In this week's retail news, a new kitchen shop and bike store open while American Apparel is set to close downtown.
DE-STRESS KITCHEN SHOP OPENS ... What do Palo Altans need? That's what Nathan Boothe and Koji Tokuda want to know. Both are the managers of the newly opened Kitch'n Office, which is actually an active work in progress, according to Boothe. "We're trying to figure out what people want. We'd really like to have their input," he said. Kitch'n Office took over the the two-story, Birge Clark historic building barely a month ago. The location at 532 Ramona St. has seen several businesses come and go in the last few years. Most recently, it has been a carpet store, a clothing boutique and an art gallery. "We decided to open the store in Palo Alto because it's the heartbeat of Silicon Valley. We want to be here to learn more about the needs of working people and be able to provide products to alleviate stress in the home-office setting," Boothe said. He and Tokuda are hoping their new store will have some staying power. "Our focus is on home offices because so many people have them these days," Boothe said, explaining there's a stress that can often accompany the home-office arrangement. "We're trying to create a blend between kitchen, home and office. With that blending, the hope is to produce a sense of ease and de-stress the environment. We want to offer unique items that stimulate curiosity as well as introspection," Boothe said. The management duo appears to already have captured a soothing, stress-free environment in the 2,000-square-foot space they occupy. A walk through the store, minimally decorated with bonsai plants, handblown vases, and glassware and teacups that resemble works of art, seem to produce somewhat of a calming effect. Other items include a variety of housewares, kitchen utensils and dinnerware. The current bestseller, according to Boothe, is an $8 all-purpose spiny, silicon sponge that's reminiscent of a children's koosh ball, popular about 20 years ago. "Everybody who touches it remarks about it. Customers love it," he said. By the way, directly next to Kitch'n Office is Good Vibrations at 534 Ramona St., an adult-oriented boutique selling sex toys and erotica books. The shop opened there in 2013. Said Boothe of the adjacent retailer, "They're great neighbors. Their store provides a lot of foot traffic for us."
SUMMIT ROLLS INTO PALO ALTO ... After searching for the perfect Palo Alto location for nearly five years, Summit Bicycles has finally found a site. The full-service bike shop is set to open next month in the (very) recently vacated retail space at 392 California Ave. that was home to Accent Arts for many decades until the art supply store relocated around the corner on Feb. 25.
Summit moved into the 5,192-square-foot space earlier this month and is already making minor upgrades and fixes for its April opening. Marketing Manager Pancho Pimentel said California Avenue, with its foot traffic and proximity to the train station, large number of tech commuters and Stanford University, is an ideal location for a bike shop in a place he calls a "phenomenal cycling city."
The shop will offer a wide selection of bikes -- from kids bikes to $30,000 custom race bikes -- as well as bike parts, accessories, repairs and general bike maintenance services.
This is the fifth brick-and-mortar Summit shop in the Bay Area chain for owner Ian Christie, who got his start in the biking business at family friend's Peninsula shop when he was 13. Last month, he also added seven mobile bike repair shops to his chain, which will provide on-site assembly and repair services up and down the Peninsula.
AMERICAN APPAREL TO CLOSE ... It's a good news, bad news kind of day for devotees of American Apparel, the trendy, edgy, affordable clothing chain with an appeal to young people. The Palo Alto store, which moved into town more than 10 years ago, is calling it quits. It's part of the nationwide closure of all 110 American Apparel stores. And here's the good news: As a result of the impending shuttering, all merchandise is 40 percent off. The store at 170 University Ave., expected to close by the end of April, still has a remarkable amount of clothing and accessories. "Yep, we got a decent amount of stuff here," said one employee who asked not to be identified.
Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? Daryl Savage will check them out. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Associate Editor Linda Taaffe contributed to this article.