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Pillow Park Re-Invented: Park St. Mini-Mall

The 10,000 square foot furniture store is being transformed into a mini-mall, with one boutique open, two more stores scheduled to open soon and five more on the way.

Owners: Debbie and Frank George

Patch spoke with Debbie George about Park Street Plaza.

How long have you been in business? 40 years. We’ve changed over the years. When we first started, we sold pillows. That’s why it’s called . Back when we were across the street where  is now, we sold waterbeds. In 1996, when we bought this building, we became a full-line furniture store.

What prompted you to convert Pillow Park into a mall? With the economy the way it is, we are all in the same boat and we need to re-organize ourselves. We realized about five or six years ago that the furniture industry was changing. We didn’t realize how much — we’re competing with Ikea and it’s price, price, price. As things were going down, we were scratching our heads, wondering what was going on. We could not bring in enough business to cover the overhead. We had to let go staff until it was just the two of us. Our family business couldn’t afford our family any more.

In the past, we always changed our business to adapt to what was going on. This time we couldn’t. It took us a while to figure it out.

We had to accept that, get over it, and figure out what to do next. You have to know when it’s time to change, and it’s scary.

What stores will be coming to Park Street Plaza and when will they be opening? , which is a clothing store, is in the front. They’ve had a soft opening with the grand opening scheduled for Sept. 22.

Sugarbabies, which carries lingerie and timeless jewelry, will be coming in October. The owner had a shop in Hayward.

The Cupcake Shoppe is coming in this month, hopefully by Customer Appreciation Day on Sept. 22. It’s going to be fantastic! Cupcakes are really hot. The owner sold cupcakes at the Art and Wine Festival — I had about six!—and she sold out before the end of the day.

Frank and I will open a store called Bonne Vie. We’re going to sell wine, cigars and selected spirits. I want to have fun — the good life!

There are four spaces left. We are only taking tenants that we feel good about —that will adapt to Alameda and help this town.

We respect everyone here because we know how hard it is to run a business. If they are successful, I’ll be successful.

Who or what helped you? We’ve had a number of people who have helped us along the way. We were one of the last recipients of the façade grant from the City of Alameda. That really jump-started the whole process.

We put $100,000 of our own money into the renovations and did much of the work with the help of family and friends. But with sales down, it’s been a long process renovating this space.

has been the only lender to have faith in us. No other bank would touch us even though we’ve always had a good history and own our own building. We just got final approval on an assistance loan from them to finish the last leg. John Jacobs and Anthony Thompson at the bank took the time to understand what we are doing. They saw this as a community project because we are bringing in new opportunities.

Donna [Layburn] at the Marketplace has been my mentor. I don’t know how she pulled off what she did over there. She gave me a lot of tips. That’s the kind of community we have here.

Park Street is worth fighting for. We feel we are doing the right thing. This is giving us freedom.

Park Street Plaza is located at 1419 Park St.

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Lisbeth Allen September 12, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I'm sure they will ventilate it well. The owners have been long time merchants on Park Street and care about creating a nice space.
Dana September 12, 2012 at 05:12 PM
They have been selling cigars for years. They called that section of the store pillow park puff. No smoking was ever done inside and I couldn't smell them at all. So that really doesn't concern me.
Patti C September 12, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Indeed!!
dj September 13, 2012 at 11:58 PM
I'm old fashioned. Unless I REALLY needed the money, I could not, in goo conscience, sell something that kills like tobacco does. The smell isn't the issue, the health of people is. The merchants are selling tobacco, allowing their employees to smoke on commercial properties and there are ashtrays all over South Shore. I just don't get it.
dj September 13, 2012 at 11:59 PM
The phrase 'merchant of death' comes to mind.

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