Pleasure Point’s Modern Life Home & Garden to Close After 33 Years

Online competition and a generational divide hit the furniture business

Jill Sollitto opened Modern Life Home & Garden to make people feel at home in their own space

Pleasure Point interior design store Modern Life Home and Garden will close this year, amid growing uncertainty about the future of the local market for traditional furniture stores.

The primary catalysts for the decision to shut down after 33 years in business: An expiring long-term lease, cost cutting among online competitors and a lack of new, younger customers.

“Some businesses have to shut down because they’re not profitable,” says Modern Life owner Jill Sollitto, who bought the store from its original owners in 2006. “I’m making a conscious decision not to invest back into the home furniture business, because I have no idea who my customer is going to be in 5-to-10 years.”

Sollitto’s lease is set to expire in the spring for the store at 925 41st Ave., which sells a range of designer furniture and home accessories. Likely facing a rent increase and wary of committing to spend some $500,000 over the life of a new five-year lease, she says the decision to close was made after months of consideration.

With a customer base “overwhelmingly” age 40 and up, Sollitto says millennials contending with unprecedented housing prices are often a tough sell on pricier furniture. Across age groups, the rise of online furniture businesses has also made one dreaded question much more common: “Can you match their price?”

“When that starts happening with 60-year-olds, it’s kind of game over,” Sollitto says. “I don’t want to cheapen my products.”

A transplant from the Hudson Valley region of New York who is also active with small business groups like Think Local First Santa Cruz, Sollitto says she hasn’t ruled out a future design business less reliant on a traditional retail model. She adds that a few Bay Area furniture businesses have expressed initial interest in taking the space over, and that the timing for bowing out aligned well with several of her five employees’ plans to retire.

Modern Life will begin its farewell with an invite-only sale starting soon, followed by a public sale starting around Labor Day.

Sollitto says her initial desire to get into the furniture business was driven by a love of design, which prompted her to take over the store when its original owners retired.

“I’m glad I did,” she says. “It’s been a great 12 years.”

Update: Aug. 22, 3:05 p.m. – This story previously misstated the length of Modern Life’s new prospective lease.

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Lauren Hepler is the managing editor of Good Times and a reporter covering cities, jobs and housing—plus the occasional sports or agriculture story required of all Ohio natives. She has contributed to the New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC and Slate. Lauren was previously on staff at the Silicon Valley Business Journal and is a graduate of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism.

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