160 EAST CALIFORNIA STREET
You need a gift for someone, but you’re not certain about that someone’s size or special interests. And if the giftee is male, your task is even harder.
Stumped? Seek inspiration at Pico’s, 160 East California Street, where co-owners Michael Richardson and Louise Lavergne have made a point of keeping the mix eclectic, as well as good for humanity, since the store—named for Michael’s dog at the time—opened in 2004.
“We sell eco-friendly/fair trade products across the spectrum,” Michael says. While most customers readily comprehend the eco-friendly aspects of the merchandise (like the popular E-Cloth products that allow you to skip using chemicals while cleaning everything from kitchen surfaces to your car), “fair trade” may be a less familiar concept. “It means that whoever made the product was paid a reasonable price for their labors, and worked under good conditions,” Michael explains. “When I first opened, I traveled the world looking for interesting products, and I can tell you, I saw horrific conditions in some places. That accelerated my interest in pursuing fair trade. I wouldn’t buy anything from people who exploited others. These days, there’s a Fair Trade Association, and most of the people we buy from belong to that.”
Pico’s eclectic nature is obvious from the moment you walk in. Sweet and spicy scents of myriad natural bath and body products greet you. You’ll find toddler toys made from sustainably harvested bamboo, and unusual school supplies: actual fountain pens with refillable cartridges, and curiously shaped crayons that are ergonomically correct for righties and lefties! Himalayan Salt Crystal Lamps and Mosaic accent lamps from Turkey cast an appealing glow. And jewelry from cultures that span the globe, including beaded bracelets and necklaces made by Maasai women in East Africa, catches the eye.
Clothing and accessories account for half of Pico’s sales: women’s pants, dresses, tunics, leggings, and yoga garb, and men’s brightly patterned shirts and tees, nearly all in natural fabrics. But Michael doesn’t count solely on those items to please his customers. “If we weren’t able to be eclectic, we wouldn’t be in business,” he says. “We want people to look at everything while they’re here, even if they only come in for a greeting card. We change the mix a lot, so they’ll see something different each time.”
As for the aforementioned male gifting problem: “I have items that keep the guys interested,” Michael says with a smile. Check out the shaving supplies; foldable potables canteens; or a stainless steel “Pocket Monkey” incorporating twelve functions, from a screwdriver and straight-edge, to five sizes of hex wrenches. And a line of “Big Ass Soaps” that claims to smell of Accomplishment, Naval Supremacy, and, of course, Victory.