Diversity, expert touch is the key to its success
I can mend anything,” says Patricia Moore. She holds a small weaving into the light streaming through a door behind her. The weaving is old, from Thailand. Moore is the proprietress of Rivendell, a store and gallery that spills onto an artful patio in front of the Santa Cruz Art Center at 1001 Center St. Her back door opens onto Squid Row, the colorful alley in Downtown Santa Cruz where, in the 164-year old Enterprise Iron Works building, Moore and her business partner, Wayne Brennan, established Rivendell more than 18 years ago.
Rivendell is a destination for collectors and lovers of textiles, teas and cultural artifacts from around the world.
For years, Moore was the largest recycled clothing dealer in Santa Cruz County. Her clothing was impeccably clean and expertly restored. She also sold designer clothes from the San Francisco garment district. Growing up in high-tone La Cañada might have contributed to her taste, but Moore recalls her family’s later stay in Pennsylvania, “My mother shopped for me in the best stores she could, on a budget.”
Married out of grad school, Moore and her new baby moved for her husband’s work to San Luis Obispo, and then the couple parted. For a single mother with a toddler, “there were no jobs on the Nipomo Mesa,” she says.
“A counselor asked me what resources I had,” she says. “I had a source for Marimekko fabrics.” She also knew where to find high quality, affordable crafts in Baja. “He actually drove me to Baja, and I bought gift goods for Christmas.” She opened a store in the old Mercantile Building in Arroyo Grande and sold local and Mexican crafts, used clothing, books and notecards that she produced through her own publishing company. “I’d travel up and down California and Mexico to find crafts for my Christmas shows.” But Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant fired up literally at her doorstep, so she moved with her son and new partner to Santa Cruz County.
The couple bought, remodeled and restored derelict properties and rented them out at affordable prices. After almost five years and many projects, they parted—and Moore, with business partner Brennan, opened the store on Squid Row.
“We opened with little furnishings we’d picked up at flea markets, and recycled clothing I’d restored. Wayne did men’s—he has great taste in men’s haberdashery. I had a box of textiles. Within three weeks every dealer in town was coming in weekly and cleaning out the store. I raised my prices a little.”
Rivendell gradually expanded into larger quarters as space became available. Brennan sold rare and healing teas. Their broadening clientele brought them increasingly higher-level goods, especially textiles.
“I don’t travel and shop,” Moore says. “You can’t buy much of this work abroad anymore, not for such prices. I have three sources: my customers … colleagues who now live elsewhere … and ‘pickers,’ professional shoppers at flea markets and yard sales who search for an ethnic orientation when they look for me.
“The things I love have a certain appearance that is rich and hand-made. Wayne’s tea business is connected with quality and healing. I have a wonderful and varied clientele who like the same kind of things. I love my work.”
Rivendell, in its new location, focuses on textiles, tea, ethnic clothing, jewelry, furnishings and changing exhibitions of local artists.