Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – When Arcata Exchange announced its closure in September, disbelief and tears gave way to speculation about what would replace it at arguably the best retail spot in Arcata, if not the entire county – the large showroom at Eighth and H streets. No one wanted an empty storefront on the Plaza, and some worried about another cannabis-related shop going in.
Now, those concerned with the Plaza’s well-being can rest easy, as the replacement store isn’t just perfect for the site, it’s groovy – eco-groovy.
Jayce Walker’s Eco-Groovy Deals will open there Feb. 1.
Walker’s journey began as a corporate employee who left her job during the Great Recession. “What do you really want to do?” asked the corporate headhunter she'd hired to help find a new job. “Open a second-hand store” was her reply.
The road to that dream led through a grueling period as a debt-wracked waitress holding down two jobs and in danger of losing her home.
It was spring of 2009 when the deeply entrepreneurial and endeavoring Walker opened her initial Eco-Groovy Deals shop in the old blue gray house (which she later painted lime green) on the rough-and-tumble south side of Samoa Boulevard. There, she started carving out a niche in Arcata’s thrift store firmament, developing its distinctive identity and environmentally responsible backstory.
She credits landlady Lisa Slack with giving her easy terms on which to get started. “She gave me that hand up,” Walker said.
Walker kept Eco-Groovy going there for five years until learning of ADA accessibility issues that that would’ve cost $60,000 to upgrade.
Nevertheless, she persisted, moving over to Westwood Center. There she found another generous landlord, Pat Murphy, who cleaned, carpeted and totally renovated the spot for her. “He really went above and beyond what any landlord would do to make it work for us,” Walker said.
For five years, she operated two shops there – a main store and small boutique for women and children. Eventually, the Humboldt Outfitters spot on the Plaza’s east side – another Slack property – became available and in May, Walker moved her operation in. Most of it anyway – for space reasons, the furniture store remained in Westwood.
“I was hoping for a better summer business [on the Plaza],” Walker said. “But our sales exploded, beyond my hope.”
Five months after her initial move to the Plaza, the Arcata Exchange spot opened up. On hearing the news, Walker thought, “Boy, that would be cool.” But she didn’t want to torment herself with impossible dreams.
Then she got a text from building owner Kristine Long asking if she was interested. Long had surveyed the Plaza for possible new tenants and, Walker said, was impressed with how organized her shop was.
The two talked, and in “a wonderful synchronicity of luck,” Walker saw the showroom above and the warehouse below as a complete solution for combining her two far-flung stores. “As soon as I thought about what it would be like to have it all together, the light bulb went on.”
All the effort culminated in Eco-Groovy Deals being named the Arcata Chamber of Commerce's 2019 Business of the Year, as decided by the City of Arcata’s Economic Development Committee and the City Council.
The store's Mission Statement includes three elements: landfill reduction, creation of local jobs and service to the community. Walker estimates that she reduces local landfill by 1.5 million pounds annually by helping local non profit thrift stores to save landfill costs by providing free textile recycling services for unsellable items.
“I am committed to figure out ways to create more jobs and serve the community while reducing landfill,” Walker said. She is driven “to pay close attention to economics, so that I can build a strong local recycling operation with a continuing legacy that truly serves the Greater Good.”
With the move across the Plaza imminent, the G Street shop is holding a "Fire on the Plaza! Inventory Clearance Sale!" with items in stock 30 to 50 percent off at the G Street store. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; open Fridays and Saturdays until 6 p.m. (707) 822-3015, ecogroovydeals.com