El Dorado Hills had its share of early morning Black Friday retail antics but in Montano d’ El Dorado, the tasteful retail center at the southeast corner of Latrobe and White Rock roads, a much quieter Black Friday story unfolded — the long-awaited opening of the Pottery World store.
Pottery magnate Jim Rodda’s decision to open a second store in Montano’s two-story stone and glass centerpiece was in part due to the economy. The space was designed to be a high-end restaurant, but none bit in the current recession.
Rodda, a part owner in Montano, decided to put the space to good use. Early on, he hesitated on the site because of the logistics of his bulky furniture, huge pots and heavy fountains, in a two story location with no loading dock.
The flagship Rocklin Pottery World store is a whopping 33,000 square feet, and also has a warehouse nearby. The Montano store is half that size, with no back room and a warehouse that’s across the river rather than across the street.
Rodda’s son, Bill, and daughter, Ann Garrett, were on hand greeting customers Friday.
Bill called the El Dorado Hills store “smaller and more intimate” than Rocklin, but with a similar focus.
He stood out front Friday morning gregariously welcoming customers, many of which awaited the opening. The original target opening date was in July.
“We’ve been waiting for you,” said one eager Black Friday shopper who detoured on her way to Peet’s Coffee to see the new store. “What took so long?”
A few eager customers even pushed their way in early. “We sold three fountains and a pot before the store opened,” said Bill.
Most of the delay was spent turning the store in a Pottery World. “We were staining concrete and adding walls fairly late in the process,” he said. “We put a waterfall in the back… It all went smooth but it took more time than we thought.”
ADA-compliance issues also cropped up at the last minute, he said.
In their defense, the family-owned and operated enterprise doesn’t open new stores very often. The Montano store is only their third. An earlier attempt to expand on Auburn Boulevard failed when the neighborhood went south. “We couldn’t compete with the strippers,” said Bill.
Garrett greeted customers on the second level, where a dramatic 360-degree view of the hills and the valley showcases Pottery World’s home furnishings.
She called the Montano store a “mini version” of the flagship 33,000 square foot Rocklin store. “Hopefully we can be a success here, and even drive some traffic to the main store.”
Based on comments from many of the first customers, El Dorado Hills might cannibalize sales in the Rocklin Pottery World. “I don’t have to drive all the way to Roseville,” said one geographically challenged customer on her way in.
The family wasn’t sure they’d be able to pull off the Black Friday opening until earlier last week. They didn’t work on Thanksgiving, but put in a solid 12 hours Wednesday.
Promotion for the “grand opening” consisted of a couple hastily made up vinyl signs and an e-mail blast to their customers.
The resulting opening day turnout was light but devoted.
Jean Jubb of El Dorado Hills brought her daughter-in-law and two other family members who were visiting from Mission Viejo. She only knew about the opening because, “Every time my girlfriend and I come over for coffee I grab one of the workers and ask them when it’s opening,” she said. “This is one of my very favorite stores.”
Twenty minutes later she was upstairs buying pre-lit holiday garland from Garrett.
“We’ve got some Christmas looks here that aren’t in Rocklin,” said Garrett. “And vice versa. We’re always experimenting.”
As the visual merchandiser, Garrett is responsible for the “Pottery World look.” She also handles some of the buying.
When the family decided to expand the product line beyond their mainstay patio pottery and furniture Garrett took the lead in bringing first jewelry, then coats and finally apparel, all in an attempt to make the store more “gifty,” she said.
With much of the floor space dominated by large fountains and furniture, each a potential once-a-lifetime purchase, she set out to find products like Judd’s garland that might be more of a gift or even impulse purchase. “Now you can come to the store and leave with something,” she said.
The entrance features a giant Christmas tree beneath soaring arches. Massive windows fill the high ceilings with light, creating an openness that’s rare in today’s overcrowded retail atmosphere.
“This place feels good,” said Bill. “It’s cozy.”
Traffic stopping niches are tucked into the structure’s few solid walls. On the second floor, a large fireplace burns in the corner.
“What separates this store from any store I’ve ever seen is the majestic views of El Dorado Hills,” said Bill Rodda.
The store’s 4,000 square feet of outdoor retail space house Pottery World’s trademark water features, including more than 1,000 fountains plus patio furniture.
The back patios wrap around and under the site’s signature hilltop oak, known affectionately as the “million dollar tree” due to the cost of building around it.
“We put a lot of hard work into this place,” said Garrett. “As a family, we put a lot of pride in this. It’ll probably take a little time to work out the kinks but we’ll make it work.”
She said she hopes to see some sort of café or food establishment on the second floor. “The Café in our Rocklin store is really popular,” she said. “We want to make better use of the deck.”
The store is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, and can be reached at (916) 358-8788.