New An­thro­polo­gie con­cept stores go big, and go home.

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - STYLE - By Al­li­son McCarthy Al­li­son McCarthy is a San Fran­cisco free­lance writer. Email: style@sfchron­i­cle.com

On the cor­ner of South Main Street and Olympic Boule­vard in Wal­nut Creek, shop­pers pour into An­thro­polo­gie & Co., a new ware­house-size shop that used to house a Barnes & No­ble. At roughly 20,000 square feet, it’s the kind of place where you could while away an en­tire af­ter­noon, day­dream­ing about how to adorn your fairy­tale home.

In­side, it feels al­most like a se­ries of shops within shops, from out­door ter­races filled with hang­ing plants and suc­cu­lents to an an­tique beauty em­po­rium with a de­cid­edly Euro­pean flair to an ethe­real bri­dal suite of gowns that seem to float in midair. It’s both warm and cozy and com­pletely over­whelm­ing, two floors packed with mer­chan­dise that re­quires at least an hour to peruse — and that’s with­out try­ing on any clothes, flip­ping through cus­tom color swatches or talk­ing to a decor spe­cial­ist about the end­less fur­ni­ture cus­tomiza­tion op­tions. And that’s ex­actly the point.

The com­pany un­veiled the first of its new con­cept shops in Septem­ber — think of them as the orig­i­nal An­thro­polo­gie on steroids, with the ad­di­tion of sis­ter brands BHLDN Wed­dings and Ter­rain gar­den cen­ter, all un­der one roof. The idea is for the cus­tomer to have ac­cess to ev­ery­thing she needs to linger for hours with­out ever hav­ing to leave the store. Not so much a re­brand­ing as an ex­pand­ing, the new An­thro­polo­gie & Co. seems like a modern ap­proach to the tra­di­tional de­part­ment store, with all the quirk and eclec­ti­cism that An­thro­polo­gie is known for.

At a time when the fo­cus seems to be shift­ing to smaller, more lo­cal busi­nesses, An­thro­polo­gie’s “su­per­size me” ap­proach seems counter to what the con­sumer wants, but CEO of An­thro­polo­gie Group, David McCreight, told the Philadel­phia In­quirer ear­lier this year that the roll­out of big­ger stores was a di­rect re­sponse to cus­tomer de­mand. “Cus­tomers

are shop­ping across mul­ti­ple prod­uct cat­e­gories, spend­ing a longer time in stores and trav­el­ing a greater dis­tance to ex­panded lo­ca­tions,” he said. “It was im­pos­si­ble to ex­press the rich­ness of the brand in our core shops,” adds Heith Mann, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of stores.

So they went big — re­ally big. More than three times the size of the av­er­age An­thro­polo­gie, the new stores (lo­cated in some of the brand’s top mar­kets, in­clud­ing Palo Alto) vastly ex­pand upon the com­pany’s fur­ni­ture, beauty and shoe of­fer­ings — all of which res­onate best with cus­tomers through in-per­son in­ter­ac­tion. The shops also present a greater se­lec­tion of pe­tites, in­ti­mates, ac­ces­sories and home decor.

In true An­thro­polo­gie fash­ion, each store has its own dis­tinct per­son­al­ity while main­tain­ing that uniquely “An­thro” feel (soft, fem­i­nine, eclec­tic, well-trav­eled), which, though hard to de­fine is in­stantly rec­og­niz­able.

In Wal­nut Creek, the vibe is up­scale Cal­i­for­nia bun­ga­low,

with re­claimed white­washed wood, hand-plas­tered wall fin­ishes, ebony-stained re­claimed lathe, and an an­tique French phar­macy fix­ture in the beauty sec­tion, all meant to evoke a ca­sual West Coast at­ti­tude.

The Palo Alto store at Stanford Shop­ping Cen­ter is more luxe bo­hemian loft. Soar­ing ceil­ings give way to a sky­light above a grand tim­ber-treaded stair­case. A hang­ing art in­stal­la­tion made up of thou­sands of clothes­pins serves as a dan­gling cen­ter­piece for the store. Plaster walls in soft fin­ishes like pale greens and whites make for a warm but muted back­drop, and re­claimed wood floors tie it back to the Wal­nut Creek space.

De­spite their grandeur, An­thro­polo­gie & Co. stores cre­ate in­ti­mate mo­ments with cozy show­room treat­ments that re­flect the lo­cal style: moody in Port­land, Ore., bright and airy in New­port Beach (Orange County). “While the struc­ture is roughly the same in all stores, our room vi­gnettes fea­ture dif­fer­ent mer­chan­dise de­pend­ing on the mar­ket,” says di­vi­sional mer­chan­dise man­ager Chris Stoz. “That might trans­late to a blue vel­vet dis­play in one store and white linen in an­other.”

Move­ment through­out the store is key, and co­he­sive­ness across the An­thro­polo­gie brand comes from the lay­out and or­ga­ni­za­tion of each store, which is meant to mimic the flow of a pri­vate home — from en­try to liv­ing room to bed­room. “Be­cause of the larger for­mat of An­thro­polo­gie & Co. stores, we have to be more in­ten­tional and pre­scrip­tive with the lay­out and mes­sag­ing, while still main­tain­ing a sense of won­der­ment,” says Chief Creative Of­fi­cer Missy Peltz.

With the ad­di­tion of space comes the ad­di­tion of de­part­men­tal spe­cial­ists, plus a full cal­en­dar of in-store work­shops and events. “We can fi­nally pro­vide the kind of el­e­vated ser­vice that our cus­tomer has come to ex­pect,” says vis­ual spe­cial projects man­ager Tyler In­gle. “These things all bring the brand to life even more for her.”

An­other touch point is new De­sign Cen­ter kiosks — where ded­i­cated An­thro­polo­gie home stylists help shop­pers cus­tomize fur­ni­ture from hun­dreds of styles, col­ors and fab­ric op­tions. “Our av­er­age cus­tomer is pretty de­sign savvy,” Stoz says. “She brings magazine tears and in­spi­ra­tion boards. She wants to put a unique stamp on her space but wants the help of a pro­fes­sional to style all her ideas to­gether.”

Part of that unique stamp comes from the com­pany’s many artist col­lab­o­ra­tions, which have al­ways been part of its DNA. From spe­cial col­lec­tions to one-of-a-kind works for a spe­cific store lo­ca­tion, the em­pha­sis on lo­cal tal­ent is even greater at these new con­cept stores. The Palo Alto store fea­tures work from Oak­land’s Creative Growth (a cen­ter that serves adult artists with de­vel­op­men­tal, men­tal, and phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties), hand-painted tex­tiles and kitchen­ware by San Fran­cisco artist Jen Gar­rido, and terra cotta pot­tery by Point Reyes Sta­tion ce­ram­i­cist Su­san Hall.

The Palo Alto store is also home to An­thro­polo­gie’s first din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, Ter­rain Cafe, where James Beard Award-win­ning chef Marc Vetri (Philadel­phia’s Vetri and Os­te­ria) has cu­rated a menu of dishes us­ing sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents from lo­cal farms — yet an­other ex­am­ple of how the brand is keep­ing the shop­per en­gaged longer.

“Wal­nut Creek and Palo Alto are the truest rep­re­sen­ta­tions of our goal with these An­thro­polo­gie & Co. stores,” Peltz says. And de­pend­ing on how well the con­cept is re­ceived by cus­tomers, the com­pany may open as many as 30 or 40 con­cept stores across the coun­try over the next sev­eral years.

Pho­tos from An­thro­polo­gie & Co.

An­thro­polo­gie’s new con­cept shop in Palo Alto, top pho­tos, of­fers a luxe bo­hemian vibe. At its Wal­nut Creek store, above pho­tos, a bed­room vi­gnette and in­ti­mate-ap­parel vi­gnette go up­scale.

Pho­tos from An­thro­polo­gie & Co.

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