As a trained interior designer, Colby Hallen has shopped far and wide for unique, artisanal items to complement her mostly green-friendly projects. But when Hallen moved to Napa in 2008, she found that many of these interesting, small-production lines and products were unavailable in local shops.
So in November Hallen took a tentative step into the challenging world of retail, opening a “holiday pop-up” called Hunter Gatherer in Napa. After a successful couple of months, Hallen is planning to make Hunter Gatherer a more permanent fixture in the Napa Crossing North shopping center at Trancas Street and California Boulevard.
“When I opened this it was originally just supposed to be a holiday pop-up from November to January just to see what happened,” Hallen said. “It’s been really successful and people really responded to it.”
Describing her store as a “modern general store,” Hallen said she wants to fill a void in the Napa Valley by offering an eclectic mix of “luxury, artisanal goods from apothecary to fashion to home and beyond.” The store sells high-end casual clothing for men and women, beauty products, home accessories and even a line of European-style bicycles.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Hallen said of her inventory. “It’s more of a lifestyle store than anything else. I have a lot of candles, soaps and organic beauty products. There’s this company called Fredericks & Mae that I’m working with … they make these beautiful handmade games like bocce sets and all sorts of things.”
Other items include baby alpaca ponchos, buffalo check throw pillows, men’s and women’s grooming products and luxury pajamas from Australia. Most Hunter Gatherer merchandise comes from obscure, small-production companies focused on handmade, environmentally conscious products.
“I really try to do some sourcing from some local vendors,” Hallen said, “but then also some really cool companies. There is one called A Peace Treaty that works with global artisans to keep their traditions going.”
Hallen said that she feels the store’s diverse, hard-to-find offerings are a good fit for the Napa Valley lifestyle.
“There’s just such an energy that you see with the farm-to-table movement and you see in the food and wine culture here,” she said. “I wanted to kind of tap into that when it came to the retail side of things. There is an emphasis on quality over quantity.”
Hallen’s family owns Chico-based Pacific Properties, developer of the Napa Crossing North shopping center and the new Napa Crossing South at Soscol and Kansas avenues. When the family business brought her to Napa, she eventually moved here from San Francisco.
Growing up in Butte County, where her family also farms rice, Hallen gravitated toward design, eventually studying fashion design at Parsons School for Design in New York City. She then turned to interior design. She also became a LEED Accredited Professional, providing her expertise in environmentally responsible design and building.
Upon moving to Napa, Hallen worked for a local firm specializing in green building and sustainable design. After a stint with an architecture firm based in St. Helena, she worked on her own in interior design and continues to lend her LEED-friendly design talents to her family’s real estate development projects.
Hallen said that after living in Napa for a while, she recognized the need for a retailer that catered to what she perceived as the “Napa Valley aesthetic.”
“I kept going back to it,” she said. “I felt like there wasn’t anything like this (Hunter Gatherer) here … so I finally just decided to try this pop-up. It cracks me up that one of my first customers walked in, looked around and said ‘I should hire you to decorate my house.’ I said well that’s actually what I do.”
“I have absolutely no background in retail work so this has been quite a learning process for me,” Hallen continued, noting that she plans to temporarily close the “pop-up” store for a few weeks at the end of January to restock for spring and summer.
Hallen has succeeded in accumulating a formidable list of vendors that fit into her idea of a modern general store stocked with “high-end, everyday essentials.”
Lines include Stick & Ball, Emerson Fry and Apolis Global Citizen clothing companies, Westward Leaning sunglasses, Small Gunns home accessories and Mosey Bicycles from Marin. There are pet accessories from Found My Animal, water bottles from Liberty Bottleworks and face serum from Vintner’s Daughter.
The name Hunter Gatherer, she said, is a subtle reference to how she typically acquires the unique products used in her interior designs and that are now sold at the store.
“I travel quite a bit and I like the idea of finding really cool things everywhere that I go,” Hallen said. “A lot of the lines that I’m carrying are things that I’ve discovered over the years that I can’t find anywhere else. So it’s kind of the idea of the hunt and finding these things.”
She admitted that the name Hunter Gatherer does throw some shoppers off, however.
“I’ve had a few disappointed gentlemen coming in dressed in camo thinking I sell shotgun shells.”