Longtime Mill Valley resident Louise Dockstader was on vacation in July with a friend and her family in Provence in southern France when she saw an email would change her life.

The email was from Julie Stanton, the owner of the Once Around arts and crafts shop on Miller Ave., informing customers that she was closing the store due to a personal crisis. Dockstader’s reaction was echoed by a bevy of parents and kids all over town: “That can’t happen!”

Since Stanton opened the beloved shop at 352 Miller in 2010, it’s been the the go-to hub for all sorts of DIY projects, including felting, stamping, book-binding, sewing, fabric-painting, wreath-making, embossing, scrapbooking, decoupage, candle-crafting, soap-pouring, glitter, embroidery, knitting … and, well, the list is seemingly infinite.

“I was just heartbroken,” Dockstader says of hearing the news. “We spent a lot of time and money in that store and we just loved the place.”

Dockstader initially thought that she could put together a group of people to buy the business from Stanton so that it didn’t go away. She reached out to Stanton when she got back from vacation, “still not thinking it would be me,” she says.

In one fell swoop over the past nearly four grueling months since that moment, Louise Dockstader has single-handedly brought joy to the local arts and crafts community – and taken a dramatic left turn in her impressive professional career.
She bought Once Around and re-opened it at 75 Throckmorton Ave. in downtown Mill Valley on Nov. 19.

“I did this because I believe that Mill Valley needs this kind of business,” she says. “This shop is filled with things that people need without having to get on the highway. I want to see Mill Valley succeed and continue to be this great, happy place for families and this store has a place in that Mill Valley.”

In doing so, Dockstader has come full circle on two fronts: her only traditional retail experience came as a cashier at Baytree Books on Throckmorton in the late 1980s, and her mother was a fashion designer and art teacher.

“Art was my first language, so this is really like coming home for me,” she says.

Dockstader grew up in Devon in southwest England, graduating from Oxford University with a focus in philosophy, politics and economics. After graduation, she came to the Bay Area in 1985 to visit her brother, who was at Stanford University getting his doctorate degree. She interned at a video production company that Kentfield native and future husband Noel Dockstader ran with his brother.

Dockstader decided to stick around the Bay Area for a bit, getting that job at Baytree as well as at Primetime Publicity, the now defunct Mill Valley-based public relations firm of Reed Trencher that was located in the Mill Creek plaza building space that is now home to The Hivery.

She rented a place in Tam Valley and eventually bought a condo in the Mill Creek Meadows development near Tam High. In 1990, she tied the knot with Noel Dockstader, a documentary filmmaker whose projects over the years have included Extreme Ice, a Nova special that followed photojournalist James Balog to some of the most remote and beautiful places on Earth to document the disappearance of their icy landscape, as well as the 2010 feature documentary film Collapse, which explored whether our modern, industrialized civilization could fall apart like great ancient ones before us, for National Geographic.

In 1991, the couple moved to the UK. “I was just homesick,” she says, “And if he was ever going to completely understand me, we had to live there.”

“I wanted him to see that I was weird because I was British not because I was unusual,” she adds with a laugh.

Over the span of the 13 years they lived in the UK, Dockstader dove into a series of creative opportunities, including a two-year stint as the marketing director for the Young Vic theater in London, working on productions with the likes Pete Townshend of The Who, the poet Ted Hughes and the famed writer Arthur Miller before he died.

She also worked for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and as the creative director for Focus PR right in the early years of the Internet when businesses and agencies were starting to animate their websites.

“It was then that I felt that I needed to learn that world,” she says.

To do so, she attended Central Saint Martins College of Art, where her mother had gotten her degree in fashion design many years before. After art school, Dockstader took a position as a production manager at Elephant, a children’s television production company that produced work for the BBC, among other broadcasters.

Louise and Noel Dockstader and their then-7-year-old son moved back to Mill Valley in 2004, while Louise was pregnant with their daughter. She took a job at educational gamer maker Leapfrog as an animation producer for four years, and later the same role for video game maker Ubisoft. For the past five years – literally up to the days before she opened Once Around – Dockstader has been the executive producer for Playstudios, a mobile game company based in Burlingame. She continues to consult for Playstudios.

Since Stanton and Dockstader struck their deal in September, the latter has continued to work 60-hour weeks at Playstudios. Noel Dockstader’s latest project, a documentary about Solar Impulse, the Swiss long-range experimental solar-powered aircraft project, has had him and his crew embedded with the Solar Impulse team for 10 months to document their Solar Impulse 2 plane’s completion of a full circuit of the globe.

“It’s been a really, really manic three-to-four months,” Dockstader says, pointing to the “army of volunteers” that helped her make it all happen, including family, friends, her kids and friends of her kids. They were informed that the owner of 352 Miller wanted to do something else with the building, they moved Once Around out of the old space in mid-September into 1,200-square feet of storage space in Larkspur and Novato.

She connected in early October with Jack Lee and Christine Lum, the owners of the building that contains 75 Throckmorton, and got the keys for the space on Nov. 1. Since then, it’s been a mad scramble to fit as much of a once-3,600-square-foot shop into a space that contains less than 1,000-square-foot of retail space.

“We couldn’t fit the florals, which take up so much space,” she says with a sigh. “But just about everything else from the old shop is here. It’s so exciting.”

The 411: Once Around is at 75 Throckmorton Ave. in downtown Mill Valley. In the coming weeks, Dockstader says she plans to use a small space at the back of the retail shop for a classroom, reviving the shop’s after school and adult arts and crafts programs. MORE INFO.

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