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Shop Talk: Farewell to foam, Abercrombie & Fitch

The latest in local retail news

In this week's Shop Talk column, read about the loss of Palo Alto's reigning foam shop and the closure of Abercrombie & Fitch at Stanford Shopping Center.

FOAM SHOP CALLS IT QUITS ... Tallman's House of Foam has ended its reign as downtown Palo Alto's go-to place for foam, upholstery work and mattresses. The longtime shop quietly shuttered during the first week of January. As of Wednesday morning, no one from the shop could be reached for comment. The company's phone mailbox was full and the shop's windows were covered in brown paper. For decades, Tallman's House of Foam at 150 Hamilton Ave. stood as a throwback to a simpler time before startups and tech giants dominated the local landscape. "I know this is unusual to say, but nothing has really changed here since the 1950s. It's just foam. That's all I have," owner Bob Tallman told the Weekly in 2014. Tallman purchased the shop from a family friend in the 1970s and operated the store virtually unchanged for years without a single employee -- except his sister. He had a steady following of customers looking to reupholster, restuff and pad everything from inserts for cameras and electronics carrying cases to dining room chairs to cat-shredded couch cushions to Easter Bunny costumes. Even NASA reportedly used the shop's foam for its space shuttles. "Bob was kind and very helpful and patient," a customer wrote on Yelp. Another wrote: "This place was a great source ... extremely professional and excellent work." Tallman told the Weekly in 2014 that most of his competition quit after Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coast in 2005. Prices for foam materials, which are petroleum-based and predominantly refined in Louisiana, escalated by as much as 200% after that, he explained. At that time, the 64-year-old said he had no plans to close shop or retire. "Fortunately, I have a fantastic landlord who keeps this place affordable for me," Tallman said. Customer Elizabeth Lada said she went to the store for the first time to pick up some samples a couple of weeks before the shop had closed. "(I) noticed that the shelves were almost bare, and everything looked quite haphazard -- but maybe that's how they had always been," Lada said. "I came back twice the next week -- once they had handwritten a sign on the door saying they were closed because they had lost their power. Then, they were suddenly closed." -- L.T.

ABERCROMBIE & FITCH CLOSING ... Abercrombie & Fitch is set to close its Stanford Shopping Center store and layoff 45 employees at the site by the end of January, according to a notice that the East Coast-based clothing retailer filed with California's Employment Development Department in mid December. The closure comes less than a year after the company, which also includes the Hollister brand, announced plans that it would be cutting back on its flagship stores in New York, Milan and Japan as part of a shift away from large format stores. The Stanford store, which opened near the Pottery Barn in the early 2000s, reportedly was not included in that initial announcement. Abercrombie & Fitch made local and national headlines in 2003 when two Stanford University friends filed a class-action lawsuit against the company for alleged discriminatory hiring practices. According to the New York Times, the suit was settled a year later after company agreed to pay $40 million to several thousand plaintiffs, hire 25 diversity recruiters and produce more diverse marketing materials. The company currently operates 850 stores worldwide, according to its website.

Update: A spokeswoman for Abercrombie & Fitch said the company has decided to keep the Stanford store open.

-- L.T.

Compiled by the Weekly staff; this week written by Linda Taaffe. Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? The Weekly will check them out. Email shoptalk@paweekly.com.

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