Cult Shop: consciously sourced cool in California wine country
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I’m not into throwaway culture,” says artist, potter and sculptor Richard Carter. “People increasingly want things that are handmade, environmentally sensitive and can’t be found elsewhere. They also want to meet the makers and hear their stories.” After seeing empty storefronts in the Napa Valley town of St Helena, he put his beliefs into practice and in May 2019 opened Carter and Co, a lifestyle store selling artisanal homeware, sustainable fashion and locally sourced produce. Carter set about a meticulous restoration of a 19th-century store – which had been first a butcher’s, then a tailor’s and later an antiques shop. “I felt its soul and history immediately,” says Carter of the now soaring, light-filled space with its white plastered walls, waxed fir floors and wooden dressmaker’s shelves.
Many of the original store features are used to display items. The wide-ranging book selection is showcased in a restored meat locker; magnificent sculptural bowls ($2,000) and crystalline cloches ($2,600) by architect and glassblower Joshua Parke sit atop a zinc-topped wooden worktable; and rare copper pots and handcrafted knives are on an original butcher’s block.
The store is particularly celebrated for its varied selection of dishware, which is inspired by designs created by Carter and artists-in-residence at his studio on his 85-acre ranch in nearby Pope Valley, and fired in the estate’s Japanese wood-burning kilns. Much sought after is the “dirty” porcelain that “contains iron and is more textural”, made in collaboration with the nearby three-Michelin-starred Meadowood restaurant; especially beautiful is the Shed line of ceramics ($38-$195) fired in a salt kiln to give them an ethereal, mottled green veneer.
Carter’s time spent as a chef at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, three-Michelin-starred as well, has also nurtured a special interest in top-quality culinary implements (“I love caring for good tools – especially if there’s a backstory involved”), and the array here includes hand-forged Swedish axes by Gransfors Bruk ($153), Tetu cast iron kettles ($615) and chopsticks ($10). The most striking piece is a spectacular carbon steel fire pit ($9,000) that Carter designed at the ranch during lockdown. Foodie highlights, meanwhile, include locally produced honey and olive oil.
But it’s not all practical housewares. Clothing includes hand-sewn deerskin jackets in tan, gold and chocolate by nearby Marin-based Susan Kim ($1,500-$1,700), while decorative objects include Japanese hollow taper candles ($28) and Breu resin incense ($18). To keep things feeling fresh, Carter also hosts regular pop-ups (most recently with ethical-clothing brand Dosa).
“We felt like we could do retail better,” he concludes. “I keep the place spare and change it often. People come to discover niche things that are sustainable and made with love.”