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Baker Street Downtown to Close in Napa: Owner Blames Rent Hike

Brenda Roberts, owner of Baker Street Downtown and president of the Napa Downtown Association, announces that after 26 years in business in Napa, she is "being forced out of business" by new landlord Michael L. Holcomb.

The owner of a prominent downtown Napa gift and cigar shop is fuming over what she says is a nearly fourfold rent increase that will force her to close her doors by early next year.

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Brenda Roberts, proprietor of and president of the , issued an email statement Friday saying she is "being forced out of business" by new landlord Michael L. Holcomb.

"He has informed me of his intentions to raise the rent almost 4 times what I’m paying now and plans to bump out the front of the store to be even with so he can  charge for the extra square footage. This  would eliminate our clients' favorite cigar smoking and socialization area that has become such a part of the culture of downtown Napa,” Roberts wrote.

She has operated the shop at various locations since 1986, said Roberts, explaining that the Baker Street name refers to the London address of fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

"Baker Street Downtown moved to downtown Napa in 2001 after a similar situation happened with their St. Helena location, Baker Street Tobacconist, Clocks and Gifts," she wrote. "The original store, on Jefferson Street next to Burger King, was eventually consolidated into the downtown location," she continued.

"Downtown Napa is moving in a very positive direction, but retail rents like Holcomb is talking about are not conceivable for small businesses to be successful for at least another four years, with the changes that are currently planned," Roberts wrote.

Roberts reported that she and her staff will continue with their popular monthly  events along with inventory clearance sales.

"Everything down to the fixtures will eventually have to go… My pain is going to be their gain,” Roberts wrote.

She said she is "leaving the door open" for another downtown location, but so far has found nothing.

“ I would rather go out not owing money to anyone instead of being bankrupted by rent," Roberts wrote.

"Frankly it is all about our great clients, friends and my staff. It has been a blast being here for them. We’ve had a lot of fun! But it breaks my heart that I will no longer be a part of downtown Napa by early next year. I’ve been doing this for more than half my life!”

Renee Cazares August 18, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I read about this Baker Street closing with sadness because Brenda has been such a great advocate of small businesses in downtown Napa. I also enjoyed her store. My mind started brainstorming ideas for her finding a new location downtown, but really it is not easy. There are a lot of vacancies, that is true, but that does not mean that they are necessarily available. Some of the vacancies may be sitting, because the landlord is possibly waiting for that big ticket business. Also, given that Baker Street is also a smoke shop, the space would have to accomadate an outdoor patio for her patrons. Small business owners like myself realize how lucky we are to have a space downtown, it really is very hard to come by, even with so many empty store fronts! Anyway, good luck Brenda in your future adventures, and thank you for being a part of downtown as long as you were! We will miss you. Renee M. Cazares
Karen Lucia August 18, 2012 at 05:24 PM
my two cents worth for what it matters- Baker Street is a well established business for over 20 years and I am sure Brenda has a well established client base that will follow here where ever she ends up. Michael Holcomb is a fantastic business man, family man and when buildings get bought and sold, its only a natural progression to look at the "market rate" potential and make adjustments. China Light, Bakers, probably had at least 10 year commercial terms on their leases, and I am sure they enjoyed the "low rent" wave as long as they can and will ride it, I would do the same, and I am a small business owner "Grapeleaf Graphics" on Jefferson Street currently facing a decision whether to regonitiate my lease that is up in November, or move to downtown and pay a premium for "Well Exposed" commercial space. I'd love to move my business there and will be looking at that possibility myself. If you are good merchants, if you treat your clients well...that same famous line from Field of Dreams come to mind..."If you build it, they will come". Brenda will be followed wherever she goes because she took care of her clients needs. Michael Holcomb is just being a smart business man, and he deserves some respect for taking the initiative an actually buying a piece of history that he can leave a piece of history to his family one day. I respect that- give him a break, and for Starbucks, for that matter, it will only bring more business and will not hurt Napa Roasting Co, just enhance it.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 18, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Great to hear from the merchants on this thread. Renee, I saw Mimi today and she is hatching a really cool idea to get the community involved in shopping downtown. And Karen, any further thoughts on starting a Napa Ca$h Mob? Because more stores are closing: Neff's, and we noticed today that Savoy Nails on First Street has been emptied.
Renee Cazares August 18, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Not all landlords in downtown charge premium.. some rents are at competive prices Karen so you may find something reasonable, and when I say competitive, I mean aprroximately $2.50 to $3.00 a square foot or so. I am not sure what other areas charge in Napa. I know the rents are about $5.00 a square foot on Union Street, in San Francisco, so what downtown average prices have been make sense, given we are not yet in the caliber of San Francisco's main hip shopping district. My opinion on Starbucks, since this has been brought into the dialogue, is that it won't hurt the Napa Roasting Company because they have very loyal support, and Starbucks may be the one vying for the business. Not all starbucks are successful in other words. The Community is standing strong by the Napa Roasting Company and from my experience as a business owner, not a landlord in this case, is customers in Napa are very loyal.
Renee Cazares August 18, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Yes, I saw Mimi too today, she caught me outside while I was washing my windows! She and I have fun together being neighbors!!! Yeah, we talked about advertising too; lots of great ideas! :)
Renee Cazares August 18, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Also one more note on Starbucks downtown, once they are open and running I do wish them well, their nitch may be diffrent than The Napa Roasting Company and downtown Napa has a way of finding room for all.
Catherine George August 18, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I find it genuinely odd that there seems to be a sort of a knee-jerk reaction to just the idea of an ordinance, one which jumps to the conclusion that an ordinance would somehow take away rights from a business owner. What about the rights of the community? How is it perfectly fine for private developers have ALL of the rights? This idea is truly out of balance. I've been hearing complaints for years from locals that we feel we are not being heard, in so many ways, and for so long, and we want input. And rightly so. We lose any chance of that if we allow developers all impunity. An ordinance puts reasonable restraints in place, to ensure that the local community has a voice, and that our downtown reflects that. This does not take rights away from property owners, but puts reasonable responsibility into place, so that they can't ruin our downtown with no impediments. Also, just for clarification: the empty storefronts were empty because Altamura Enterprizes asked for potential tenants to provide the money to renovate and bring spaces up to code, asked too high a rate, and offered short term leases, all of which basically killed chances of leasing. Now that the properties have finally changed hands, the stores are empty most likely due to planned renovations. Please don't continue to make the mistake of assuming that the empty stores reflect the real economy of downtown. Although, because they were empty for so long, it did create an artificial catch-22 situation.
Karen Lucia August 18, 2012 at 09:11 PM
I love Napa Patch! Thanks Louisa! The CA$H MOB, page is on hold due to recent bad press about a Cash Mob Scam in the bay area- Merchants were taken advantage of by a big group that thought it would be an easy trick to get a Cash Mob together and overwhelm a merchant with folks, and while all of the hoopala was going on, The Merchant was *CASH ROBBED* by creating this diversion. So sad that something that can be so beneficial to get some momentum and infuse local money into a merchants business, ends up hurting for other local merchants that this could truly help. I also have started another project that is not geared just to downtown Merchants but to all NAPA merchants in the area, it will be called "Shop Local Napa". It's offering discounts from Napa Merchants that participate to local Napans to register on the website "shoplocalnapa.org" . Then Napa residents who register will be sent a special Shop Local Napa card to get discounts if they shop "locally" . Napa residents will not have to pay for this card because it will be paid by the participating merchants that sign up, and rather than having to prove your residence to get discounts, you just flash your card or mention that you saw it on Shop Local Napa page or website. It's still in the works but you can like our facebook page and also find out more information by going to the website www.shoplocalnapa.org.
MICHAEL WILSON "Republican Kid" August 19, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Wrong area for a local business
Catherine George August 19, 2012 at 05:31 AM
Hmmm... no, but you're certainly entitled to your opinion. It would be better if you and I had real numbers to work with of course, but my guess is that a 4 fold increase is beyond what's actually needed. In any case, until we have real numbers, we're just spinning our wheels here on the points you just made. My point still stands though. Whether or not you choose to interpret it as emotional or not, I refer you again to existing ordinances, their purpose, and their affects.
MICHAEL WILSON "Republican Kid" August 19, 2012 at 07:41 AM
Thanks Glad to be
rusty sweeden August 19, 2012 at 08:01 PM
i dont understand why he raised the rent if it was me i would just keep it the same our buget real messed up however i am so sorry to see them go
Alex Shantz August 19, 2012 at 08:25 PM
We frankly need rent control for commercial spaces. Rent control for residential spaces exist, why not commercial spaces? What is happening to Baker Street is absolutely ridiculous. And while I sympathize with Brenda, this is exactly the type of thing Napa Local was trying to prevent. And, instead of supporting Napa Local and engaging the community in an enlightened discourse, she took the side of property owners and developers through the Napa Downtown Association. Corporate chains make rents go up. An ordinance which gives the citizens of Napa democratic control over which corporate chains can and cannot open could limit the number of corporate chains allowed in and prevent rent from skyrocketing. Its one way of addressing this problem.
Ed Rapp August 21, 2012 at 06:41 PM
And now we've learned that Starbucks going in at First and Main are planning to install a Wine Bar..Kids, Coffee, and Alcohol??? Was this in the plan? I've checked with building and health. There is no mention of a Wine Bar in original plans...Hello...Is anyone paying attention to this????
Ash Leigh August 21, 2012 at 09:02 PM
A gelato shop was to go in the location of the nail shop at one point. I met with the owner, back in May, a few times to go over a few projects. When I followed up, I was getting the, "trying to finalize with the landlord" - then emails weren't getting returned. I just figured it didn't go through. :(
Ash Leigh August 21, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Where did you, "learn" that from?
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 21, 2012 at 11:52 PM
That could be the ultimate Napa speedball: Coffee and wine. Ed, do your sources know yet how late in the day the coming 'bucks will stay open?
Brenda Roberts August 22, 2012 at 06:32 AM
Thank you Renee! Brenda
Brenda Roberts August 22, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Check out the350project.net , this makes the most sense, join it, post it, live by it. I'm a member. Also if each business runs their own rewards program for repeat shoppers... much simpler. Local merchants shouldn't have to discount just to encourage local shoppers... as you said, you have to take care of your clients - then they'll return - price is not always the decider, being available when the customer is also very important, which in our case means being open evenings. Brenda
Ed Rapp August 22, 2012 at 05:04 PM
I also am not a smoker, nor have I ever patronized this business. However I too feel as others and have followed stories about Brenda and downtown..Brenda Roberts has been a vital contributor to Napa to BOTH local and tourists. A prime A number one example of a great Napa Citizen and Business owner. While yes, as stated above a property owner does have a right to do with their holding what they wish and to make money..I don't take that away from anyone. However, again, how about a little return loyalty to those that have been loyal to the community and have stuck it out through all the termoil with economy and bad judgement about downtown Napa development and/or the lack there of..Mr Holmes may be the new owner and have no tie to this business other than collecting lease $$$..But how about a little respect and humanity..Thank you Brenda, for all you have done for us over the years. And yes, what about the little Chinese Restraunt next door that has been there for 23 years, and they took over from owners that were there for 25 years before them. Almost 50 years of serving downtown Napa..Does that not count for something these days..Loyalty and respect used to mean something...Have landlords tossed this aside? We respect Mr Holmes right to make a profit. But maybe some humanitarianism can be tossed in the works???? Probably not but it's worth a try...
Ed Rapp August 22, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Some good thoughts but also not all the issues are being brought to public awareness. Did you know that Starbucks has applied now for a Wine Bar License to go in the Starbucks where kids will be sitting, socializing, "hanging out", etc..What are your thoughts on Mr Holcomb's sneaky attempt on this issue..Why wasn't this put forth in the original Starbucks' permit application with both the City and the County Environmental Health..NO ONE in either department knew about this on the front end. It has surprised them all. Nobody saw this coming...I'll bet anyone $100 straight up that this was the plan all along..Alot of things about Mr Holcomb's practices have not been upfront and above board..
Ed Rapp August 22, 2012 at 05:12 PM
@Louisa..Napa Register Articles have stated Starbucks' plans to be open until 10 pm downtown..
Ed Rapp August 22, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Notice that Model Bakery at Oxbox started opening at 6:30 am for about a month now.
Ed Rapp August 22, 2012 at 07:34 PM
@Lorie...Imagine fake ID's and kids sneaking booze into a Starbucks...We have enough Wine Bars in downtown....Bad enough Starbucks(which I do patronize, they have amazing products) going in downtown Napa where plenty of Coffee options already exist..I'm all for free enterprise, improving quality of choice, making a profit(it's what we all live to do), etc, etc..sometimes though, there just has to be common sense. That is completely lacking in this whole process on this corner..
Ash Leigh August 22, 2012 at 08:17 PM
I still haven't read anywhere, or heard from any other source, that the new Starbucks will be serving wine. I've even searched online yesterday, seeing what may pop up - nothing.
Ed Rapp August 22, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Esiuol....Call City Planning and/or Dept that handles County Food Health permits..I'm sure Holcomb is trying to keep this hush hush but it is in the works, guaranteed..
Ed Rapp August 22, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Esiuol..I've been told plans have been submitted to City Planning for Alcohol..They MUST by law tell anyone that inquires..Call them..
Ash Leigh August 22, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Ed, I have tried to call the city on different matters. All you ever get, is a voice mail to leave a message that is rarely even returned. It's not that serious. Just the way you come across, to me anyways, it's a rumor being spat out to stir up some pots.
Renee Cazares August 22, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Ed, these things can never be a secret and the Alcohol Bureau Contol mandates that all businesses serving Wine post a notice on their windows. Once Starbucks is approved then this will happen, just like any business seeking to serve alcohol. :) It is a very clear process in other words, as far as the public will be informed no matter what.
Louisa Hufstader (Editor) August 23, 2012 at 02:25 AM
You know where there definitely will be wine served? The upcoming Cinemark 12-screen movie theater in south Napa, according to the business folks I met with today. They too need to get their permit when the opening day (11/9) draws nearer. But the plan is to have wine and charcuterie along with soft drinks, popcorn, candy and chicken tenders.

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