Farewell to Raku

A for-lease sign has been posted outside of Raku, a gift shop on Claremont’s Yale Avenue, for a year, even with the store in operation, and at one point last year Raku was looking for a new home in the Village. Passing by on Monday, though, I was sad to see the store empty and the above notice on the door.

I was never a big spender there, but I did buy greeting cards and wrap, and occasionally a gift item. The cards were usually quirky and handmade, the items of an off-kilter bent. I’ve been shopping there since moving to Claremont but had no idea the store had been around since the early 1970s. It was a hipper version of Barbara Cheatley or Carkle Sudie, two of the Village’s other gift stores and places no man ever visits except under duress.

(Heirloom Village, a block over on Indian Hill, will be a more than acceptable substitute in this niche, but still.)

Does anyone know any background on Raku or its demise, or just have a memory to share? Please comment if you do. I know that raku is a form of pottery, but what that has to do with the store I don’t know.

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  • Robin

    David, I’ve heard The Raku started by selling pottery made by local artists. They were at or near the corner of Indian Hill and Foothill early on, but moved downtown. As their merchandise line expanded, less pottery was featured, but Fassbinder had his work there for many years. There was a second store up the coast somewhere. I know this word of mouth, so I hope it’s mostly accurate.

    • davidallen909

      Thanks, Robin. A customer comment on the store’s Facebook page (from October, so it’s pre-closure) mentions it was on Foothill originally and that there was a lion figure out front.

      • http://www.facebook.com/meredith.evans.35 Meredith Evans

        It was an almost life sized tiger and had a bobbing head (yes, bobble head). It was originally located where currently the USBank drive through ATM stands.

        The other store opened some years later in Santa Barbara. (The Martin’s also formerly owned FIGG jewelry, formerly above Pizza N Such)

  • George Goad

    Paul Soldner, who taught at the colleges, almost singlehandedly brought the Japanese Raku technique to America back in the 60s and at one point, it seemed that every other house in the area had a raku kiln in the backyard. Claremont was the place to be if you were a potter. Jerry & Peggy Martin opened raku (the store) in the mid-60s and Jerry taught ceramics at Mt. Sac. He had a background in architecture and, boy, it showed! The original incarnation of the store was a joy to behold. The Martins’ taste was exquisite and raku was a showplace for local potters as well as exotic imports and gorgeous paper goods. Sadly, after the store changed hands, there was a long slide into unimaginative blandness and the store became a ghost of its former self. In a way, it reflects the changes in Claremont over the past decades.
    Incidentally, don’t let the past tense regarding the Martins throw you: they’re very much still with us and as vital as ever.

  • Elaine

    Stopped in on Monday, February 18 to buy a “16th” birthday card. I was their last customer!

  • Jephrie Cambridge

    Hey George!!

    I was a student of Jerry Martin’s at Mt. SAC along with my best friend Ronnie. He taught us the art of raku. I was thrilled many years later to wander into a store called Raku on State St in Santa Barbara and find Jerry inside. I rushed home afterward and called Ronnie to tell her. We both had such a crush on him. Lovely to be thinking back to Claremont.