PICO BOULEVARD — When Peter and Eleanor Path open the doors to their store Acapillow Friday evening, they’ll have more to show off than their new product line.
Acapillow, a furnishing store that sells locally-made products made out of recycled materials, is the first business to participate in a pilot project conceived by the Buy Local campaign to encourage businesses to spruce up their storefronts by partnering with local artists.
The Paths will have a window display tentatively entitled “Modern Living,” a work by Santa Monica artist Steve Craig that Peter Path promises will be “eye-catching.” At the same time, the store will serve as a pop-up gallery for two other local artists.
He hopes that the sculpture will snag the attention of passersby and tempt them into the Pico Boulevard store, which has suffered over the past decade from declining wholesale contracts which made up the bulk of the business.
That’s the kind of improvement that the Buy Local campaign is hoping to inspire while at the same time getting the word out on talented local artists, said Jennifer Taylor, chair of the Buy Local Santa Monica Committee.
“Santa Monica has one of the highest concentrations of artists in the country,” Taylor said. “We have all of this talent here, let’s match businesses with local artists to help benefit the businesses and commercial districts.”
Buy Local started with businesses that fell within the Pico Improvement Organization district because the area already had a committee focused on art and streetscapes.
The Business Improvement District kicks in to match the grant, and the business itself must contribute either money, time, materials or another in-kind match.
The grants don’t add up to a huge amount for the campaign — $1,000 for Acapillow — but an improved facade or customer-facing window can mean big things for a small retailer.
Path certainly hopes it will translate into increased foot traffic for his store as he launches a new line of fully-customizable furniture.
Acapillow is located on the downslope of Pico Boulevard near Interstate 10. Drivers either fly by the store or crawl, depending on the traffic. That can make it difficult for customers to notice his store or access it when they do.
Either way, the market for high-end furniture and pillows is rocky, Path said, and it’s not made any better by the presence of big-box retail.
“We’re hurting, retail’s hurting,” Path said.
An enticing storefront can help that, said James Dion, a retail store consultant and founder of Chicago-based Dionco Inc.
“The first thing they do before the customers walk into the store is see your store,” Dion said. “Not only do they see your store, but what they see has to be inviting.”
Good windows are simple and tend to follow a “less-is-more” theme, and the contents and design must correlate to the kinds of products that a customer can expect to see inside the store, Dion said.
That’s exactly what Craig tried to achieve with his piece for the Acapillow window.
The piece has a mannequin’s head and a screen with a whacky, futuristic feel that plays off some of the furniture in the store, particularly a mid-century modern chair that’s one of Craig’s favorites.
“It should be eye-catching, that’s for sure,” Craig said.
Although the collaboration is meant to draw people into the store, Craig feels that he will benefit from the additional exposure.
Santa Monicans who frequent the Main Street Farmers’ Market may already be familiar with some of Craig’s work, particularly a drawing machine that he brings with him to the market roughly once a month, but displaying his work in the window will show a different side to his art.
And it’s fun.
“I wish I had a little more time, but it’s a lot of fun to do this kind of thing. It’s great being a kid again,” Craig said.
Acapillow’s event will begin at 7 p.m. Friday at its location on 3018 Pico Blvd.