‘I Flex My Change Muscles Once Again’: North Bay Retailers Adapt to Series of Challenges

Local retailers continue to look for ways to navigate the daunting trifecta of flood, fire and pandemic.

Grace and Oliver Estrada opened their “dream store” in The Barlow in the summer of 2018. Scout West County, a modern take on the general store, offered a sleek selection of home decor, clothing and accessories to the North Bay. The couple — both artists — soon expanded their business, opening another storefront in Healdsburg.

Two years later, in the wake of wildfires, flood, and now, pandemic, the Estradas were forced to close their brick and mortars. They launched their own line of high-quality loungewear, Yarrow Goods, and pivoted to online sales.

“We have moments of total panic and moments of total faith,” said Grace Estrada about starting a new business during the pandemic.

The Yarrow Goods brand channels clean-lined minimalism and a muted color palette, while injecting playful elements with silk-screened designs, printed in-house. A crew neck sweatshirt, designed by Oliver, jumps with a rabbit print. A “Buenos Dias y Buenas Noches” design captures the warped sense of time presaged by the pandemic. A “winking cat” design-of-the-times ironically but positively exclaims, “Everything will be ok.”

Yarrow Goods loungewear has enjoyed early success as stay-at-home orders continue to boost the casual, comfy clothing market. The Estradas have now opened a retail space — currently, shopping is by appointment-only — and Grace’s cat print blankets, made exclusively from eco-yarn produced by a U.S.-based family business, sold out quickly. Yarrow Goods will soon release four new blanket designs featuring mushroom, floral and dog prints.

Blanket from Yarrow Goods. (Yarrow Goods)

The Estradas are thankful to have found a silver lining in troublesome times. Undaunted, they go about creating and marketing products which explore the power of “multicultural imagery and messaging.”

Oliver, born in Oaxaca, Mexico, says that, after years of keeping quiet about his heritage, he’s grown proud of his roots. “I feel free to express that side of me in my personal life and now in my creative and business endeavors.”

Oliver draws inspiration from his upbringing; from stories and imagery from his childhood years. His rabbit design, for example, is a visual interpretation of the Aztec rabbit-in-the-moon myth his mom told him as a small child.

“I feel like we now have the platform to really go with this, expand on Oliver’s roots and bring a dialogue to life through our art,” said Grace about the couple’s new business endeavor.

Fashion-wise mother-and-daughter duo pivots

Mary Delanay and her daughter Lily Luong opened Areteway, a new fashion resale boutique on Santa Rosa’s Fourth Street, in February 2020. The fashion-wise mother and daughter had previously enjoyed considerable vintage-selling success on eBay and Luong had been a fashion ambassador for Seventeen magazine. Their shop quickly garnered a following with its collection of gently-used garments and its Instagrammable decor.

Lily Luong and Mary Delaney. (Courtesy of Areteway)

With the arrival of the pandemic and shelter-in-place orders only a month later, Delanay and Luong opted to keep their business online, offering shipping and curbside pickup. They’ve also pivoted to personal styling services: customers fill out a questionnaire and pay a $20 fee, which goes toward their purchase. Delaney and Luong then handpick and photograph selections of clothes, accessories and shoes for customers to choose from remotely. The final selection is delivered; unwanted items are returned to the store. Delaney and Luong are likewise busy designing a line of up-cycled clothing, scheduled soon for launch.

Made Local Marketplace returns

When Made Local Marketplace in Santa Rosa announced its closure on June 19, 2020 a few months shy of its 10th anniversary the news was met with a flood of devastated responses from customers and local artisans, who had sold their wares through the downtown shop. “Some were in tears,” said store co-owner and tireless shop-local champion Kelley Rajala.

A few days later, at the eleventh hour, local realtor Willow Peterson made the decision to take over the business on Fourth Street, thus allowing it to remain open. In mid-December, Made Local Marketplace announced an upcoming move to a new retail space in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village shopping center; the doors at the Fourth Street address closed one final time on Christmas Eve.

While the end of an era can feel sad, the new Montgomery Village location has its perks.

“We’re loving the beautiful natural light and the free parking,” said Willow Peterson.

Meanwhile, talented, resilient and resourceful handbag maker Adelle Stoll moved her Montgomery Village studio and store to a “production-only space” and an online store. Stoll, who had previously moved her store to Santa Rosa from The Barlow following the flood in 2019, recently made a Facebook post, intoning, “I flex my change muscles once again.”

Matching felt bag and face mask from Adelle Stoll. (Courtesy of Adelle Stoll)

With pandemic restrictions and shutdowns, there have been both retail comings and goings.

We’ll all miss two Sonoma County retail stalwarts: Santa Rosa Fourth Street’s Skeeter’s Gallery has closed the owners having announced their retirement in August after 24 years in business.
And farewell to The Barlow’s Elsie Green, a seller of fine vintage French home goods; the shop shuttered in June.

Trace and James clothing boutique opened in Windsor during the holidays while Montgomery Village welcomed independently-owned housewares and clothing store, Wild Honey Mercantile.

Sonoma County retailers continue to look for ways to navigate the daunting trifecta of flood, fire and pandemic.