such as Electrical Revival’s vintage-inspired trunk show.