“I’m a bit of a serial entrepreneur,” admits Megan Strasser, a former stylist and Anthropologie alumna who has done a little bit of everything in retail, from selling vintage clothes to serving coffee out of a restored pop-up camper. In May 2014 she opened her latest venture, Fern, a bright and airy home goods boutique in College Hill. Fern features a carefully curated selection of handmade ceramics, wood and woven pieces, and jewelry—along with unique, sculptural plants, most of which she sources through the Internet. “I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of Instagram, but it’s been great for my business,” she says. (You’ll find her @fernshopcincinnati.)
Strasser jumped at the chance to convert a former gas station tucked along Hamilton Avenue into a space that functions as both selling floor and classroom, as she regularly programs artist-run workshops on topics like macramé and weaving, floral arranging, calligraphy, and how to grow airplants. “It’s nice to be in a room full of people creating something together,” she says.
Before Strasser invested in the building, she didn’t know exactly what it would become. That could be a daunting prospect, but her parents provided a good blueprint: Fifteen years ago, they bought and renovated the bank building across the street and turned it into their home. Strasser’s father currently uses Fern’s second garage bay as a workshop, but her future plans include a greenhouse addition.
Most shop owners cop to a love of display, and Strasser is no exception. “I worked with housewares at Anthropologie in Rookwood and would create these little vignettes. Here, if something isn’t moving, I’ll move it or rearrange it and then it will sell,” she says. As the mother of two small children, she also knows how difficult it can be to maintain the store’s minimalist, orderly aesthetic at home. “I do curate my kids’ playroom, but some days it looks like a bomb went off.”
Part of Fern’s mission is showcasing locally made wares, such as recycled glass terrariums by Jessie Cundiff, palm-of-your-hand sized ceramic planters by Bellevue potter Christie Goodfellow, and metal jewelry from Rock Salt Vintage. “I seek out things that are beautiful and useful,” says Strasser. Take the elegant black walnut stirring spoon made by Emily Brock, a third generation woodworker in Nashville, Tennessee. Says Strasser: “It’s a sexy spoon.”
Good to know: Want to knock mom’s socks off this Mother’s Day? Attend a floral arranging workshop with Patricia Campos of Una Floral Design at Fern on Saturday, May 9, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Fern, 6040 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, fern-shop.com
Originally published in the April 2015 issue.
Photographs by Anna Knott.