Luxury watch retailer Shinola and East Coast-based salad chain Sweetgreen move in to downtown Palo Alto, as does the hands-on technology store, b8ta.
SHINOLA REVEALS POLISHED INTERIOR ... Renovation is making significant progress on the historic Birge Clark building at the corner of Ramona Street and Hamilton Avenue in Palo Alto, the former home of University Art and The Annex. Two new tenants have officially signed on to occupy the prime downtown location, which sits across from City Hall. The first out of the gate is Shinola, a Detroit-based retailer specializing in luxury watches, bicycles and leather goods. Shinola will celebrate its grand opening for a full week beginning Dec. 18. Sweets and holiday beverages will be offered daily, 4-6 p.m. The Palo Alto store marks Shinola's 12th location. "We chose Palo Alto because it's a very influential community," said company president Jacques Panis. "The entrepreneurship spirit is alive, and that's what we stand for. We're focused on quality and craftsmanship." Although Shinola sells a wide variety of handcrafted items, the bestsellers are the watches, which have a starting price of $475. "Currently, watches account for 70 percent of our sales," Panis said, estimating that nearly 500,000 watches have been sold since Shinola opened in Detroit in 2013. Panis is Shinola through and through. He wears a Shinola watch on one wrist and sports a lightning-bolt tattoo, the symbol for the company, on the other wrist. "A few of us have the tattoo; not too many," Panis said of his 500-plus employees. One of the newest items from Shinola, scheduled to debut in the Palo Alto store, is the Muhammad Ali Limited Edition watch. Priced at $2,250, it comes in a custom hickory box and is accompanied by three rare prints depicting the boxer in landmark events. Shinola has partnered with the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville to create the watch, which has a limited run of 400.
The next tenant to open in the renovated building will be Sweetgreen, a fast casual East Coast-based salad restaurant that sources local and organic ingredients. Taking over the corner spot, the Palo Alto store plans to open in early spring 2016, said Sweetgreen president Karen Kelley, who added, "We're so excited to be here. Palo Alto is a market with all the right consumers." The restaurant will be the company's fourth venue on the West Coast. The third and final shop to open is still a mystery. Palo Alto developer Chase Rapp described it as a "soft goods company" and a "hot retail tenant," and promised that "the reveal will happen in about three weeks."
INNOVATIVE TECH SHOP OPENS ... Brand new to Palo Alto is b8ta, 516 Bryant St., a hands-on technology store which opened last week. The unique shop offers customers an opportunity to test innovative technology products that have never been in a physical store before. "Consumer desire for innovative products is booming, and there's never been a better time to be a maker," said Vibhu Norby, CEO and co-founder of b8ta. "However, most new products don't make it into stores until months or years after they've launched because traditional retail is fundamentally broken and the product introduction process is arduous, especially for new companies. We've built technology that makes brick-and-mortar retail easier and quicker to sell."
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