On today’s shop stop we have our very first male host showing us his cozy cafe shop/gift store and talking with us about running a business. William LaMontagne, IT-specialist and his wife Dawn C. Kirker, interior designer, opened their café shop Hollow already 4 years ago, with the intention to give themselves and others an authentic place to take a seat, order a delicious latte, buy some original home gifts and relax for a minute from the busy daily routine. Placed in the upcoming neighborhood of Inner Sunset, this tiny but cozy and quite little green box offers best quality coffee like Ritual and delicious pastries. This is a kind of places you will probably keep for yourself or take only special friends to to enjoy it’s charm. And if you are on a hunt for scandinavian influenced goodies for cooking and entertaining, you should visit their new opend Dandy store, right next door. Come on in…
Your business is a charming mix of café and small housewares gift store. What led you to open such a combination?
William: I think it was largely a matter of making it a more viable business. Hollow’s location isn’t great, and there were already a number of cafes in the area, so we wanted something to make us stand out, and have an extra revenue stream.
Describe us the idea of your store? What is so unique about it?
William: The initial idea was that it would be a bit of a hidden gem, since the building was so tiny. I think what makes it unique is that my wife and I never really liked cafes very much. Most people open cafes because they love cafes, so they don’t tend to stray too far from the cafes with which they’re already familiar. We were more interested in making it the sort of place that we’d like to go to.
The housewares gifts at Hollow are very well selected. How do you find all the products?
William: That’s largely my wife’s doing. We like to experience new things, and we always keep our eyes open.
Why the name Hollow?
William: A hollow, in nature, is a place where little creatures go to hide away. We wanted Hollow to be a place where people could hide away from the bustle of the city. Plus it’s fun to say.
The space at Hallow is very teeny, but each corner is styled with love? Who did the great job on interior design?
William: My wife, Dawn, is an interior designer, and she is responsible for the overall vision. It’s not her usual style, but to her credit, she was able to give the place a cohesive look and feel that people seem to appreciate.
Beside the quality coffee you serve at Hollow, you also have delicious bakery goodies. Who is the baker?
William: We work with a number of small, local producers.
You just opened the store “Dandy” next door; tell us a bit more about it?
William: The initial idea was to have a studio for Dawn’s design work that was much more in line with her usual style. The Inner Sunset is an unusual place for a design studio, so we decided to have it also be a little store as well, to encourage people to check it out.
As every job, being a shop owner has also pro and con. What do you love most about your job? What’s not so great?
William: I love the people most of all. We’ve met a lot of amazing people over the years. When you build a place that’s true to your heart, then like-minded souls are attracted to that place, which is very satisfying. The voracious nature of the business isn’t so great. We’re both obsessive people, and both
work full-time as well as running these businesses, so it can be difficult to carve out time for ourselves.
Have you any advice for somebody who would like to open a store?
William: Make sure the store has heart and a viable business plan.
Can you describe us your day at the …morning…. noon…. evening?
William: We like things to be arranged, so we make sure in the morning everything is ready for the day. Cleaning things up, just make everything nice. Run daily errands, go get the milk, things like that, making sure everything is ready for the business. Sometimes on the weekend I help out in the café as a barista, but usually during the week I work downtown. In the evening we spent time at home or going out for dinner or meeting up with friends. You know.
William: The basic idea or what we are really hoping for is to have time to create more and having others to manage it. We are both creative people not necessarily managers. You cannot open the store and go away, there are thing to do. So we hope to be profitable enough to have someone doing it. We are slowly getting there. If that works out we are happy. In the long term we would probably love to open a restaurant some day.
Favorite coffee beans right now?
William: We love the seasonal beans from Rituals. They are SF based and they do a really nice job. They always take fresh beans, right now they are from Costa Rica.
Your top 3 destinations?
William: We love Hawaii, but we also want to travel Europe, like Ireland and Scandinavia. And Japan, my wife loves Japanese design.
Currently addicted to…?
William: Right now, the latest obsession is greek yogurt with blueberries. Can stop eating it.
Night owl or early bird?
William: I love being up at night. I get energized when the sun goes down. At that moment I really wake up. It’s not easy as I have to get up early, but I’m definitely a night owl.
Tell us some of your favorite SF spots?
William: I love Koo, that’s our favorite Japanese restaurant. We appreciate how they run the business. They are creative with the food and so friendly. Stern Groove for walks with our dogs. There are so many cool places here in the neighborhood.
Always in your bag…
William: I’m a obsessive stuff carrier, it drives my wife crazy. :) Usually I always have at least one book to read and at least one book to write in. I need to write my ideas down. There are also many random things like telescope for watching birds.
Thanks William for having me.