Baroni Opening ‘Plaza’ Store At Former Plaza Design – April 5, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sara Baroni at her new store, "Plaza." KLH | Eye

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

PLAZA – Sarah Baroni is beaming today with a radiant, ear-to-ear smile as she walks through the shadowy aisles of her new, but still closed and papered-up store on the Plaza.

That’s going to be its name, too: simply, “Plaza.”

The new Baroni retail outlet, located at what was Plaza Design at Eighth and G streets, opens next Friday with a huge clearance sale. Much of the merchandise left behind when Plaza Design closed last month will be marked down massively through the weekend.

Yesterday (Thursday), Baroni, an Arcata jewelry manufacturer since 1991, inked the deal on a three-year lease with building owner Julie Fulkerson, and purchased the old store’s inventory from lienholder Arcata Economic Development Corp. for an undisclosed sum.

The space became available at the perfect time for Baroni. The company just added online and mail-order retail sales this year, and had been looking for a good place to open up an outlet. The deal has been in the works for weeks, but no new merchandise could be ordered until it was sealed.

Sarah Baroni is full of merchandising ideas, and looking forward to remaking Plaza as a landmark retail location.

“This will be the flagship Baroni store,” Baroni said. “It’s in the heart of the community and a cultural gathering place, and that’s what we want it to be.”

“This is Boardwalk and Park Place right here,” said General Manager Todd Larsen, matching Baroni for excitement over the new project.

Just as happy – and certainly relieved to have a tenant – is Fulkerson. “I’m over-the-top thrilled,” she said. “Not just as the landlady, but because it’s an anchor corner to the Plaza.”

She praised Baroni as a “perfect partner as an artist and designer.” Said Fulkerson, “She’s going to take it to another dimension.”

AEDC Executive Director Ross Welch said there had been other inquiries about the location, but none better suited than Baroni. “This is the perfect fit,” he said. “It’s a great location with a lot of history. We wanted it to be good for Arcata.”

Now that the deal has been struck, Baroni and Larsen can really get rolling – bring in new stock, take on staff, design a Plaza logo and take care of the million and one other tasks involved with starting a business.

A manager has been hired, and potential employees – including former PD workers – are being interviewed.

Along with Baroni jewelry, the store will eventually feature home furnishings and decor, gourmet kitchenware, textiles, lots of local art (including non-Baroni jewelry), rugs and the gift items such as candles and cards for which Plaza Design was so well known.

Another PD staple – the recycled glassware of Fire & Light Originals – will be expanded. “We’ll partner with [Fire & Light co-owner] John McClurg, and make it bigger and better than ever before, Baroni said.

“I grew up in a retail situation and just love home decor,” she said. “It’s a great synergy with Baroni. We won’t have everything, but we’ll have a really great selection.”

Before that can happen, the store must be cleared of the holdover merchandise, and the new goods –some of it with an eight-week wait from order to delivery – have to arrive.

To make space, Plaza opens at 10 a.m. this Friday, April 13, with items going for up to 75 percent off in an “out with the old, in with the new” sale.

The store will then close again, but only long enough to be repainted inside and have the new merchandise put on display.  The plan is to re-open in time for Mother’s Day, but Baroni cautions that even then, it will take time for Plaza to come into its own.

“It will be sparse in the beginning,” she said. She’s planning shopping trips to Bali and India for fresh merch, and hopes to have the store’s new identity truly established by year’s end.

Part of that involves restoring the Fulkersonian energy that once defined the Plaza Design experience, including the fun and interesting window displays.

“We want to bring the windows back to the Julie days,” Baroni said. “It’s important to us that it be new and fresh, so that every time you come in, it’s different.”

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