For Jennifer Bolanos, every facet of her upbringing and her life experiences have both led her to and informed her newly opened shop in Portland, OR, Vía Raíz. She was in search of a place where she could display her pride in her Mexican-American heritage — while supporting the work of Mexican artisans — but owning a space in the tree-lined Forest Park neighborhood in NW Portland wasn’t even on her radar less than a year ago.
“Commercial spaces have become really expensive in Portland,” Jennifer begins, “so a brick-and-mortar shop wasn’t even a business goal for me in 2018. But by luck, through really good friends, I learned about a cute little shop space that was becoming available at the beginning of 2018. When I walked into the space I just knew it was right.” Jennifer got the keys to her 220-square-foot space in January and opened her shop doors on May 19. Vía Raíz, Jennifer’s beautiful shop carrying modern Mexican crafts, is the tangible culmination of everything that makes her who she is, from the people who raised her to changing career paths and nearly everything in between.
“I’m the daughter of immigrants and I wear that badge with honor because to me it means resilience, adaptability, and drive,” Jennifer shares. “I’m so grateful for all the sacrifices and hard work that my parents went through to provide a beautiful life for my sister and I. I’m proud to say that I’m Mexican-American and thank my parents for raising me with so much love and reverence for my cultural heritage. My background is in interior design but that career ended before it really even took off, when California was hit with the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007. I then went on to a six-year career in retail sales, operations, and merchandising. It’s funny because I never imagined that I would end up doing something that combined both my design and retail experiences, but both have proved to be invaluable in starting Vía Raíz.”
It’s hard to pinpoint just one eye-catching corner of Jennifer’s shop because it is layered with textures and patterns throughout, evoking a warm and welcoming feel despite a monochromatic color palette. But the most impressive of her design touches in the space is arguably the black and white patterned floor, which Jennifer painstakingly stenciled and painted herself by hand. “Living in the age of Instagram I was constantly thinking how I could make the store Instragramable. I knew I wanted to work with a minimal aesthetic and palette but needed a WOW factor.”
Read on to tour Vía Raíz and learn more about the floor-stenciling process — which presented Jennifer with several challenges and delays. But after it all was said and done, like the now-striking floor of Vía Raíz, every step that’s led her to this place has been worth it one hundred times over. “I have to pinch myself every time I walk into my shop,” she says. “I always had this dream of owning my own business. I’m still in so much awe that I’ve made it happen.” —Kelli
Image above: Jennifer says, “¡Bienvenidos a Vía Raíz! The shop is tiny, 220 square feet to be exact, so my goal was to make it feel airy, bright, and inviting. I wanted to create a space that felt like an escape. I’m so happy to hear from customers that there’s a really nice feeling when in the shop. It has triggered so many wonderful memories of my customer’s trips to Mexico.”