The area around Ninth and Bryant streets in San Francisco, where building-supply retailer Ecohaus just opened its third store on the West Coast, is known for its bars, nightclubs, and to-the-trade interior design and furnishings showrooms. But at Ecohaus the focus is on sustainable building supplies, everything from eco-friendly insulation to flooring and finishes to fixtures and tile to kitchen cabinets.
The store’s grand opening actually began April 10 and continued through May 2 – enough time, by Bay Area standards, for word to spread among most of the region’s builders, remodelers, and designers, and its substantial do-it-yourself crowd. A reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle attended a recent party at the 10,000-sq.-ft., two-story store and noted that the appetite for eco-friendly building supplies in this part of Northern California is, not surprisingly, already pretty robust.
“These are some things I haven’t yet seen,” Zem Joaquin, editor of product-review website Ecofabulous, told the paper. Joaquin added that she was drawn to formaldehyde-free materials because her children have asthma. “I tested everything and that’s how I started Ecofabulous” five years ago, she said. “There were very few resources back then.”
Ecohaus is the product of a similar quest for building products that are easy on the environment, nontoxic to humans, and, dollar for dollar, perform as well as (or better than) conventional products. The company’s founder, a builder named Matthew Freeman-Gleason, began a quest to find sustainable building supplies in 1991, and in 1992 opened a small store selling the products on Bainbridge Island, just across Puget Sound from Seattle.
Meanwhile, in 1993 in Portland, Oregon, Markus Stoffel and Abby Mages founded a retail business, Environmental Building Supplies, with a mission similar to that embraced by Freeman-Gleason, whose business, Environmental Home Center, continued to grown.
Finally, in 2006, Environmental Home Center combined with Environmental Building Supplies to become Ecohaus. Opening the San Francisco location four years later was a logical step.