I bought two pieces of furniture recently, both from big-box stores. They were necessary, "If I don't get something to hang up my clothes, I'm going to scream" kind of purchases. I hope you'll forgive me, my fellow Scouts; I'm a busy mom who sometimes doesn't have time to patronize the world of San Diego's local boutiques. And that world is vast.
So, to make up for my, um, transgressions, I'd like to dedicate this column to thinking outside the big-box. In the spirit of buying, being and living local, and with this being our Design Issue, here are a few locally made items you'll never, ever find at Target. We should all be happy about that.
Make Good (2207 Fern St. in South Park), the boutique that's beloved for all things local, has a lot of what you'd expect: jewelry, clothes, cute little stuffed animals for kids. With 137 designers, where do you even start? Here: Hand-woven, hand-dyed home décor and accessories from Leigh Suarez and Olivia Arreguin, a husband-and-wife team that runs a small company called Alpaca India.
Their line includes duffel bags, scarves, rugs and other accessories—all made from 100-percent wool (not alpaca, as the same suggests) local to Tijuana. A bright and cheery red rug ($110) called to me while I was browsing the shop. If the dye job alone doesn't clue you in to the level of mastery Suarez and Arreguin possess, then the edging will: It was hand-crotched by Arreguin (as are all of their products).
"Luckily, most people nowadays not only appreciate the hand-made aspect of our products, but they can recognize it at first sight," Suarez says. "It is thanks to the culture of buying local, handmade goods and paying the right price for them that we are still in the market."
And Make Good is the only store in the United States that sells their line, so I would go and check out that rug before someone else does.
Before you leave, though, there's another designer selling some really interesting hand-carved, wooden kitchen tools you won't really find anywhere else. David Atchison, whose roots in woodworking started 25 years ago while building theater sets, has now turned his attention to things like eucalyptus rolling pins ($42) and sycamore ice-cream scoopers ($46)—things, he says, that "add warmth to our lives, especially in a time when so much is mass-produced or made of plastic."
Sure, you could buy these things anywhere, but wouldn't you feel better knowing that the wood was responsibly sourced from, of all places, your neighbors' backyards? That's right: One man's fallen branch is another's one-of-a-kind wine stopper.
"I often hear the sound of chain saws and see tree trimmers, and I'll stop and politely ask for a few pieces," Atchison says. "The tree would otherwise be mulched or taken to the landfill. By using local, reclaimed wood, I'm not only leaving the rain forests alone but I'm also making something that is unique to San Diego."
Speaking of saving trees, sisters Julie O'Brien and Theresa Anderson of Sweet Paper (7660-A Fay Ave. in La Jolla) are trying to do just that, one wedding invitation at a time. With cotton, bamboo (a sustainable, renewable source) and recycled stock, you don't have to go the traditional route (although that's always an option). The ladies also try to keep it as local as possible, using paper distributors in Southern California—even using paper that's made in San Diego.
Open for just three years, they recently started selling a lovely selection of quirky notepads, coasters and greeting cards at VI Star (2355 India St. in Little Italy). Pick up the Little Italy coasters; they're made from 100-percent recycled paper and designed by O'Brien and Anderson.