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Coming and Going, Pulling the Chain, Man Caves and Birds

Columnist: Bill Meagher
January, 2013 Issue

Bill Meagher
All articles by columnist

As 2013 makes its debut, Marin sees one firm leave for Petaluma, while another has returned home. SPG Solar, a company that specializes in designing commercial energy systems and that formerly called Novato home, has taken 65 employees to a Petaluma facility with room for growth. The company is including warehouse space that was formerly in Sacramento.
On the plus side of the ledger, Boyd Lighting has left its San Francisco location for digs in Sausalito’s Liberty Ship neighborhood on the waterfront, bringing with it 15 employees. The move across the Golden Gate Bridge brings the 91-year-old company full circle. During World War II, Boyd toiled in the Liberty Shipyards in Sausalito installing deck fixtures. The offices are located in the former location of the shipyards.
The Marin location will house Boyd’s marketing, product development, finance and design functions. Its manufacturing division is located in Colorado Springs, Colo. Its products are used in upscale homes as well as commercial locations. The privately held company has annual sales of $10 million per year, according to Manta, a service that tracks business activity.
SPG is moving into a 25,000-square-foot location on North McDowell Blvd., which includes space for a new research and development facility that will include a pair of labs as well as a product showcase. The new location is actually smaller than the Novato location but has been redesigned to make more efficient use of space.

Breaking the chain?

The town of San Anselmo continues to wrestle with the issue of what is a chain or formula store and whether to attempt to exclude them. The conundrum of what to do with the likes of Starbucks and McDonald’s has yet to be resolved despite the town council debating the issue twice last year.
The town is trying to gather more information to form a coherent policy that would govern large national chains in “designated downtown areas” that would include downtown, Sir Francis Drake and east of the Hub.
Critics have pointed to the struggles seen in Sausalito and Fairfax with the chain issue as a factor in discouraging businesses from considering the two small towns as possible locations for new stores.

Shameless plug department

At a time when e-books are capturing a larger sector of books each year and independent bookstores like Book Passage in Corte Madera are doing fierce battle with the likes of Amazon and Barnes and Noble, the wisdom of opening a bookstore may seem, well, questionable.
Enter the Loveable Rogue in Novato. The new shop in Old Town Novato is a product of the warped mind of Carlos Castillo, journalist, filmmaker and, now, retailer.
In the interest of full disclosure, Carlos and I are former colleagues at a Marin County business media outlet where we worked together on the same publication and managed to keep each other out of jail by not letting the other guy do great physical harm to a certain exec who desperately needed it. I still maintain that no court in the land would have convicted us.
In fairness, the Lovable Rouge is more and less than a traditional bookstore. While the shelves are filled with tomes of every description, they represent the only similarity to a traditional book retailer. For instance, while every bookstore has sections dedicated to mysteries, seldom are they are put together by geographic location. But Castillo is more than a shopkeeper: He’s a reader and has let that be his inspiration in organizing the store. The detective genre is broken down so that Los Angeles is its own section, with Raymond Chandler living next to Ross McDonald, with James Elroy as a neighbor. And while you will find The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely, there’s also a dandy bio of Chandler.
The store includes more than its share of vintage periodicals and books, and collectors of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine will find the place to be a treasure chest, pun fully intended.
The Loveable Rogue is put together as something of an enlightened man cave, an oasis from the dreariness of political correctness with a nod to feeding both the intellect and the soul. Vintage movie novels and screenplays have their place alongside books on rock and roll and a special section on boxing, a subject in which Castillo is an expert. There’s a screening room in the back where events are held. There’s also a humidor if cigars happen to be your deal.

Your Marin moment

Keep your eyes on the battle brewing between Green Point Nursery in Novato and the Marin Audubon Society. The nursery has plans to build a mini-solar farm on about two acres that could generate enough power to light 400 homes and sell the energy to Marin Clean Energy.
But the Audubon Society has reservations about the green project. The avian advocates have property and seasonal wetlands not far from the nursery as the crow flies, and they’re concerned that birds making their way to the sanctuary may mistake the solar panels for water—with the result being injured (or dead) birds.
The nursery has said publicly that it’s engaged in studies and that those reviews show no harm to wildlife. The Marin Conservation League has also expressed concern about how the farm might affect ducks in the area looking for nesting locations close to the water of the Audubon Society.
Green Point says it’s never seen ducks on its property.
The nursery points to the fact the solar farm could offset more than 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, the equivalent of planting a million trees for those of you doing the math. The farm could produce a megawatt of energy should the $3 million project make it out of the planning stages. Currently, it’s before the Marin County planning department, which is gathering public input.



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