Add an incredibly unique one to the list.
Mill Valley is now home to the retail shop of an equestrian, country polo-inspired brand created by a local resident. Louisiana native Elizabeth Goodwin Welborn’s five-year-old Stick & Ball brand is opening its first retail shop this week at 186 East Blithedale Avenue, with a launch party set for Thursday, Dec. 1 (2-8pm) featuring a Mill Valley Chamber ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor John McCauley, along with wines from Beaulieu Vineyard, Gloria Ferrer and Beringer Vineyards, cheeses selected by Napa Valley's Laura Werlin, empanadas from Playa Mill Valley and gift cards toward purchase in the new retail shop for all guests and the chance to win a polo lesson from one of California's polo clubs.
"Stick & Ball is inspired by polo played in the countryside but is not necessarily for an equestrian," says Goodwin Wellborn. "The brand is broadly appealing to those who love a casual luxury, town & country look for every day wear and this same casual equestrian luxury with an international twist for the home.”
The Stick & Ball Poncho is the brand’s signature piece, while hand-sewn, alpaca blankets, hand sewn leather belts, horse and geometric embroidered socks, and other equestrian-inspired pieces are part of its collection. The retail shop will also feature handmade leather boots from El Paso, Texas-based Lucchese, jewelry from a variety of local artisans and shoes from Alberto Fermani in Italy.
The move to open a retail shop in her hometown was a natural extension of the brand’s evolution, Goodwin Welborn says.
“As with most everything I’ve done, I just trusted my gut – this just felt like the right thing to do right now,” she says. “With so many of these products made by hand, customers want to be able to connect with that story, and I’m not able to tell that story by operating through other retailers.”
In addition to retail, the 800-square-foot space at 186 East Blithedale will serve as Stick & Ball’s design and work space as well.
“I very much want to have the different designers I work with come in and collaborate,” she adds. “Bringing ideas together is more feasible within this space.”
Born and raised in South Louisiana, Goodwin Welborn attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., studying international business and Spanish. During her college summers, she studied in places like Guatemala and Costa Rica, learning about handmade textiles of Latin America and developing her Spanish.
“I just fell in love with the cultures of Latin America,” she says.
After college, Goodwin Welborn worked in business development for a Denver, Colo.-based boutique telecommunications firm that had her traveling extensively to Latin America for a couple of years. In 1999, that job brought her to San Francisco, and she’s lived in the Bay Area ever since. She moved to Mill Valley in 2001, and after a stint of living in Petaluma to be closer to her horses, she and her family moved back here in January.
Goodwin Welborn developed a love for horses at a very young age while briefly living in Scotland, and she rekindled that love in her mid-30s through the Cerro Pampa Polo Club in Petaluma and the Wine Country Polo Club in Oakmont, attending charity polo tournaments there.
It was those years that spawned Stick & Ball, with Goodwin Welborn drawing inspiration from her travels to Latin America and the fashion of the polo fields in places like Palermo, Argentina in particular.
“Ponchos, knitted berets, espadrilles, cowboys boots, Latin, country and bluegrass music, Argentine asados and pig roasts and one of the most thrilling team sports in the world all combine to create an atmosphere of on-field and field-side living that is both convivial and inspiring,” Goodwin Welborn writes on her website.
She launched the brand “literally on my Mill Valley kitchen table” in 2011, getting her ponchos in stores like 7 on Locust and Showroom, the former downtown Mill Valley apparel boutique co-founded by Denise Carletta and Janet Ryvin.
“Elizabeth was creating a brand that had that heritage feel, which is very hard to do with authenticity,” says Carletta, who now works with interior designer Kress Jack at her Kress Jack at Home shop on Locust Avenue. “That’s what has made her successful and what will continue to see Stick & Ball, that heritage feel and authenticity.”
The 411: Stick & Ball is hosting a launch party Thursday, Dec. 1 (2-8pm) featuring a Mill Valley Chamber ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor John McCauley at 4pm, along with wines from Beaulieu Vineyard & Beringer Vineyards, cheeses selected by Napa Valley's Laura Werlin, empanadas from Playa Mill Valley and gift cards toward purchase in the new retail shop for all guests and the chance to win a polo lesson from one of California's beautiful polo clubs. RSVP@stickandballco.com.