After 40 years on University Avenue in Palo Alto, the eclectic Shady Lane gift shop and boutique is moving to a new home in Menlo Park.
"It was a door that opened in an octagonal building," said owner Alice Deutscher about her shop's upcoming transfer to the Sharon Heights shopping center. "Going from a known to an unknown is always challenging for a business owner. But it seems right in my heart."
The move comes in the wake of a changing economy and a changing downtown Palo Alto. The landlord wants to tear down the building that currently houses Shady Lane (at 441 University Ave. near Waverley Street) to make room for a new two-story structure with underground parking. And keeping up with rent is always a challenge for a small business owner.
"It's not easy. Our kind of store -- gift shops in general -- have a tough go of it. People will mention some of their favorite shops that have closed and I know how hard it is. I'm in there six days a week to make sure things are running smoothly, to greet customers, to remember what they bought before, to make special orders," Ms. Deutscher said.
An artist who made a living at craft fairs for 20 years by creating batik clothing, Ms. Deutscher and her husband forged deep connections with the local artisan community, links that extended into Shady Lane when the couple opened the shop. Developer Roxy Rapp helped it get off the ground in 1975, giving the store a prime location on University Avenue, she said.
"We tore down a house that was going to be destroyed for the wood, and built the first store from recycled wood before it was trendy. We had a winding brick pathway -- that was our 'lane.' And we had hanging plants, that was our 'shade,'" Ms. Deutscher said, explaining how Shady Lane got its name.
In looking for a new location recently, she initially explored options in the same neighborhood. "I have customers now in their 30s, 40s, 50s who have always known Shady Lane on University Avenue and have a history of going there with their moms, and now come in with their children," she said. "That's what having a heritage is like. I'm happy that we're able to continue our business, but a little bit sad that we won't be on University Avenue."
Still, Menlo Park beckons. The new store will be slightly smaller than the current location's 1,000 square feet, with more parking and easier access to the highways for out-of-town customers. The courtyard in front of the shop is framed by trees, and has enough space for Shady Lane to host 10 artisan events a year, "which is pretty darn wonderful," Ms. Deutscher said.
Shady Lane is expected to open in the Sharon Heights center in early March.