Bolinas locals bring feminine touch to Bay Lumber and Landscape

David Briggs
Robin Bradford (above) and her partner, Karen Dibblee, are learning the nuts and bolts of the hardware industry at their Bolinas store.

Take a large departmental hardware store, say a Home Depot, and condense it by a fraction of 20, all while retaining nearly commensurate variety and adding prodigious quantities of down-home charm, and the result will be something akin to Bolinas Bay Lumber and Landscape, the new, independently owned hardware and general store located downtown, in the site of the old one. 

At once a quality and competitively priced resource for local contractors and do-it-yourselfers, BBLL is also a romantic throwback to mom and pop industrialism and a paragon of bold female professionalism. Its primary visionaries, Robin Bradford and Karen Dibblee, friends and local artists, have managed to dive headfirst and successfully into an industry with which neither possesses extensive training and which is traditionally perceived of as propagated by men. 

Through intensive space management, the duo has narrowed the arguably rampant gender divide of most hardware spaces. Shelves of hand-woven quilts and artful trinkets coalesce seamlessly with hammers and bins of 20-guage screws. 

Bradford, a Los Angeles native and screenwriter by trade, moved to Bolinas six years ago with her husband Bill, a contractor, but eventually grew bored. “I couldn’t just sit in my office alone all day and write,” she said. “So when this opportunity arose, Karen and I had this idea to take it and expand it into something that offers things you need but also some things that you want.” 

Beyond the basic sprucing and reorganizing of the space, they set about lowering costs by finding a new distributor that specializes in small, independent stores and by working to streamline shipments and thereby cut unnecessary expenses. They also met with local contractors to gain feedback on how the store could be a more relevant resource for larger-scaled projects in the area, and contacted nearby schools to find out what necessary school supplies they should have in stock. 

“We’re really trying to cater to the community, which in truth has been very supportive of this,” Dibblee, an artisan jeweler and native of Connecticut, said. “We don’t feel like we’re swimming upstream to get people to come in.” 

And that support could come in handy down the road. “You have to have a really good sense of humor going into this,” Bradford said. “We’ve said we’re either going to be congratulating ourselves in a year or weeping.”