Excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle (May 1st 2016):
Many designers dream of opening a store that will both embody and tell the story of their brand. San Francisco husband-and-wife team the Podolls have now realized that dream twice. Last month marked the one-year anniversary of the duo’s Noe Valley location, which has become a jewel in the crown of the stroller-centric neighborhood, which is not exactly known for being fashion-forward in a retail sense.
“There’s always some amount of fear when you launch something new,” says Lauren Podoll, 38, who lives in Noe with her husband and business partner, Josh, 43, and their 4-year-old son, Dashiell. “We thought: Will the new store resonate with people? Will we develop loyal customers? Will it succeed? And yet, you have to be bold and move forward with confidence.”
Fortunately for the Podolls, their hard work has paid off, helping them become a local anchor for the style hungry, in the same way that their first shop in Burlingame did for the Primrose Road crowd three years ago.
Funny enough, retail is where it all started for the couple, neither of whom have design backgrounds. They met in 2003 when Lauren was a buyer at North Beach shop AB Fits. At the time, Josh, a fine artist, was experimenting with silkscreening some of his drawings onto T-shirts. After a co-worker spotted a shopper (Josh’s sister) wearing one of the T’s, Lauren set up an appointment to meet and start selling the wares. Six months later, they had their first date.
Soon after, the two started collaborating on the Josh Podoll line together (at their height, their luxury T-shirts had a dedicated section at Barneys New York). They married in 2005, and extended the line beyond T-shirts in 2009, renaming the label The Podolls. They welcomed a son in 2011, and opened stores in 2013 and 2015; they currently have a second baby on way.
“It’s undeniably smart on their part,” says Sheri Evans, the co-owner of Metier and an S.F. retail veteran. “Opening a second shop gives them the opportunity to cast a wider net. A lot of people in Noe appreciate the fact that they can walk down 24th Street on a Saturday afternoon in their sweats and nobody minds. ... Their clothing aesthetic has a wide range of appeal — it’s chic but unpretentious, well-made and sewn locally with sustainable fabrics. It speaks to fashion-y types but also to people who don’t see themselves that way.”
The brand’s “Slowness Is Beauty” ethos extends across their made-in-South San Francisco wares to their community-bolstering events and workshops (book readings, indigo-dyeing lessons), and collaborations with fellow local creatives (shoe label Freda Salvador, bag designer Shawn Burke). Likewise, the furnishings in both of their shops are created largely by California makers.
At the Noe store, one immediately feels welcomed by the unique, hand-wrought interiors. There’s a sleek cash-wrap (front counter) by the Butterfly Joint’s Danny Montoya; lighting fixtures by wrk-shp; a beautiful wood bench and shelves created by Josh Podoll; and perhaps the star of them all, an oft-Instagrammed kids’ playhouse smack dab in the middle of the shop by Outer Sunset artist Jay Nelson, showcasing angled portal windows and indigo curtains and cushions by Matt Katsaros of Flint Outdoors. The shop’s expertly styled windows are a regular collaboration between the Podolls and Sheri Evans and Trina Papini (of the aforementioned Metier). The group often pulls all-nighters at the store to come up with inventive foot traffic-halting displays featuring adult and child mannequins mingling with surfboards or life-size cable knits.
Alongside the breezy wares from the house brands — The Podolls and kids’ line Podots — hang covetable items by other clothing designers that are synonymous with craftsmanship and casual cool: Ryan Roche, Closed, Amo denim, and cult kid brands Bobo Choses and Mini Rodini. There is also an array of jewelry, accessories, grooming goods, magazines, books and home wares by the likes of Melissa Joy Manning, Earth Tu Face, Slow Studio, Martiniano and Freda Salvador, that make leaving empty-handed nearly impossible.
“We were honored when they called to sell Freda at their stores because they embody what San Francisco style means to us,” says Freda Salvador’s Megan Papay. “It’s authentic, effortless and just cool.”
That trifecta is currently showcased with an in-store installation by Oakland fiber artist Meghan Shimek, who created awe-inspiring oversize weavings for the walls and windows in celebration of the Noe boutique’s anniversary fete and the Podolls nautically themed spring 2016 collection. It’s on display through May.
“I love that they are creating a community around fashion, design and art,” says Kristen Pena, a Noe Valley customer-turned-friend who attended the indigo-dyeing workshop. “Whenever I shop, I shop there. I am big on supporting local, and when it’s that good, why go elsewhere?”