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Shop Talk: Boutique creates beauty out of rubble

This week's retail news

Beyt, located at Palo Alto's Town & Country Village shopping center, designs and builds a range of home decor items out of salvage recovered from the aftermath of civil war in Lebanon.

ART FROM RUBBLE ... It may sound unlikely, but salvage recovered from the aftermath of civil war in Lebanon is being transformed into home decor. "Every single piece we get from Lebanon, we cherish it and we turn it into beauty," said Raja Moubarak, who opened a small shop last month in Palo Alto's Town & Country Village. "It's all a part of history." His 800-square-foot space has an eclectic variety of lamps, jewelry, tables, mirrors and pillows. Moubarak, who is half Lebanese and half French, grew up in Beirut. He and his wife, Benedicte de Blavous Moubarak, co-founded the store, Beyt, which sells the one-of-a-kind items -- all of which were originally conflict-zone salvage. Each item comes with its own unique history. Pointing to the ornate wrought-iron base of a lamp, Moubarak said, "That came from an 18th-century balcony railing. We're preserving architectural history." But Beyt is much more than just a retail store, said Moubarak. It's also a social enterprise. "We're hoping to build bridges, not walls, and to promote understanding at a grass root level between Middle Easterners and Americans," he said. Even the name of the store, "Beyt," means "home" in both Hebrew and Arabic. The Palo Alto shop is the couple's second location. The first is in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "I'm going back and forth all the time," Moubarak said. "We have a workshop there where the rescued salvage is turned into works of art." In addition to transforming salvaged materials, he said, Beyt aims to transform lives. "All our workers are disabled and we train them," he explained. "We provide dignified employment to people who have no access to the job market." Moubarak spoke of a woman he employs who makes lampshades. "She used to be homeless and a drug addict. She didn't even know how to use a ruler. But we trained her for two years in the art of lampshade making." If Beyt catches on in Palo Alto, Moubarak plans to open another workshop on the Peninsula. He recognizes that Beyt occupies a niche market. "We're competing with big box retailers who buy their things from China," he said. "We understand we appeal to a small group of customers. The way we compete is that we have a strong emotional attachment to everything we sell. Our mission is to restore the unseen beauty of the broken."

Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? Daryl Savage will check them out. Email shoptalk@paweekly.com.

Comments

33 people like this
Posted by Amazed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2015 at 11:30 am

I wish someone would open a business that sells the rubble of some of the de-constructed old mansions being torn down.

I do find it amazing, though, that a business could pay their exorbitant T&C lease payments selling war rubble.


21 people like this
Posted by Appalled
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 20, 2015 at 6:37 pm

Let's get this straight.

These people directly or indirectly pick over debris of a bloody civil war; take interesting architectural elements; and sell the reworked debris as decorations for Americans' homes. All with a provenance/explanation of the significance of the debris to delight the buyer and admiring guests to the home.

And this paper celebrates it as creating beauty.

Shame on the shopkeepers! Shame on any buyers! Shame on this paper!

Shame!


18 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 23, 2015 at 9:03 am

Chip is a registered user.

Does this benefit former owners of the salvaged material? Are the bits of "architectural history" scavenged or bought? I'm not sure how this business helps Middle Easterners see Americans as anything other than opportunists, taking advantage of victims of a terrible war & trivializing the losses.


23 people like this
Posted by Amazed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 23, 2015 at 10:11 am

This is disgusting and above all, shameful.

I honestly don't see who could bear to buy the products, knowing what they're made of. That isn't beauty!

This makes American look so callow.


How do these business owners think they will make a living, or even a profit, from this?

My guess is they won't be in T&C long.


15 people like this
Posted by Beyt
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2015 at 11:23 am

As the co-founders of beyt by 2b design we invite and welcome all those who have unanswered questions about our social enterprise to visit us at T&C or to go to our website www.2bdesign.biz.

We will be very happy to share with you our model featured in the Harvard Business Review as a case study in social entrepreneurship, taught in business schools and covered in international media including BBC World News TV; explain why we joined the community of Certified B Corporations, a community of only 1400 companies worldwide independently audited for their social and environmental impact. We will be thrilled to show you how this model is replicable in any country, including here in the US and not just in conflict zones. Most of all and closer to Palo Alto we will be very excited to take you through our plan of creating employment and rebuilding dignity for disenfranchised, marginalized persons in the community based on our tried and tested model abroad and in our Cambridge, Massachusetts workshop.

We look forward to meeting/speaking with you very soon!

Raja and Benedicte


17 people like this
Posted by Hope
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2015 at 12:57 pm

Having been involved in non-profit organizations for a long time, it is refreshing to see that businesses are now engaging in heritage preservation and social commitment. I haven’t visited the store yet, but I checked out their website and I feel that these people have found a way to make a positive difference on many levels.


9 people like this
Posted by Unique
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2015 at 3:08 pm

It's amazing what this store and the people behind it offer . Not only they transform ruins from the most historic places in the world to beautiful art work that you feel proud to look at let alone have it in your own home . I have been to the store and behind every piece there is a special story to tell and a unique person who put love and care into making it whole . Beyt keep up the good work and good deeds .


12 people like this
Posted by Indigenous Person
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2015 at 4:44 pm

The Navajo and Pueblo people have names for people who remove historic ruins. Both translate to " thieves of time". It is believed that such people will come to ruin in return for taking ruins from their home.

Of course, the Navajo and Pueblo people refer to Anasazi ruins. But historic ruins are no different regardless of where they come from: it is theft to take them.


14 people like this
Posted by Beyt
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2015 at 6:45 pm

As founders of Beyt we invite all those who are still unclear to visit our shop or our website.

Our efforts of purchasing and buying from salvage yards sections of balconies, remnants of gates and railings destined to be melted down have saved these pieces from total disappearance. They all originated from houses and buildings that have been demolished and for the most part replaced by high rises. Our creations are first and foremost available in the country where salvaged.

The same model can be applied in cities like Detroit, New Orleans and numerous other places in the US and around the world.

As for our pillows and lampshades, they are made out of remnants of Chanel fabric, 19th century linens from bridal dowries hand-dyed in different colors, vintage suzani from Central Asia and old saris from India. They are all hand-made in our Cambridge, Mass. workshop where the focus is to employ and train homeless or marginalized women.

Other items we carry have a social and environmental purpose. Examples are fair trade jewelry handmade in Ethiopia by HIV positive women out of melted down coins and bullet casings, hemp and resin baskets from Africa, glassware and ceramic items from one of the few remaining workshops in Damascus, Syria.






6 people like this
Posted by Uh-Oh
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 28, 2015 at 1:12 pm

It is the WAR ruins that are offensive!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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