~ By Crystal Chow; photos by Thu Ly.
First-time shop owner Alicia Takahara has a secret weapon for luring customers into her side-street business in Mountain View: scented candles. Passers-by are led in literally by the nose, attracted by the heady fragrance of Aloha Orchid that wafts out whenever the door opens. More often than not, they’re delighted at what they find inside Villa Rouge — home décor, furniture, gifts, jewelry and accessories. It’s a rare kind of business for this downtown, which is far better known for a vibrant restaurant scene.
Takahara spent 17 years at a flooring contracting company, learning the ins and outs of interior design by working with clients such as Shapell Homes and Shea Homes. By the time she left, she had risen to the post of vice president of purchasing. Various subsequent jobs, including her own design company, paid the bills but never obscured her dream:
“I always, always wanted my own store,’’ she says. Last year, all the pieces suddenly fell into place, and Villa Rouge — so named because “it’s located on Villa Street, villa means home and I love the color red’’ — was born.
Full interior design service is available; clients can take inspiration from the stylish “vignettes’’ Takahara arranges around the 750-square-foot space. She can do any style, from Tuscany to eclectic.
“A conceptual designer is what I am,’’ she declares. “I embrace that.” She also knows how to work well with contractors, and boasts a “huge resource group’’ to tap into for, say, cabinet-making and flooring.
Scarcely six months after the store’s debut, its novice proprietor already has gained a small but growing group of loyal customers. “I wasn’t sure what people would want to buy at first,’’ she says, “but jewelry, candles and even the furniture pieces have been moving well. I try to find a price point for people to afford. I know as a shopper I like a great value, and I know how to shop [for merchandise], so I just pass on the savings to customers so they keep coming back.”
714 Villa Street, Mountain View
Category: Shop Talk