With Manufacturing in San Rafael, EO Products Readies Downtown Mill Valley Store Opening

With a grand opening party set for Nov. 10, organic personal care products maker, which just moved its manufacturing facility from Corte Madera to San Rafael, looks to reconnect with the community where it started.

In the more than 10 months since EO Products announced it was opening a retail shop in downtown Mill Valley, company co-founder Susan Griffin Black has received countless inquiries about when the doors would finally open on the store at 84 Throckmorton Avenue.

That answer has finally arrived, as the organic personal care products maker has set a sneak-peak opening for Nov. 6 and a grand opening community celebration Nov. 10 for EO Exchange, its first-ever retail shop.

For those wondering about the cause of EO’s delays over the past 10 months, the company has a pretty darn good excuse. Before it could move forward on plans to open its retail shop, it had to focus on where it was going to make the products sold there.

In early 2011, EO was informed that its lease for the 22,000-square-foot space at 15A Koch Rd. in Corte Madera was being terminated to make way for neighbor Restoration Hardware, the home furnishings giant. The company set out on a quest to find a new manufacturing facility that could accommodate its steady growth, and admittedly had a wandering eye for the tax incentive-laden pastures of the East Bay.

But the lure of staying in Marin was too strong, Griffin-Black said, particularly because she lives in Mill Valley, co-founder Brad Black lives in San Francisco and many of their 40 employees live in the North Bay as well.

“We very badly wanted to stay in Marin,” Griffin-Black said.

EO officials eventually found a 44,000-square-foot space that was the former home of an Industrial Light & Magic sound stage, signing a 10-year lease for at 90 Windward Way in San Rafael. The space had been vacant since the 2011 demise of ILM spinoff Kerner Optical. The company completed the move into the space on Oct. 1.

“It took a bit of extra time but it was well worth it,” Griffin-Black said. “The coordination was a bit extraordinary. That took time and energy away from the store. But it has all worked out really well.”

With the new manufacturing facility ramping up, EO is turning its attention to the tiny – just over 400 square feet – retail shop in the Kent building that contains Peet’s and Room Art Gallery.

Griffin-Black has emphasized the experimental nature of the space, specifically noting that new products will be tested there, as will a system by which customers can refill their products in a streamlined way.

“Bulk departments in stores now take up a lot of space and are not really productive from a revenue point of view,” Griffin-Black said. “We want to figure it out ourselves first and then see if we can take it on the road in other stores.”

The biggest driving force behind the EO Exchange store, however, is the company’s ability to connect with the community it has called home for most of its nearly 17-year history, Griffin-Black said.

“It’s a chance to really be connected with our core group of customers that we’ve had for years,” she said. “It’s a labor of love, really.”

The 411: EO Exchange at 84 Throckmorton Ave. is having a soft opening through in the first week of November, including a Lavender Day sneak-peak event on Nov. 6 and is holding a “Grand Opening Community Celebration” on Saturday, Nov. 10 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. The store’s regular hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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