Kathy and Pete Schalck always dreamed of opening, as they called it, a “T-shirt shop” together, after meeting when they both worked at a screen printing company decades ago. So, when the opportunity finally arose to bring “Marblehead Mercantile” to life on Washington Street, the Schalcks jumped at the chance.
Little did they know, the Washington Street building that now houses their store, which opened in June, once played host to Snow’s Cash Grocery, a store operated by Nathaniel Snow, Pete Schalck’s great-great-grandfather.
“We just sort of thought that was a really good omen for us and it felt like it would work,” said Kathy Schalck.
The family ties stretch through to the present as the Schalcks run the store with their daughter, Abby.
While the Mercantile may not be a grocery, the Schalcks are embracing their Marblehead history with a variety of different T-shirts and other items of clothing that seek to represent Marblehead in a new and interesting way.
“[We] try to sort of capture the essence of Marblehead without overdoing the icons, like Abbot Hall or the [Old] Town House, but keep those in mind at the same time. Kind of expand on for the locals so they have something to appreciate as well as the tourists,” Pete Schalck said.
Pete Schalck does most of the design work, while Kathy manages the business side of the store. Abby runs all of their social media, and even chipped in one of the most popular designs for sale — a simple shirt that reads “Marblehead, Massachusetts” with a compass between the wo words. Other designs include a list of the 13 great white sharks spotted off the coast of Marblehead, and a man in a rowboat.
The design process, Kathy Schalck explained, is a collaborative one.
“Anybody can come up with a thought and then we just sort of work together,” she said. “The shark shirt for example, I knew about that information. And I said, ‘well, I think that would be something people would think was cool,’ and [Pete] of course comes up with a design and then we go over the fonts or the colors [and] make some adjustments.”
The store has been open for six months, and the Schalcks said they’ve received a warm welcome from the community — establishing relationships with other shop owners on Washington Street.
“It’s wonderful because it seems like all the shop owners and everybody we’ve met down here has been fantastic,” Pete Schalck said. “I hear from other owners that they’re recommending people come down here and we do the same. If we don’t have something we send them down the street to a different shop.”
The Mercantile has already expanded beyond T-shirts, with items like shot glasses and even hot sauce for sale. Kathy Schalck said as the store continues to grow the products they carry will diversify.
“We have … some books, mugs, glasses, note cards, tea towels, the kinds of things that people when you’re on a vacation you might want to pick up,” she said. “But also if you live here, you might want to bring something as a gift to a friend or send off to people who don’t live here because people in Marblehead love stuff from Marblehead.”