Retail as Theatre


Nest in Dallas is a trove of delightful lifestyle goods, and its team has made sure you’ll remember the store’s space as much as the merchandise.

Donald Fowler has learned that when life puts a door in front of you, you’d better walk through it. Doing just that led him from his background as a singer and actor into retail and eventually to Nest.

Now, with more than a decade of experience as a buyer, Fowler is part of a team making the lifestyle store a must-visit destination for Dallas shoppers.

For Nest’s owners and staff, creating a place that sparks creativity, draws shoppers in, and treats them to a friendly and fun experience isn’t a process that just happens on a whim—there’s a lot of thought that’s gone into the considerably large canvas of the store’s nearly 6,000 square feet.

That sheer amount of space can be a challenge, Fowler acknowledged, but it also gives the store a way to be visually malleable. In one season, shoppers may encounter unicycles upon walking in the door, and in another they may see giant, 8-foot inflatable spheres to sit on.

“We based the store aesthetic on some of the great lifestyle stores in Europe we loved, like 10 Corso Como in Milan; Merci, Colette, and L’Eclaireur in Paris; Aria in London,” Fowler said. “So we took the idea of old against new and worked with that. The walls and metal fixtures are black, the vintage tables we show merchandise on are all black, the floor is raw cement—but then the 24-foot-long counter is slick white Corian that is backlit in the front. Behind the counter are tall windows displaying bits blown up of our logo. Slick against rough, old against new.”

Other challenges are conveying just how broad Nest’s selection is and designing for its shoppers who hail from various demographics. Many visitors walk in thinking of it as primarily a furniture store, only to find there’s also a wide array of jewelry, books, skin care and accessories throughout the space.

Fowler’s solution has been to apply his dramatic training: “Excite, then facilitate,” he said. “Hit them in the beginning, then tell them why you did it.” By breaking up the large space, customers can take the time to see the store’s wares as they progress. Something in the front of the store should ideally grab attention and excite visitors, Fowler continued, and friendly customer service helps steer them toward what they’re looking for.

“We want clients to leave the store feeling as if they have worked with an educated friend,” he said. “Friendly luxury. The old days of snooty luxury are DONE!”

Nest in its most recent incarnation began seven years ago when current owners Heather and Scott Alexander bought it. At the time, the type of furniture and home goods sold there were very different—think words of wisdom on furniture and metal pastel flowers.

The Alexanders began transforming the merchandise to consist primarily of Italian goods, a passion of Heather’s. Three years ago they found Fowler, who at the time had been a buyer at Stanley Korshak. He began diversifying the content of the store to the broad selection it now offers.

Recalling one of his first buying trips to Europe with the Alexanders, Fowler chuckled.

“I’d always traveled with Stanley Korshak, and had my own room,” he said. “Here I was in this apartment in Paris [with the Alexanders], and I realized I was either going to be part of the family or I wasn’t, so I became part of the family in short order.”

Now with him ensconced as part of Nest’s family, you can find Fowler— and the rest of the team—in the uptown Dallas store making sure customers find fun discoveries, packaged with style and a wink.

Be sure to check out this winter’s trends of not-so-mundane everyday accessories, like the leather headphones and the free-range bison leather belt with copper fastenings.

Nest is located at 4524 McKinney Avenue.





A native New Englander, Kate moved to Austin in 2002 to attend graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, where she got her master’s degree in journalism. She spent several years as a reporter with the Austin Business Journal, where she covered health care, development and real estate. Kate now runs Thumbtack Communications, where she provides ghostwriting, copywriting, social media strategy and PR in addition to writing bylined articles. She lives in Central Austin with her husband, son, and two cranky cats. When she’s not writing, she’s playing guitar, gardening or hiking.