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After years on the corporate side of companies like Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Bare Escentuals, and Good Vibrations, Jonathan Plotzker launched his own brand— an all-natural, locally-made, customizable skincare line called Heliotrope. It was a second act of sorts, transitioning from big box to small business, but one that's worked out for Plotzker and business partner Don Snider.
Lily Chau took a different —albeit similar— route to small business. "As a child of immigrants growing up in New York, I was either going to be a doctor, a lawyer or a banker," Lily explains. She chose law. Lily didn't love being a lawyer —and she had always loved design— so she decided to make a change after the Great Recession shook up with legal industry. She moved to San Francisco with a white, limited edition Le Creuset dutch oven, and not much else.
The Dutch oven was surprisingly transformative for a woman who rarely cooks. The minimalist vibe in Lily's San Francisco studio let her focus on objects she truly loved. "It was not really a conscious decision, but it became an experiment of sorts— working with a blank slate and a new mindset about making more deliberate choices about the stuff we bring into our living spaces," Lily tells Racked.
About six months after arriving in San Francisco, Lily met Jonathan, who had a small store in Noe Valley selling his Heliotrope line. He was looking to move to a busier neighborhood. She was interested in starting a home furnishings/decor business and sharing store space.
The pair first joined forces at Aggregate Supply, and later moved down the street to their current space on Valencia. "We continue in the same model of being a collaboration, acting as one," Jonathan observes. "It's the best of both worlds—two different partners speaking with one voice. I describe it as a place where good design and good product come together." In the current space, which they share under the name Acacia, Jonathan oversees skincare, bath accessories, and linens for the shop, while Lily handles home decor, decorative objects, and prints. The two also collaborate on a line of bags.
I describe it as a place where good design and good product come together. —Jonathan Plotzker
Acacia stocks items that are beautiful as well as functional, and almost everything in the shop is sourced locally— a fitting detail for a store that has 415 for a street number. ("I really wanted us to use that as part of our theme because it's all about local," Jonathan confesses, "but we already had the Acacia name and it was established.") The few exceptions to Acacia's pro-Bay Area policy are generally Japanese or Scandinavian products that can't be sourced locally. For example, Jonathan imports konjaku sponges from Japan, because "no one's growing konjac here in the Bay Area."
Whatever strikes your fancy inside Acacia —whether it's olive oil soap made in San Francisco or a sleek porcelain object made in Japan— it's something that was painstakingly selected. "I want to find things that people will want to keep and use for a long time," Lily explains. "Even though an object might have a very banal purpose, there's no reason it can't be beautiful. In my mind, everything has to hold its own in the store, down to the smallest spoon."