Garden outlet store Smith & Hawken closed up shop in 2009. Then, several other businesses, including Turkish towel importer Forza & Home and Paulson Bott Press, defected from the Gilman Village shopping area on 10th Street to the more vibrant Fourth Street. Other shops, such as TravelSmith, closed down permanently.
The moves have left the place looking a little desultory. In the run-up to the holidays, at least one pop-up shop made a fleeting appearance but, since then, the vacant spaces have lent the mall an air of abandonment.
Since November, however, there has been a regular hive of activity in the space formerly occupied by Paulson Bott Press. Music events, art shows, private fundraisers — even a wine society singles night: Show Place Art is an evolving-use space curated by former interior designer Karen Hart.
Hart, who is based in Redwood City, had been looking for a place to open a gallery on the Peninsula but found the rents there too prohibitive. Encouraged by Diane Haydon, owner of home design outlet store Trove, to consider the Gilman Village complex, she decided to leap when landlord Larry Haydon offered her a competitive rent there.
“I’ve always wanted to open a gallery,” she says. “My goal is to seek out and promote Bay Area artists and sell original art. I would like to encourage people to stop buying posters and instead enjoy collecting affordable art.” Hart always donates a significant percentage of profits to charities on her shows and events, and the artworks on offer run the gamut price-wise, from as low as $25 to round $1,200.
This Friday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the space will be given over to the Be Mine Valentine Etsy craft show. Berkeley soap maker Hilary Goldman is one of the organizers and says the idea sprang from an affinity group of Bay Area crafters that was formed on the doyenne of online “handmade” stores, Etsy. There will be fourteen crafters exhibiting their wares, including jewelry, prints, vintage clothes and handbags.
Hart says she’s leasing the space month by month and waiting to see how the experiment turns out, but she’s pleased with the number and type of activities she has been able to host at Show Place Art. “It’s been great so far,” she says.