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Linda and Shaheen Sadeghi have made it their mission to fight the homogeneous retail environment.
After Shaheen left his job as president of Quiksilver, the couple opened The Lab, dubbed the anti-mall, an outdoor retail center filled with art, creative design and distinctive retailers in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Next came the environmentally-themed center The Camp, which tapped into green themes long before "reduce, reuse, recyle," became a common mantra.
Now, the couple is expanding their job descriptions from landlord to store owner with the newly opened Seed People's Market.
Seed is a 12,000-square-foot department store for products with a purpose at The Camp. The store carries everything from organic baby clothes to recycled note cards, luxury eco clothing to handmade baskets from Africa, handmade jewelry to kids toys from the National Parks, green and outdoor shoe brands to books and magazines about design, art and eco-living. There is also a well-stocked Patagonia store.
Every product has a purpose - it's either green, made by artisans, or benefits a cause.
"Every product has a story," Linda said. "We wanted to put all that like minded product in one space."
The merchandise is a combination of goods on consignment, vendors renting space to sell product and goods bought by the store, though its all blended together and presented seamlessly.
The Sadeghis hired Allison Millenacker, left, formerly of C&C Companies, Nordstrom and Swell, as the store's buyer.
The Sadeghis had the idea for an eco department store for some time, and when their tenant, Adventure 16, abruptly vacated the large space, opportunity and necessity led them to act.
The space needed to be filled, yet they had to stay pure to the vision for The Camp - "We don't have the luxury of putting a Radio Shack in here," Shaheen said.
Plus, retailers are not exactly in expansion mode.
"Not a lot of retailers are opening 12,000-square-foot stores these days," Linda said. "We've had the idea for awhile, but we were the distant landlords before. If you would asked me to do retail, I would have said, ‘No, shoot me instead.' But we're having a blast."
The store not only carries an impressive array of products, it has a comfortable hanging out area with couches, a small café, internet access, and a large upstairs space for classes.
"Our whole mission in life is to buck the homogeneous retail landscape," Linda said. "This is just another part of the process."
Those who know Shaheen know that he is an idea man and usually ahead of his time. He thinks more landlords will be opening their own stores in the future.
"There's a lot of mall developers but no retailers," he said. "They've got to figure out how to anchor their own retail."
Now that the store is open, Linda wants to step back and evaluate what they've learned from the process since it's a new venture for them. Shaheen's mind is already teeming with possibilities.
"Now, unfortunately, he has all sorts of other ideas," Linda said with an indulgent smile. "You just can't stop him."
"If we can figure out the model, instead of running around the country trying to find retailers that fit (our centers), we can anchor our own projects," he said. "It could be really exciting for us."
The Seed People's Market official grand opening party is Oct. 24-25 with live music, giveaways, and a chance to meet the artisans.