Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Guest Post by Susan: Five Years, Then 40 More

It was late in 1969 when I got a call from the owner of Red Square, the boutique up the stairs from Bongo Burger on Dwight Way. She was calling a meeting with all the craftswomen who were consigning their merchandise in her store. She wanted out of her business, and offered it to all of us collectively. About 20 of us went for it.

We soon agreed to a new name, By Hand, and moved the business to CJ’s Old Garage on Telegraph and Blake. We had many meetings to decide on job responsibilities, consignment percentages, hours, work shifts, etc. Whew! I don’t know how the Cheese Board does it still! The business had its ups and downs over the next few years, moving to several different spots in the two adjacent garages. I left the country and traveled the Hippie Trail for about a year and a half, and when I returned there were new members, but I slid right back in. Times were tough, though-- the Avenue was dirty, sales were down, membership in the collective was now only six unhappy ladies, and our lease was up. In 1974, to the collective’s relief, Elaine and I decided to form a partnership (I called it a bloodless coup) and move the business to Walnut Square.

What a good move that turned out to be. We instantly had new customers, as well as our old clientele, and they all loved the new space. We continued on as before for several years, same consignment rates, same work shifts-- the main difference was that our partnership meetings were much more effective. At some point we decided to add ready-made T-shirts to our mix, and over the next decade added sweaters and other basics to help round out the merchandise and make it easier to create whole looks. We also started wholesaling up and down the West Coast with our own line of basics, BIDZ, adding Paula as a third partner.

In 1985 we moved around the corner to Vine St., more than doubling our space. By that time Elaine and I were both working on our wholesale line with Paula as well as running the store, so we were buying more ready-to-wear to go with the locally produced clothing and accessories. And we added a menswear corner, which really took off. After the birth of my son in 1990, Paula took over BIDZ, renamed Paula Z, and Elaine and I continued at By Hand.

Many of you know the rest of the story. We moved the business again in 1995, where we remodeled the corner at Solano and Ensenada. I bought Elaine out in 2000, and in 2010 retired myself, turning the business over to Paula and Romy. Unfortunately, there was no negotiating with the landlord of our beautiful space, so the business moved right across the street to an even bigger space. Now, Paula is retiring, and Romy is ready for a new career.

It’s been fun, it’s been hard, it’s been easy, it’s been a lot of years with all kinds of adventures. Thanks to our great customers, this business has been able to support many, many people—salespeople, buyers, and makers. We are all grateful.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Fresh Deliveries: Jag and Cut Loose

Our Going Out of Business Sale Continues
25% Off Storewide


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Going Out of Business Sale Starts Friday 12/26

Drawing Courtesy of Ceinwen Carney, Urban Sketchers SF Bay Area

Our final winter clearance sale begins on Friday, December 26th at 10:30 a.m.
This closing sale will continue until all merchandise is sold--probably mid-March. 

Thank you for supporting our business for 40 years!

Holiday gifts may be returned through Friday January 9th only.

Sale items are final sales
No price adjustments on previous purchases

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Seems like yesterday, but it was long ago.....

In 1977 I was looking for a new job -- something creative with flexible hours. I was only one year into my long love affair with tennis, and wanted to be on the courts as often as possible. A friend of a friend owned a store in Walnut Square that featured hand-crafted  clothing and needed someone to sew for her. Sounded flexible enough for me. I borrowed a sewing machine and got started. Who imagined that I would be retiring from owning that clothing store 37 years later?

The original By Hand was located on Walnut Street, two doors down from the original Peet’s Coffee. Susan, Elaine, Marianne and I took turns staffing the store for the day. The store was rustic, cozy and relaxed. I’d set my sewing machine on the main counter  (which is now near our dressing rooms in the present store), zip down to Peet’s for a 25-cent refill, and sew blouses in the down time between customers.

Doing piecework for Susan and Elaine quickly evolved into me buying fabric and producing my own blouses. Adding soutache (a very thin ornamental braid) or ledges to yokes and collars of blouses and men’s shirts was a design detail that took a lots of time, but made each garment special. In the early 80’s Elaine, Susan and I teamed up to produce the BIDZ line of raw silk clothing. Eventually they decided to focus on the store, moved By Hand around the corner to Vine Street, and I continued designing under my Paula Z label.

During the Paula Z years I had a workshop in Emeryville where I did design work and garment cutting on a 20-foot long worktable, but my sewing machine was in the loft at By Hand on Vine St. Those years were a blur of trips back and forth between Berkeley and E’ville. I’d work on a design pattern and cut a sample in my workshop, go to By Hand to sew the sample and have the staff try it on. Then it was back to Emeryville to tweak the pattern, grade it (make patterns for different sizes) and eventually cut a run of 40 or 50 blouses. I’d stack five to ten layers of fabric, lay the patterns on top and cut them by hand or with my little circular saw. I’d take the collars, cuffs and facings home to iron on interfacing in the evening, then return them to the workshop to bundle in with the blouses that I would take to my seamstress. Once finished, the blouses needed pressing and buttonholes needed trimming before I could bring them to By Hand and put them on the racks.

Finding good fabric was always a challenge. I attended fabric trade shows and took three or four trips a year to LA in my search for unique, appealing fabric. I was always on the hunt for solid-colored sueded rayon for long-sleeved tailored blouses, textured tweeds for relaxed jackets, and fun prints for camp shirts and casual blouses. By the mid-nineties Susan and Elaine were buying more and more ready-to-wear clothes for the store, and I was having a harder time finding fabric that I liked to produce my line. When they decided to move to a larger storefront on Solano Avenue in 1995, I felt the timing was right to retire from my design business and try something new.

In 1996 studied for and earned a personal training certification and began training clients in their homes. I also established a website that reviewed exercise videos. Working out to videos, writing reviews and playing tennis kept me busy, but I kept my association with By Hand though, visiting weekly to hem pants and skirts, as I’d been doing through all the Paula Z years. I’m sure I’ve done thousands and thousands of hems over the years. Before I knew it, I began working on the sales floor one day a week for the holiday season. I was back at By Hand, this time as part of the staff.

Now, 37 years later, as co-owner of a Berkeley institution, I’m ready to say good bye to a relationship that has served me well through the years. 

Thanks to Susan and Elaine who gave me my start so long ago.

Thanks to all my fans from the Paula Z years, many who’ve come in to say they remember (and sometimes still have) one of my creations. 

Thanks to the By Hand staff, past and present who do a fantastic job of making By Hand a welcoming place to shop and an enjoyable place to work.

Thanks to my partner Romy who always has my back. 

Paula Z

Monday, November 17, 2014

Small Business Saturday 2014

It's that time again!  As part of their commitment to supporting small businesses,  American Express is giving registered Cardmembers a special offer when they shop at small businesses on Small Business Saturday, November 29th.

Enroll your eligible American Express® Card and you can get a $10 statement credit from American Express®  after you spend $10+ in a single, in-store transaction at any qualifying merchant on Small Business Saturday, November 29th.  You can take advantage of this offer up to 3x. 
Card registration required. 

Be sure to read the fine print and then register your card. 

Looking for more ways to support small businesses?  Keep it local this holiday season.  Buy Local Berkeley and Plaid Friday are two homegrown resources.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Long Good-Bye

Advertisement from the Berkeley Barb

By Hand started from humble beginnings, a collective of sewers operating out of C J.s Garage at Dwight and Telegraph.  In 1974, Susan Powning and Elaine Emery took over By Hand and moved the shop to Walnut Square.  They celebrated by commissioning the now familiar Magritte-inspired print by Berkeley artist David Lance Goines.  When Paula and Romy became owners in 2010, they moved the shop to its fourth and largest storefront, directly across the street from our third location.  This past April, By Hand celebrated its 40th anniversary.  Today, it is with sadness that we must tell you the 41st year will be our last.   

Many of you have been with us from the beginning.  You have fond memories of the soutache embellished blouses, patchwork dresses, and cowboy shirts worn in decades past.  Tucked away in your closets are the yoked pants, the sueded rayon pieces, the tencel shirts, the colorful print blouses, and the beloved rayon culottes.   You come in with stories about your favorite pieces.  Not just articles of clothing but memories of milestones, celebrations, and events.

Deeply rooted in the community, By Hand is proud to be part of your life.  Throughout the years we've dressed you for your children's bat mitzvahs, college graduations, and wedding days.  In our small way, we were there to comfort during cancer treatments and laying parents to rest.  We've helped with outfits for interviews, to speak in front of the U.N., and to celebrate retirements much deserved.  We've counseled men on the perfect shirt to get them from 49 to...gasp...50 and what to wear on a nervous first date.  We must admit, we've wrapped up many a secret gift while some of you were in the dressing room.  With us you've shared stories of romance, how growing old is not for the faint of heart, and the trials and tribulations of raising children.

But all good things must come to an end.  To nip any rumors in the bud, it is not our landlord, our lease, or the economy.  Simply, Paula would like to retire, and Romy would like to try something new.  

After all this time, we wanted to have a long good-bye.  Please don't fret.  We are not closed yet.  Did you hear us?  We repeat, we are not closed yet.  Our lease is up in March and we plan to be here until the end.   We have a fabulous fall season planned for you.  Both new lines and old favorites are scheduled to arrive in the shop.  We'll still be here to help freshen up your wardrobe for fall and to see you through the holiday season.  

Again, we are not closed yet.   Come on in.  Shop.  Reminisce. 

Thank you for your support throughout the years. 

-From all of us at By Hand

For more thoughts from Paula, click here.

For more thoughts from Romy, click here.
For more thoughts from Susan, click here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

20% Off All Merchandise This Weekend

Fall 3-Day Sale


FridaySaturday, & Sunday
 Oct 24th, 25th, & 26th
 20% Off All Merchandise
 3 Days Only!

Sorry, no price adjustments