This article originally appeared on Schoolhouse, a Portland-based company in the Food52 family of brands.
Inspiration can be elusive—a shape-shifting ideal that ebbs and flows depending on the season. On the flip side, it also brings clarity. It shows us where we’re coming from, what we’re dreaming of, and leads us to where we want to be. For London-born Sarah Radcliffe, inspiration led her to start The Yo Store: a Portland-based shop filled to the brim with beautiful and impeccably designed kid’s, women’s, and home goods from small independent makers around the globe.
Step inside her creative space, and you’ll be (without a doubt) drawn in by the shop’s artistic and approachable energy. Given Sarah’s knack for hand-picking very covetable wares, it came as no surprise that the home she has created for her family is just as light, bright, and colorful. Finding ourselves enamored by her story and success, we asked Sarah to share a bit about her background, interior aesthetic, and any life lessons learned along the way.
Schoolhouse: Tell us about your background. What set you on the path to Portland and starting The Yo Store?
Sarah Radcliffe: I’ve always been in the design and fashion realm. In London, I worked for a fashion company that would reproduce vintage clothing. I would make mood boards and forecast trends for the next season. I would then go vintage shopping to buy pieces the company could manufacture and sell.
When I moved to Portland, I was still in touch with my old company. Portland (especially 10 years ago) was epic for thrifting. I would pack up boxes of clothing to send back to them. Well, at one point, my friends here asked me to stop selling to London and start selling locally.
I decided to take a six-week Business Foundation course by the Mercy Corps (they’re still running it). I was a proper geek. I did all the homework and filed for Yo! Vintage as an LLC as soon as it was over. I’m so grateful for that class. I learned everything I needed to know to get started! In 2016, I opened up a shop in downtown Portland, sold my wedding dress on eBay to pay some of the initial bills, and from there, I just kind of winged it.
SH: At first, you opened as a vintage shop. What prompted the shift from Yo! Vintage to The Yo Store?
SR: My lease in downtown Portland ended around the same time I had my first child. At that point, many other stores were reselling vintage, so I felt like I had to reopen with a different point of view.
I had been given a ton of baby clothes and toys from back home and realized that no one was selling European homewares, so I opened up in Northwest Portland (had to take a loan out this time for a proper build!) and reopened as The Yo Store.
From Our Shop
SH: Is there a story behind the name?
SR: I was selling a lot of 90s and 80s vintage—not the traditional kind. And so I was like, Hey! Vintage. Yo! Vintage (now The Yo Store).
SH: What have been some of the most memorable or rewarding parts of starting your own shop?
SR: Community from day one. 2020 was also very memorable. Our small but mighty crew. Buying inventory before I had a physical space. Reopening with an 18 month old. Having a second baby and being back to work within two weeks. So many milestones.
SH: Do you have any design or life philosophies you abide by?
SR: I don’t take design too seriously. I buy things I like and either find a home for them or store them for a while and get them back out again. I’m also not a hoarder so I resell items along the way (I have one regret—our old glass 1970s dining table!).
SH: If you had to pick three themes for your interior aesthetic, what would they be? And did you approach designing the shop and your home in the same way?
SR: Colors, vintage + new, memories (pieces we’ve picked up that remind us of somewhere we’ve traveled or an item that made us happy). The shop is essentially a reflection of my personal style and influences, so I feel like the aesthetic is consistent across both spaces.
SH: Tell us more about your home. How long have you lived in your house? And how did you know it was the one for your family?
SR: We’ve been in our Southeast Portland home for 11 years now. Back in the day, we moved from London for my husband’s job at Nike. We looked at a few spots around town but loved the neighborhood, the corner space, and all of the natural light in this house. We were in a different mindset then, we knew we wanted kids one day, but it felt so far off. I didn’t imagine it would become a home to our family of four!
Much has changed over the years, but Southeast Portland will always remain a special place for us. Pre-kids, we would walk and bike everywhere. While I was going through IVF with my first child, I would walk the trails in Mount Tabor Park (we actually named our first child Finley Tabor). Now, it’s become the neighborhood where our kids have grown up. It’s very magical and nostalgic for us.
SH: What makes a house a home to you?
SR: FAMILY. The noise of the kids or the radio sound, calm moments, messy and tidy corners, love, communication. Dishes in the sink. Favorite photos on the fridge.
SH: This season, we’ve been talking a lot about the importance of play (no matter the age). What are some ways you and your family keep things fun and light?
SR: Dancing: I still tune in to the British radio shows I listened to growing up, and we have a little dance around the kitchen when the bangers come on.
Friends as family: We are not always able to make it back to England to see our families, so we spend lots of time with our Portland family—friends we met when we moved out here 13 years ago.