Manthropologists of Portland
Set designers turned interior designers, Richard Rolfe, 64, and Jake France, 36, met years ago while working together at a local luxury linen company. They immediately hit it off and decided to do something where they could be their own bosses. Now, they are co-owners of Portland’s Boys Fort, a curated retail store devoted to the needs of men with forts.
The shop features items from more than 100 local artists and designers, with a few vintage items mixed in as well. From furniture, artwork and pillows to hats, mustache wax and slingshots, men of all ages will be sure to find something that sparks their interest. Richard and Jake also provide interior design services to help clients create their haven. “We love to help people solve their design dilemmas” Jake said, “we can help you find your inner fort.”
It started as a pop-up shop four years ago during the holiday season. Richard and Jake treated it as a trial period to see if there was an audience for Boys Fort. Sure enough, there is a huge audience. “It’s a place where men can find fun, unique, nostalgic treasures,” Jake says. What was meant to be a two-month retail experience turned into a permanent shop with a huge fan base.
Tell me a little about yourselves.
Richard: I’m a self-taught idiot savant who grew up in the fifties and sixties – what could be wrong with that! I also like tearing apart and re-building my house.
Jake: I grew up in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. I was taught to respect nature and to always explore the world around me. I’m always on the hunt for the next treasure.
What did you do before opening the shop?
Richard: I was an interior designer and theatrical set designer – but also always working some type of retail to pay the bills.
Jake: I had moved back from NYC in 2009 and got a design job designing the interior for Breakside Brewery. After that project, Richard and I started working together on several design projects. Soon after, Boys Fort was born.
What does “Manthropology” mean to you?
Richard: It’s a tagline used to help the customer understand what waits on the other side of the door. In the early days of starting Boys Fort, it was difficult explaining what the Fort was because there isn’t really anything else like it.
I feel like most men have a personal collection of some sort. What do you collect?
Richard: Architectural elements turn my head and they have for decades. Collections have come and gone, but doors, windows, pillars and trim always do it for me. But they have to have some age on them – or it’s a no-go.
Jake: We love collections! We say honor your collections. I love collecting all kinds of things. I’ve really been into California pottery lately. I love ceramics, textiles and old books.
What are some of your most recent design projects?
Richard: We were lucky enough to be part of the recent remodel of the Sentinel. We did six suites with a Portland feel. We are now finishing an additional room at the end of the hall to the suites that will serve as a lounge for those suites.
Any interior design tips?
Richard: Don’t buy or live with something you don’t love. Don’t “settle” for something to solve a problem until the right thing comes along. Don’t trust a designer who doesn’t listen to you.
What are some of your favorite trends?
Richard: Grey is always the new black
Jake: It’s all about the mix. We love mixing old and new, industrial and classic – but who doesn’t?
What is it about Portland that has allowed your shop to be so successful?
Jake: Portland itself has become a worldwide destination and we are smack dab in the middle of 30 or so hotels: we get to meet all these amazing people from all over the world who have come to Portland to have an experience, and we love that we can be part of that.
What’s next for the Boys Fort?
Jake: Onward and upward! We are always working on bringing something fresh to retail. We hope to continue honing what we do and making folks smile when they walk into the fort.