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Baker Street's Closure May Open the Door to Opportunity

The long-time Napa tobacco shop will be closing for good in February, unless someone wants to take up Brenda Roberts' offer of help.

Gift giving for Napans is often a matter of "lifestyle" shopping, such as wines, gardening or clothing. But a gift from another lifestyle shop, Baker Street Downtown, has especial piquancy this year: the tobacconist is calling it quits after 26 years in Napa Valley, 12 in her present location on First St.

"Almost everything in the store is on sale right now," said Brenda Roberts, who first announced the closure back in August when new landlord Michael L. Holcomb significantly raised the lease rate.

Roberts, whose lease expires at the end of February, first thought of moving the store yet again - she's had three locations in St. Helena and Napa over the years - then decided against it. She instead has offered to help any interested party who wants to buy the business to get started.

"We are planning to close down the store," she says in the video accompanying this story, "unless we find someone who is interested in the business, without a lease." Roberts goes on to offer her help in reestablishing the business in a new location, "and making it a successful venture for you."

She posted the invitation on her networkedblogs.com site in September, and reposted it this weekend. "I've had one or two people talking about it," she said recently, "but nothing in writing. I hold out some hope, but at this point nothing has developed."

Among the inventory for clearance are not only cigars and smoking accessories, but clocks, jewelry, weather instruments, games and puzzles, perfumes and leather cases for iPhone cases.

Roberts purchased the store then known as Baker Street Time in 1986, but now has no plans to continue in the business she has moved twice and remodeled once.

"I've always worked so hard at being in business, how to go out of business is a whole different thing, and a little scary," she said. "I figure I've got to get through the next few months, then I'll take a little time off and figure it out after that."

Among the candidates for taking over the space next to Ristorante Allegria is a Calistoga winery which would use it as a second tasting room, though no final decision has been reached.

Tasting room? "That's everybody says," Roberts laughed. "'Oh, we need another one of those'."

The First Street location near the intersection of Main St. seems like an ideal one for any number of businesses, yet it has struggled in recent times. "I would say the trouble is that you've got empty buildings, and not enough retail," said Roberts.

"That's probably your biggest problem, not enough retail. Which is pretty ironic since I’m not going to be here. I'm being forced to leave; it wasn't part of my big plan."

But if owning a tobacco store has been part of your big plan, this may be the opportunity you've been looking for. Better act fast, though: Last day for business at Baker Street Downtown will be February 28, 2013.

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Cathy Gumina Odom December 18, 2012 at 05:20 PM
I do love the store. I don't smoke cigars, but like the purses and gifts there. Has anyone considered it for a medical marijuana smoke shop? Two states passed it. Maybe California will? How much is rent/lease there now? (I know she's lost her lease but it's such a sweet spot next to Starbucks and China Light and everything downtown).
Mary Richardson December 18, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I walked around downtown yesterday, just window shopping at Christmas time, which is something I haven't done in a while. I was saddened to see how many of the stores are gone and sitting empty, particularly in the mall. I remember an attraction some people created with their dogs wearing Santa hats. Kids would come up grinning and they would take pictures of the kids and the dogs. It was really fun! There were many different types of performances in what used to be the performance space in the courtyard. This year it felt empty. It felt empty because, relatively, it is empty.
Karen Garcia December 19, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Baker's Street, China Light and the new Starbucks location were all purchased by Michael Holcomb who, as the article states, raised the rent significantly. More than likely, the only tenants who can afford the space now will be other national chains like Starbucks. As nice as a marijuana dispensary would be, it's not very likely that such an operation could afford the rent. Welcome to the new downtown Napa.
Ash Leigh December 19, 2012 at 04:48 PM
The Shops at Napa Square (mall) will be remodeling, starting the beginning of the year. That whole center will be jazzed and freshened up. Hopefully, this time next year, it will be full of shops.
Ash Leigh December 19, 2012 at 04:52 PM
A marijuana dispensary? I hope not.

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