San Francisco Chronicle

Epicenter

New Anthropolo­gie concept stores go big, and go home.

- 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.

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 ?? 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. 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. ??
Photos from Anthropolo­gie & Co.
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