Frankly, it’s a massive success story simply to have so many businesses survive the wreckage 11 months on.
But that doesn’t mean we haven’t lost beloved businesses along the way.
George Lawson Gallery, one of a pair of acclaimed galleries that moved from San Francisco to Mill Valley in 2019, chose not to reopen in April 2020. “I was a painter before starting the gallery and that’s what I’ll go back to,” he told us. Not long after, the Rug Establishment closed its space in the small shopping center that contains Boo Koo.
In the fall of 2020, Chelsea Hutchison closed BŌL, which served up made-to-order “artfully balanced superfood bowls, nibbles and bevvys … to feed your belly and your soul,” and moved back to the east Coast in late 2020.
In October 2020, Elana Turchon closed her SweetE Organic candy shop in the Strawberry Village Shopping Center, calling the difficult decision to do so “devastating.”
In 2019, Kelly Scott opened Sundry, her second retail shop in downtown Mill Valley, a kitchen- and garden-focused complement to The Goods, her shop around the corner laden with “unique gifts, vintage finds, locally sourced treasures and lots of cashmere” at 6 Miller. Scott, the former owner of the Alpha Dog shop, close Sundry in mid-November. Karen Loftus opened Fez in that space that same month.
In January 2021, EO Products, the San Rafael-based natural and organic personal care products company co-founded by longtime Mill Valley resident Susan Griffin-Black, closed its EO Exchange retail shop in downtown Mill Valley, calling it a “very difficult decision” and noting that “it’s just time to service our customers and and community in the different way.”
We’ve also had a number of businesses stalled temporarily or permanently, either directly due to the effects of the pandemic or because it exacerbated other complications related to opening a new business. That includes Paseo: A California Bistro, the restaurant in the historic at 17 Throckmorton Avenue that sought to replace legendary Mill Valley musician Sammy “the Red Rocker” Hagar‘s El Paseo restaurant 20 months after he closed it, citing his need to tend to his myriad business, media and musical interests. Paseo was spearheaded by general manager Kevin Pacotti, a longtime Bay Area marketing consultant and restaurateur on behalf of Cathedral Hill Associates, a hospitality firm owned by longtime Mill Valley resident Ki Yong Choi. They shut down their project in 2020.
And then there is the former Gira Polli space at 590 East Blithedale and Camino Alto, the long-vacant commercial property that, save for the blank canvas that is the mother of all retaining walls at 500 Miller Ave., is likely the visibly vacant commercial space in Mill Valley over the past several years. Bay Area food industry vets Pascal Rigo and Nicolas Bernadi hoped to make it one of the locations for La Boulangerie, the post-Starbucks, slightly renamed rebirth of their popular La Boulange cafes and eateries. That project stalled because of site difficulties, and they shifted gears in early 2020 and decided to make the space home to Apizza, their simple, affordable pizza shop that already has a successful location on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. That application got mired in an appeal over the status after the Mill Valley Planning Commission approved Apizza’s request to remove a few trees in front of the building. The appeal was eventually denied, but Rigo and Bernadi decided to move on, citing the delays and the overall difficulties presented by the COVID-19 crisis.
There’s also Le Marais Bakery, which was approved in 2017 to open in the 250 East Blithedale Ave. center that used to contain Mill Valley Services, Tony Tutto Pizza and SummerHouse. French native Patrick Ascaso’s renowned bakery and bistro eyed an opening in January 2020 within the revamped 29,565-square-foot space that already includes Compass, AP Luxe Salon and Belle Marin Aesthetic Medicine, and launched a Kickstarter campaign to help furnish a community patio in front of the space. That’s the last we’ve heard.
We’d be remiss to not mention the legions of local arts organizations that have had to halt most, if not all, activities due to the inability to gather people into a room to celebrate art, particularly live music, theater and entertainment venues like the Sweetwater Music Hall, Throckmorton Theatre and Marin Theatre Company.
There are undoubtedly many more Mill Valley businesses that have closed over the past 11 months. This partial list is a mere reflection of who’ve we’ve heard from directly.
LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW AND WE WILL FOLLOW UP.
THIS IS PART ONE OF A TWO-PART SERIES ON THE HORRIFIC IMPACT WROUGHT BY THE PANDEMIC ON MILL VALLEY BUSINESSES. PART TWO WILL FOCUS ON WHAT NEW BUSINESSES YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE COME TO MILL VALLEY AS WE REBUILD IN THE YEARS TO COME.
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