By Tamara Juarez , February 2019 Issue.
Running a small business is no easy task. It requires a lot of attention, patience, and love — much like a child. The parallels between the two is not lost on Kenny Barrett and his partner Joshua Hahn, owners of Phoenix General, a stylish boutique that specializes in selling locally sourced goods that invoke a desert aesthetic.
“You’re constantly taking care of it, thinking about it, and you can’t really forget about it,” says Hahn. “It’s our baby.”
This year, the store will be celebrating its third anniversary since its grand opening in June 2016 while Barrett and Hanh celebrate 11 years of partnership both in business and in life.
“Sure, sometimes it can be a little too much, but it’s really nice to be able to share this experience,” Hahn explained. Starting a business together felt like a natural progression for the pair, and the challenge of building something from the ground up has strengthened their relationship in more ways than one.
“Working together has really helped with our communication and accountability. We keep each other on the same page and enjoy doing something that we are passionate about,” said Hahn.
Phoenix General incorporates many of their favorite things, which is evident upon entering the store. Showcasing a variety of home and lifestyle gifts, handcrafted jewelry, and diverse fashion, the small boutique reflects a sense of artistry inspired by Phoenix’s iconic desert metropolis.
When deciding on a concept for the store, Barrett ensured that the store stayed true to each of their passions: art, sustainability and community service.
Before moving to Phoenix in 2006, Barrett took a year off to study contemporary arts in Barcelona, where he found inspiration and a renewed love for the arts that drives his current vision for Phoenix General and its place within the local arts community.
“I went to business school and I was basically fried after that, because I am a creative person,” he said. “I got really in touch with that part of myself while in Spain, but when I came back to Phoenix, I had a bit of culture shock, because Phoenix wasn’t so vibrant back in 2006. There just wasn’t a lot going on.”
In addition to selling quality goods, Barrett and Hahn hope to build cultural vibrancy in Phoenix by building bridges between small businesses and the arts district here in Phoenix.
Past the register at the back of the boutique, visitors can enter Shortcut Gallery, where the couple highlight the art of local and national artists, such as Carrie Marrill and the Fortoul Brothers, whom they are currently collaborating with to create limited editions products and a unisex clothing line that exhibits that artists’ unique and bold designs.
“There is so much talent here in Phoenix, and it ties in with the store’s desert lifestyle concept,” said Hahn, who love fashion and retail.
“We want to sell the things that we love,” Barrett added, “so we sprinkle things into our store that are exotic and may not be found anywhere else. Everything that we do is with intention and with quality focus.”
However, the couple shares a passion for environmentally friendly products, and have a strict buying policy for the products sold at their boutique.
“At Phoenix General, we look at bringing in products that have minimal impact on the environment, minimal social impact, are really ethical and super stylish,” said Barrett, who with his partner hand selects locally made items that are ethically created and sustainably sourced.
“Nowadays, people ask questions — they want to know the products they buy,” he said. “They want ethical goods, because it’s important.”
Ideally, the couple wants customers to trust and depend on Phoenix General to carry quality goods that are organic, sustainable, ethical and fashionable.
As the store reaches its third year in business, Hahn and Barrett look forward to expanding the selection of products, start their own clothing line, and take part in more collaborative projects with local artists. However, each goal takes time, and the couple believes in ensuring the quality of products by taking things “nice and steady” as they face new goals and business endeavors.
However, they are both confident in their ability to maintain a successful business and relationship.
“We both have different strengths, which is what I think allows us to go home and still have stuff to talk about,” said Hahn. “Even though we are together during the day, we work independently, and that keeps things interesting. It makes it feel like we both bring something to the table.”
This is not the first time the two have worked together. Before establishing Phoenix General, Barrett and Hahn operated Roosevelt Growhouse and GROWop Boutique for six years in downtown Phoenix, where it had become a staple of Roosevelt Row.
“We’ve worked out all the kinks of the roles we each play,” said Barrett. “Hahn has learned my strengths and weaknesses, and I have learned his. We have stepped on each other’s toes enough where we now know how to dance together. When we opened Phoenix General it was much more fluid.”
The key is learning how to give each other space while also being able to prove unconditional support when needed, Hahn explained. “We do try to separate our work and personal life, and making those separations are very important, but at the same time, working together makes things easier — to be able to share that workload — so when one of us is feeling burned out, the other can take over and carry the weight.”
So far, their partnership has been a success, and they each look forward to the years ahead.
Phoenix General, named the 2016 “Best New Boutique” in the Valley by Phoenix New Times, is located in The Colony, a mixed-use development just a few miles north of Roosevelt Row, where the couple’s story first began.