Mixing love and a little whiskey

For some, love and whiskey dance quite fluidly with each other.

That may just be true for Irvine residents Sarah and Mike Dowdell, owners of the new Love & Whiskey boutique they opened last month at the Park Place shopping center in Irvine.

“We both bring different elements to the business,” Sarah, 36, says. Mike has the artistic background, teaching various forms of art on the side, and Sarah has the retail knowledge. The two have been married for six years.

But first things first: Yes, there’s whiskey. It sits quietly atop a shelf in the vinyl record lounge, a part of the store that has gained some traction as vinyl record collections have been trending for some time.

At a recent grand opening, about 100 guests mingled, sipping whiskey, checking out the records and perusing the racks and displays of Bohemian-Americana fashions for women and tailored blue-collar threads for guys.

Mike, 35, put his personal design touches on the shop, reworking exposed salvaged wood beams as decor, building an oak floor piece for the wall, bringing in work benches as display tables and adding the final touch of polished concrete, all of which create a modern but cool and calm space, a much different vibe than stores previously in this location.

“I love stores like Anthropologie,” says Sarah, whose retail background includes stints at St. John Knits, Baccarat and TSE Cashmere.

What she doesn’t love? High prices. Most of the items for sale at Love & Whiskey are less than $150, a more moderate price point, Sarah notes. Another key part to the shop? Fashions that fit real women.

“I am big on fashion for every woman,” she says.

She gravitates toward classic jeans, jackets and basics, mixed in with brightly colored blouses, dresses and other items that have a Bohemian/Americana vibe. Labels include Saturday Morning Pancakes, Costa Mesa’s 31 Bits, Michael Lauren, Gentle Fawn and other local brands, a big part of the offerings at Love & Whiskey. Sarah is always seeking emerging artists and designers, a coveted part of her fashion sensibilities.

As for guys, they can shop among labels like the new VSTR by Kelly Slater (put out by Quiksilver), Tankfarm in Seal Beach, Herschel wallets and TOMS shoes, which are offered for both men and women. They plan to carry unique TOMS styles like crocheted wedgies and booties, Mike says.

He dictates most of the fashion for guys: “Men should be comfortable and stylish at the same time.”

That’s obvious, with the plaid flannel shirts, tailored workman pants and darker, earthier tones that seem to be a big part of the winter offerings.

The shop also offers home goods such as handmade pillows and candles. West Third Brand’s new perfume line, Societe de Senteur, intrigues with interesting scents like Tobacco 1812, Vintage Leather and Old Bourbon — more manly scents — while women might gravitate toward Tea Rose and Antebellum, a blend of “girly pink peonies, flirty jasmine, sweet baby rose, layered with ripe orange & sweet pear notes with soft woods & musk,” according to the product description.

It’s the second shop for the couple, who opened Deer Lovely/Whiskey Tango 1979 at The OC Mart Mix in 2011. They were approached by LBA Realty to open Love & Whiskey, a store twice the size of Deer Lovely/Whiskey Tango. The new shop is the higher priced of the two, with Deer Lovely/Whiskey Tango selling most items under $100.

Sarah and Mike plan to host whiskey tastings, trunk shows and other events at the new boutique.

The name is no coincidence. Whiskey has masculine connotations, Mike says, while love plays into the feminine side of things.

Sarah says it best: “I’m the love, he is the whiskey.”

Twitter: @agomezberman

Love & Whiskey

What: Men’s, women’s and home goods boutique

Where: 2967 Michelson Drive, Irvine

Hours: 10 a.m to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m Sunday

Information: (949) 660-5659