Argyle Studio, a new pop-up artist store in Oakland, came to fruition thanks to right and left brain mother-daughter duo, Christine and Brigette Bethea. The duo envisioned Oakland’s brand new retail space and brought it to life through their leading company, ULEADx, LLC.
“We have very complementary skills,” said Christine Bethea, who holds the title of Creative Strategist from ULEADx. “I am in the field of arts and creation, and Brigette is logistics. Your kids are usually the opposite of you and sometimes it works.
Argyle Studio held its grand opening last Thursday, providing Oakland with a vibrant space for artistic retail, something the region lacked in the past. The pop-up store represents the diversity of the Oakland community through a variety of merchandise, which includes the creative work of over 30 local artists and vendors. The current store hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday.
Georgia Petropoulos, Executive Director of the Oakland Business Improvement District, first envisioned the concept of Argyle Studio in 2019. Recognizing Oakland’s dynamism, Petropoulos approached State Senator Jay Costa, D-43, with a request for additional funding for the project.
“[OBID] wanted the opportunity to improve retail in our neighborhood to provide more opportunities for business, entrepreneurship and art women from minorities and BIPOC, ”said Petropoulos.
Christine Bethea had the opportunity for ULEADx to apply to work with OBID to produce the Argyle brand. His daughter, Brigette Bethea, holds the title of Lead Strategist at ULEADx.
“I really love seeing all the pieces play and being able to bring together disparate bands,” said Brigette Bethea. “My mom understands what artists need to be comfortable, confident and supported. So, for this project, it was a beautiful marriage.
ULEADx was born as Brigette Bethea was pursuing her Masters in Leadership at Georgetown University after leaving the military in 2012. Originally from the East End of Pittsburgh, she said she felt compelled to apply her skills. in community development at the place she called home.
“I have deep roots in the Pittsburgh area. It was kind of like, “Well, if I’m going to work in community development and leadership, I’m not really tied to a particular community”, so it made a lot of sense to bring the work back to home, ”said Brigette Bethea.
When deciding to apply to work with OBID, Christine Bethea said she was drawn to the organization’s efforts to give visibility to their creatives rather than taking their commission.
“OBID was interested in all the creative aspects of opening a store, not just the nuts and bolts,” said Christine Bethea. “They wanted [Argyle] to be more than just a store – they wanted it to be a place where people could experiment with things and talk to art creators and entrepreneurs.
Among the artists selected to sell their products at Argyle is Ingrid LaManna, owner of Eastern Alchemy, a handmade jewelry company based in Pittsburgh. LaManna said she heard about the opportunity to market her work through Argyle because she is a neighbor of the Betheas and has always made jewelry as a hobby.
“One of the things I’ve always really wanted to do is turn my jewelry into my own business and it seemed like the perfect opportunity,” LaManna said.
LaManna has specialized in precious metal clay and has been making jewelry since her time at the State University of New York’s Geneseo campus as a metallurgy major. Since then, she has participated in two craft shows and some of her jewelry has been shown at the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh Arts & Cultural Center in Pittsburgh.
Now that many businesses have started to reopen in the wake of the pandemic, Argyle will be shining the spotlight on the minorities and women small business owners, artists and entrepreneurs who have struggled particularly over the past year. The Betheas said they selected vendors based on these factors, as well as the goal of showcasing the people of the Oakland community.
“One of the important things for OBID is that the [vendors] in the store reflect the community of Oakland, ”said Christine Bethea. “We are a multicultural and multigenerational company ourselves, so all the OBID criteria appealed to us. “
Out of 64 applicants to Argyle, 35 were selected to exhibit their work. According to Christine Bethea, she and her daughter were looking for artists with a sort of “cool factor” to add to the lively atmosphere of Argyle.
“We kind of have them ‘Shark Tanked’. We were very interested to hear them individually express their pride in what they have done, ”said Christine Bethea. “We weren’t looking for a basket of experiences, we just wanted people who believe in themselves.
If the business is successful, Argyle will lose its status as a pop-up store and become a permanent fixture in the neighborhood. The Betheas said they are proud of the variety of products the store has to offer.
“When we say, ‘There is something for everyone at Argyle Studio,’ there is absolutely something for everyone,” said Brigette Bethea. “It doesn’t matter if you are between eight and 80 years old, we hope you can come in and enjoy the space.”