By Flora Tsapovsky
The natural life of any city or town needs those places that we call ‘institutions’—places that have been around forever and helped build the town’s—and our own—identity and history. Sometimes, those institutions close down, which can be bittersweet; bitter, because we’re going to miss them. Sweet, because, deep down, we also know that closing times provide a proof of evolution and change, along with the opportunity to say, “Hey, remember when that place was still around … ?”
Chadwicks of London, the 28-year-old lingerie store in Mill Valley, is such an institution, now closing its doors after being anyone and everyone’s go-to for lacy indulgences. Michael and Shelley Chadwick, a pair of Londoners, grew up together but found a partner in each other after meeting again in their 30s. Both English teachers, they decided to embark on an adventure, and settled in the Bay Area. The Chadwicks will still own their second location in San Anselmo, but soon it will be the only one.
“One night we came to Mill Valley to see a movie,” Michael says of the 1988 decision. “We had never been to the town before. I suggested to Shelly that we could open a shop here and so we looked in the paper the following days to see what might be possible, and by some miracle we found a sublet and managed to open our little lingerie boutique two months later.”
Business bloomed, and by 1999 the Chadwicks had four stores all over the Bay Area. “Mill Valley has always been a special place for us,” Michael laments. “It’s where our journey into business began, so it’s with a heavy heart that we are saying goodbye to the town.”
Why close down? The reasons, ironically, are a mix of post-recession economy dips and tech-related spikes that affect the North Bay all the way from San Francisco.
“Since the recession, many middle-income women buy less,” Michael says. “It’s much harder to get good reliable staff at the wages we can afford to pay, and in a lingerie store the salespeople need to be very, very good.” Besides, he adds, “Certainly, Mill Valley is in transition. The traffic in and out of the town has become much more congested; to be in retail is more difficult in the town. The overall cost of being in business has risen much more than our profits.”
The prospering online shopping market is another reason for the shuttering of the Mill Valley location. “The internet has affected our sales, particularly … at Christmas and Valentine’s Day,” Michael admits. And, after all, there’s one more reason: “We are 67 years old and have less energy for multiple shops,” Michael says. We’ll miss Chadwicks, but we totally understand.