Shop Talk: Shinola, b8ta open in Palo Alto | News | Palo Alto Online |


Shop Talk: Shinola, b8ta open in Palo Alto

This week's retail news

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."

Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? Daryl Savage will check them out. Email

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53 people like this
Posted by Hahahahaha
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Ever had a salad on the East Coast? Ever been to a salad bar on the East Coast?

I sure hop Sweetgreen does NOT emulate East Coast-style salad bars, and that they use FRESH California-grown ingredients.

15 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2015 at 7:52 am

Reading about it,Shinola is a great story- high quality diverse set of products American made coming out of Detroit,with its manufacturing legacy. Bill Clinton wears a Shinola watch. This place is so unique, with the outside clock and the bikes in the windows- and the website says they have pet products too along with the watches and purses. Original store is next to Wayne State Univ in Detroit. I plan to visit the store this week.

18 people like this
Posted by Good Choices
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 21, 2015 at 9:37 am

Great tenants for a nicely re-done building.

Shinola is a company with integrity, creating good products. It was originally a shoe shine polish company and when it was re-vamped as a watch and leather goods company they agreed to include a small tin of the original polish with each purchase to honor the original company. I have bought a couple items for myself and as gifts, each one just as good as the last. I also appreciate the nice clock addition to the streetscape.

Sweetgreen is VERY popular on the east coast, particularly in the Boston area and the surrounding cities. I've eaten there many times and I can assure you that people on the east coast care just as much about fresh ingredients as those in the bay area and it will be a welcomed option amongst the ranks of Sprout and Pluto's.

Looking forward to seeing what the last business is.

36 people like this
Posted by Gorge
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 21, 2015 at 11:04 am

Personally I miss University Art and the Annex. I am not interested in a Muhammad Ali Watch. However the building is beautifully re done.

21 people like this
Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 21, 2015 at 11:45 am

How cool to have a bike shop and a restaurant that sources local & organic ingredients right across from city hall and a few steps from the bike blvd. Miss the University Arts store yet relieved vendors are moving in that will appeal to walk in customers, not something that technically is retail but has no foot traffic appeal like some other parts of downtown.

42 people like this
Posted by sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2015 at 3:26 pm

"We chose Palo Alto because it's a very influential community," said company president Jacques Panis.

Maybe he meant an "affluent community"...

34 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2015 at 3:40 pm

Well I know that I won't be popular here, but I am getting very fed up with businesses that use things other than the 26 letters of the alphabet or have incorrect spelling in their names. It is no wonder that the younger generation can't spell ever since Toys R Us started using a backward R.

I almost won't use a business if its name confounds me.

PS no wonder the journalist can't tell the difference between influence and affluence.

48 people like this
Posted by Hahahahahaha
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 21, 2015 at 8:28 pm

The absolute nadir of salad bars is actually in Boston: wilted lettuce, greenish tomatoes, brownish cauliflower, and broccoli so old it had yellow blossoms in it. The name has "greens" in it; I hope it wasn't Sweetgreens!

19 people like this
Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 21, 2015 at 8:42 pm

Resident: Funky name spelling has a lot to do with protectable Trademark names, think "Rite Aid" as well as available internet domain names of which there are precious few.

34 people like this
Posted by Missing University Art
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 22, 2015 at 11:35 am

"Muhammad Ali Limited Edition watch." priced at $2,250.
Given that you can buy a really attractive and functional watch for $30, anyone who has this much money to burn and also considers Muhammad Ali a hero is beyond my comprehension.
The abundance of free floating money has really downgraded the local culture. And thank you developer Roxy Rapp, for pushing out our beloved University Art.

38 people like this
Posted by Sticker shock
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 22, 2015 at 11:52 am

Watches *starting* at $425? Bear in mind that many of us bought our houses before it cost $5mm for a teardown.

I bought my last watch to referee kids' soccer games. It cost about $15 and works like a charm, including buzzers to let me know when the half is over. I guess I don't run in the right circles.

25 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Some people view wristwatches more as jewelry rather than functional timekeeping devices, especially in today when most people carry cellphones.

There's a fashion element to anything you wear on your body. Practicality is not the only deciding factor.

48 people like this
Posted by Checked it out
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 22, 2015 at 2:54 pm

If you are 20-something, you will be welcomed in both stores. If older, or if you dare to bring children, you will be ignored. I don't think either will stay in business, pretty stores that cater to a narrow slice of the population, most of whom can't afford to shop there!

24 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 22, 2015 at 5:15 pm

Shinola needs a new designer. Their watches all look a lot like my old $25 Timex. What good is overspending hundred$$ for your watch if people cannot immediately discern you overspent hundred$$ for your watch.

14 people like this
Posted by Some people hate anything new
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 22, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Some thinges in palo alto never cease to amaze. We get a new business in town and immediately have people posting negative comments - the merchandise is too expensive, you will not be served at the store, people have too much money. They manage to denigrate Muhammed ali!!!!!
Let's be honest. This store is a great addition for downtown. It is replacing a substandard, dump of a store that had long been uneeded in the city. Maybe we need to bring back Lindicotts and some of the other stores from the bygone days

27 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2015 at 7:01 pm

Following this renovation, Roxy Rapp should now
turn his full attention to 375 University Avenue,
The Cheesecake Factory, and do a complete exterior remodel there.

1 person likes this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 22, 2015 at 10:38 pm

Shineola is such a wonderful addition to our down town retail! What a beautiful store, filled with exquisite handmade
items from, of all places, Detroit in the USA! Yes expensive but pieces you will keep for a lifetime. Check out this lovely store you will not be disappointed.

11 people like this
Posted by Marty
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2015 at 7:20 pm

When I was growing up the only thing that had the Shinola name on it was shoe polish. One of my dad's favorite expressions for someone who didn't know anything was that he "couldn't tell sh*t from Shinola."

7 people like this
Posted by wha? ...... from Shinola?
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 26, 2016 at 2:50 pm

Shinola? "Maybe he meant an "affluent community"..."

Or.... effluent?

Worst name ever?

Like this comment
Posted by Linda
a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2016 at 1:48 pm

I go to Sweetgreen in DC whenever possible. The salads and soups are very inventive and the ingredients are all first rate. The local sources are listed.

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