Born in Colorado and raised in New York, Nadine Curtis moved to Cape Town, South Africa with her then-husband and fell in love with the crafts produced there. She began an export company to sell them around the world, moved to the Bay Area, and after almost twenty years of running her wholesale company, Nadine has launched her first physical store, 7 on Locust, in Mill Valley, CA.
Congratulations on the shop- it’s over a year old now! Tell us what inspired the physical space.
I started Be Sweet, working with artisans and women in job creation programs to explore craft products back to the US and wholesaling ready made knits. That segued into a knitting and yarn business. With my travels doing business- from flying through Europe, to trade shows, or just being in the mix of that industry- I was around so many interesting products in South Africa that fit in home décor, art, women’s accessories, etc. that I always had a dream of having a retail store where I could have access to customers and display those products.
My office was based in Sausalito but I saw shops in NYC that had wholesale in the back and retail in the front, so I found a location (in Mill Valley) that fit the bill. One quarter is retail, with this cool divider made out of recycled sail material, that separates the back where I run BeSweet.
In this new chapter of my life, I wanted to create something more collaborative with people, so I’m renting part of my space to an interior designer and to a friend who has a luxury clothing line. It’s a cool environment and feels like a design studio slash retail. We all share space in the back. Those girls also are a part of the collection of 7 on Locust inventory; I sell their product at the store. Elena Calabrese, the interior designer, and I have collaborated on metallic leather doorstops that are manufactured here in SF.
What was hardest about making the idea come to life?
I was looking for a location for quite some time. That’s certainly been a driving force. I didn’t want to commit to some big-ticket space. It’s a long narrow space, about 2000 sq feet, and is on a quirky street. I live in Mill Valley and my son goes to school here, so it was a great location. With white walls, tall ceilings, rustic floors, it was a blank white canvas that I could have gone so many directions. At first it was pretty sparse and I had some big fine art. It was a lot of merchandise I sourced in Paris, Amsterdam and South Africa. First, I set up just a minimal retail space and it’s grown from there. We have wire that hangs our curtain in several places so it’s very convertible. We’ve had parties where we moved the curtain back so it’s much bigger, we’ve had music in here. I want people to feel like they can come in and hang out. We just had a low-key, serving-mimosas trunk show on Sunday. I wanted the space to be low key like that. Friday after work, come in and drink wine. That feel is important for me.
How does having so much going on in one space affect that feel?
It’s a cool vibe and from a business point, the more the merrier. Their clients come in and become customers of the space. I feel like San Francisco is known for that shared workspace in the tech industry, but not coming from creative services and creative women. Now shoppers can be part of the creative juices. Plus, we’re all working moms, it allows us to support each other.
For Bay Area locals, you can come in and support 7 on Locust’s upcoming Fall Studio Party on November 6 from 5-9pm. If you can’t make it then, check out 7 on Locust online.