If you see a bus in the parking lot of White's Mercantile this summer, don't assume that the favorite 12South's boutique is overrun by a gaggle of tourists on a bus tour. In fact, that bus will be parked there through July 2018, and possibly longer.
Inside of it is Buck Mason's The Open Road, a stylish store of men's clothing inside a retrofitted 1997 GMC school bus. The California brand is known on each coast for offering the essential elements of a man's wardrobe, such as t-shirts, Henley shirts and jeans. This summer stop is its first outside of New York and Los Angeles, but not its last. Co-Founder Erik Allen Ford hopes the Open Road will eventually make a stop in all 50 states.
"Nashville has been a personal goal for us," says Ford. "I'm a really big country music fan. My wife used to live in Nashville and we have thousands of online customers in Nashville, and there isn't anywhere else to get our quality menswear essentials at a competitive price-point in the city."
The idea for The Open Road started a few years ago when Ford was out on a run and passed the white school bus. He and his business partner Sasha Koehn bought it, had it renovated by HGTV interior designer Leanne Ford (who is now married to Allen Ford), and turned it into a store on wheels. But this isn't just some merchandise on a truck. It has furniture and a dressing room, all in 150 square feet. Lettering on the side, "Jeans and Tees Sold Here," makes it clear that this isn't a mode of transport for school kids.
The location at White's was a natural fit. The store, owned by Hank Williams granddaughter, Holly Williams (a singer in her own right), is the right match for the Buck Mason customer. "We love the aesthetic the old gas station," Allen Ford says about White's exterior. Its parking lot is often full of flower trucks and food trucks, and the inside is a treasure trove of gifts and accessories, so a clothing truck made sense.
The Open Road is purposefully not designed as a one-weekend pop-up for Buck Mason shoppers. "What we found in the nature of our product, which are the basics of the male wardrobe, is that guys want to come back and buy again especially in the first 90 days," Ford says. "The customer has asked for us to stay in one spot."
The Open Road will be parked at 2908 12th Ave S. Mondays through Saturdays from 10 am to 6 pm and Sundays from noon to 5 pm for an open-ended summer vacation.