A few months back while visiting San Francisco I met up with Tellason founders Tony Patella and Pete Searson. I’ve known those guys since 2009 when I first interviewed them for ACL and over the course of a few years we’ve become friends. As Tony and Pete are good guys who know a lot about what’s going on, I do my best to connect with them whenever I visit the Bay Area. When we met up for breakfast we spoke about Oakland amongst other things, and I told Pete and Tony how I have been hearing a lot about the city and how I was keen to check it out. They suggested a few places that they thought were interesting and I made a plan to spend the day out in the East Bay. We finished up our coffee and right before I was about to depart Pete mentioned a new shop out in his hometown of Mill Valley. “Oh yeah, you’re going to love this place.” Pete said. After checking things out in Oakland for most of the day I headed for my last stop of the day in Marin. And that’s the story of how I discovered something new in Mill Valley and how I came to love the Guideboat Company.
Inspired by a childhood in the Adirondacks, Stephen Gordon founded Guideboat Co. to be an amazing collection of well-made and long lasting things loosely organized around collection of boats and a nautical theme. The beautiful new store occupies a historic old saw mill which helped give this affluent North Bay town it’s name. It’s the perfect use for the long mothballed site that many in Mill Valley had worried would not be preserved. While it could certainly be considered off the beaten path for a flagship store, Guideboat is an enthralling retail showcase for this ambitious new endeavor. Though this isn’t the first retail launch for Gordon. Way back in 1979 he founded another little company you may know called Restoration Hardware. Guideboat’s other founder Chad Hurley is also no stranger to success himself, having co-founded YouTube. After spending a few hours in the shop in Mill Valley, I’d say these serial entrepreneurs are on to something.
Taking inspiration from the boats, camps and sights of the Adirondacks, Guideboat draws its inspiration from that days Gordon’s youth.
“Growing up in the Adirondacks, many of Stephen Gordon’s fondest memories are of early morning rows on Lake Champlain and of 19th century Guideboats on the waters of the Upper St Regis and Loon Lakes. Acquiring a rare 1892 J.H. Rushton Guideboat a few years back he became intrigued with the idea of helping others create similar memories, young and old alike plying the waters. Gordon decided to build a new Guideboat, an identical Rushton hull design, an affordable rendition, American cherry trimmed, bronze fittings, hand made.”
The Mill Valley shop is a great expression for what Guideboat is all about. It’s the first of what I understand will be several retail stores, with an important catalog and online counterpart. When you walk into the old mill you can’t help but to be drawn to the incredible the boats. They are stunning pieces which should prove irresistible to anyone with a beating heart and access to any available patch of open water.The shop also offers a healthy component of menswear with an eye towards the classic and utilitarian qualities which so often show up on ACL. Stalwart brands like Steele Canvas, Red Wing Heritage, Pointer Brand, Billykirk, Sperry and of course Tellason. There’s also Guideboat’s own clothing, as well as knives, blankets, home goods and all sorts of other interesting and well-made things. You’ll find the best shoe polish, my favorite chapstick and all sorts of other tchotchkes that we can’t live without. The place is basically everything a guy like me is interested in, which explains why I was at Guideboat for nearly three hours that day. There’s really just too much concentrated goodness in one place for one to digest in a hurry. It’s definitely worth the drive from the city. Shit, it’s worth the trip from New York.
Here I was spending the day expecting to be dazzled by cool guy Oakland (here’s my verdict on Oakland: off to a start, but not ready for prime time) and then I end up finding Guideboat and being so very much being positively overwhelmed in Mill Valley, of all places.
In a back building there’s also a collection of vintage Adirondack boats that are part of Stephen Gordon’s private collection that are on display for all to see. It’s in this “Adirondack Room” where you can learn more about how these boats were built and used throughout the lakes of the region. It’s an impressive collection that’s sure to leave an impression. It also helps you appreciate Gordon’s passion for these boats and you better understand just what has inspired the Guideboat Company.