What does it take to proclaim a tiny town a destination? An acclaimed restaurant? A chic artisanal collective? A dreamy vintage store?
If the answer is all of the above, Olema, the blink-and-you-miss-it spot on the junction of Highway 1 and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, is on the right track. It already has the Shop, an eclectic mercantile filled with designer home goods and gifts; Sir and Star, a foodie destination in its own right; and now North South East West, a unique vintage store well worth a trip to the coast.
Owner Jennifer Jones grew up in the Sierra foothills and currently lives in Bolinas. “I was working from home, and really beginning to feel like a shut-in,” Jones says, “spending days in my pajamas and drinking milk out of the carton, like the Dude from
The Big Lebowski. So I decided to try to find an office space or studio.”
When a storefront in Olema became available, Jones decided to go for it, and use it as a writing space and shop. The setup seems natural as soon as you set foot in the store. The inviting room has high ceilings, soft sunlight and an ambiance that is both urban and pastoral. Jones’ work desk fits right in with racks of carefully curated vintage clothing, plants in crocheted hangers, shelves of pottery and indigo paintings by Fairfax artist Carrie Crawford.
“I think fast fashion is appalling for the environment, and maybe 1 percent of my wardrobe I buy new,” Jones says. “I only want to wear natural fiber, clothes that were built to last through years of washing. Plus, I like the history of things. I was a history major in college, so I nerd out knowing why things exist and where they came from.”
The clothes, everything from J Brand jeans to embroidered Indonesian dresses and chunky librarian-style cardigans, came to Olema from all over. Jones loves traveling the West and scoring finds.
Along with clothes and shoes, North South East West sells pottery, jewelry and artwork by Edition Local, a Northern California alliance of craftsmen, artists and entrepreneurs from Sonoma and Marin counties. An artful almanac issued by the neighboring town of Inverness is also on sale. This serves as a reminder that tiny Olema is a blossoming part of a larger coastal community, as well as a dropped pin on a well-toured map.
“I think Olema is possibly the coolest one-stoplight town in America,” says Jones. To ensure her store stays local-friendly, she keeps prices reasonable and out of “the tourist price range”—though tourists are certainly a nice addition, she says.
North South East West, 9940-A Hwy. 1, Olema. 844.452.4552.