Founded by Noelle Sharp, Aporta Shop is located in Missoula, MT and is rooted in a long history of store owners and small businesses - beginning in Denmark in the 1700s. We are proud to have Norden goods stocked on the shelves of Aporta Shop, alongside a beautiful selection of curated goods from around the U.S. and the world. We connected with Noelle to learn more about Aporta Shop, the history of her store and how she is approaching business ownership during this time.

What is the inspiration behind APORTA Shop?

There are two paths that led me to opening up APORTA Shop. The first is my background in textiles and starting my textile company APORTA Textiles in Chicago while fishing up my degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Fiber Materials. The textile company was inspired by ancestral traditions of cloth as protection, guidance and heritage.

The second path started at a young age of traveling around with my family on trips and visiting gift shops, I absolutely loved, and continue to, going into shops and seeing what treasures are being sold, what treasures are being made. I sold my first knit designs to the Cedar Tree in Glacier National Park, where I grew up, when I was 7 - which unconsciously would fuel my desire to one day open a shop. Fast forward to being 19 and managing a wonderful boutique called Tonik in Mammoth Lakes, CA (which is still there after 25 years). I loved being in the store, being a part of the community, getting to know the customers and the reps. So throughout my 20’s and early 30’s I dreamt and manifested what my store would look like. I thought about doing it in Chicago or Salt Lake City but ultimately did so in Montana, when I moved back here in 2018.

How do you source the products featured in your shop?

I’m very non traditional when it comes to buying, as I don’t attend shows or markets. Sourcing the makers and goods for the store is a mixture of traveling to new places - places with rich craft traditions and finding them naturally...just by wandering the streets and stores. I also know a lot of the makers I carry as we went to art school together and from being involved in the design world for so many years in Chicago. I also spend a lot of time researching type of products I want to find and sell online, sometimes it results in great finds and other times nothing. Just apart of my process of buying.

Your family and shop history is incredible! Tell us about it here.

I come from a long line of store owners and small businesses on both sides of my parents. My great, great, great grandfather Stephen a’Porta opened Cafe a’Porta in 1788 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The cafe continued throughout 100's of years and the building still says a’Porta on the outside. The oil painter Vilhelm Rosenstand created a painting called “Outside the Café A Porta, Copenhagen” by 1882, which I hope to see I person one day.

My grandmother Florence a’Porta left Denmark after living through the Nazi occupation of Denmark, in World War 2 and came to America for a better life. She spoke no English, took the boat from Denmark to New York then a train from New York to California, by herself. Although she never had her own store, her drive and ambition to make a better life for herself speaks to the drive and ambition my ancestors had in owning their own businesses.

I am the second woman in this line of business owners to start her own business and I wish my ancestors, especially the women, could see this with their own eyes.

You come from a long history of store owners and creatives. How do you feel about operating a small business in 2021?

When COVID happened I thought a lot about my ancestors who were shop owners and wondered what they would say to me, what advice they would give to me and what stories they would share with me about their tough experiences in the shops they had. Knowing the store represents such an amazing collection of makers, I felt a great responsibility to make sure I was still able to buy from and support them. 

I also spend a lot of time checking in with myself and the store about how the store is impacting not only our community but the environment. Not purchasing store cleaning, office etc items from Amazon, but planning out what I need for 6-12 months and purchasing locally has become a part of my business practice. Also being aware of the impacts of shipping as some of the stores best selling items are being shipped internationally, how this will have an impact in the long run and basing buying decision around those possible impacts. 

Personally I love going to small businesses and the experiences I have with my customers is that they do to, and want more of it. If Covid has taught us anything it's how important our relationships are and connecting with each other. Some days the store feels more like a therapy office rather than a retail store. I know my customers, their children, their parents and truly appreciate and love them. I celebrate in their wins and mourn their losses. Small businesses are not just a profit making space. If done with integrity, care and intention they become community centers, places of inspiration and connection. 

What’s ahead for APORTA?

Moving forward I am really prioritizing eco friendly shipping and in store packaging, especially as the business continues to grow. I’ve let my list of 190 makers know that I am no longer buying products that come in plastic and unfriendly branding. It’s important for the store to be a place customers can come and buy objects that are easily recyclable and also can be a learning tool as to how things of daily use are actually made, what effect those items have on the earth long term and in their own personal spaces.

Native Rights as always been a huge priority for me personally and since the start of opening the store. The Land Acknowledgment that lives on the website, which was kindly edited by Kate Shanley, NAS Chair of the Native American Studies department at the University of Montana, will now be printed and inserted into all online orders and in store purchases. My hope is this will continue to educate customers about Native rights and inclusion.

I am also in the early process of having international pop up’s for the store and hope this can become reality in 2022. 

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