One of my favorite shops in downtown Los Gatos is Black Cat Hats, which features all kinds of accessories in addition to hats for men and women. The folks there are friendly and knowledgeable and take a personal interest in helping customers to find just the right item they want or need.
Yesterday I paid a visit to Aileen Larson, a co-owner of and buyer for Black Cat Hats, and got to browse the tempting inventory and ask her a few questions about her experience and working in the shop.
A little history
The business was established in 2007 by Janet Dashiell, whom Aileen met in 2008 at an exercise class at the JCC in Los Gatos. In 2014, Aileen stepped in as a co-owner with Janet. Janet now does the books and buys inventory with Aileen, but is mostly behind-the-scenes. Aileen is the warm proprietor you meet while browsing the offerings: jewelry, scarves, some clothing, handbags, umbrellas, but most of all, chapeaus of every kind for both men and women. There are Stetson hats for men, newsboy caps, knit hats, wide brimmed sun hats, pill box hats, and millinery of all types.
There are also some great employees, with low turnover, who seem to be like family to Aileen.
Prior to Black Cat Hats, Aileen had 30+ years in retail sales, including women’s clothing and makeup. That background has helped her to be comfortable working in close proximity to customers and to develop an eye for what will work well for each one.
Hats are important and sell well year round, whether for health reasons (keeping warm or keeping out of the sun), to cover the head when hair’s been lost due to cancer or other medical issues, and just for fun. Interestingly, the biggest season for the shop is Christmas and second is the Kentucky Derby. The latter surprised me, but Aileen explained that there are many themed parties and events around it, so people come in to snag the perfect apparel items.
Future trends anticipated include more items for outdoors recreation, such as hiking.
Fun & challenges
I asked Aileen about the things she enjoys most about Black Cat Hat, and the biggest challenges she faces.
“I am always excited about going to work every day. I love working with the customers, getting the right look and fit for them.” She does get a lot of repeat customers, but also tourists, so it’s a nice mix of people coming through the doors.
There are two main challenges. First, as with many stores or shops, there’s a risk that people will come in, try on the merchandise, and then go home to buy the same item online. Aileen called that the showroom challenge. (It’s a little similar in real estate when we show people homes, and at the last minute a different Realtor steps in to write the contract – truly frustrating.)
Second, sometimes people aren’t used to wearing hats, and initially they feel a little silly. In the worst cases, people get the giggles or put down others trying on hats or other merchandise. That can set a bad tone for the store, of course. Aileen tries to transform the mindset so that people find hats and accessories that do look good on them, and that in turn helps them to feel comfortable and better about themselves.
The atmosphere at Black Cat Hats is attractive but also homey and caring, which makes it a pleasant place to shop. If you have the opportunity to visit North Santa Cruz Avenue, do stop by Black Cat Hats and check out the wares.
Black Cat Hats
(Near the intersection of N Santa Cruz and Bean, across from We Olive)
59 N Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos, CA 95030
Related Reading on downtown LG businesses:
When Los Gatos, Monte Sereno or other Santa Clara County residents buy or sell homes here, one of the reports provided by the sellers is the Natural Hazard Report. In it, there’s a statement as to whether or not the subject property is in an area of potential flooding if a dam were to give way.
In Los Gatos, most of the zones marked as potential flooding from dam failure are along the path of the Los Gatos Creek. Lexington is a good sized reservoir, so most of the risk comes from there. Vasona Lake is far smaller, but there are a number of houses just below the dam (which, by the way, sits atop the apparently dormant county mapped Shannon Fault).
Most of us are somewhat “downhill” of a reservoir or two, but not everyone is in an area that would be flooded should the dam burst.
The town of Los Gatos has a flood evacuation map and identifies a number of different zones. This map does not show ALL of the town, but presumably all of the areas at risk from flood from dam failure. To view it, click on on this link: Town of Los Gatos Flood Zones
There are maps for the county, as well. It takes some digging to find these things, and the best one I have found so far is not very easy for seeing the details, but it becomes clear that the largest risk is Anderson Dam, and after that it’s Lexington. Santa Clara County Dam Failure Inundation zones – go to page 95 of 223
What do we expect for the 2019 real estate market?
It’s all about supply and demand. Right now, demand is decent and supply is low. Here’s a look at the inventory of single family homes for sale in recent years by month, first in town and then for the county.
Inventory of single family homes for sale in Los Gatos 95030 & 95032 from Jan 2012 – Jan 2019:
In town (not including the Los Gatos mountains area), Los Gatos has extremely low inventory. I ran the numbers and this is lower than any other January since 2002, the longest back that the MLS will let me go. Locally, that bodes well for those looking to sell in Los Gatos. (Currently there are NO homes for sale in the Belwood, Belgatos, Surmont, or nearby areas of LG.)
What about the broader area? Most of the county has looser inventory than we do in LG. Have a look:
Inventory of single family homes for sale in Santa Clara County Jan 2012 – Jan 2019:
I think it is really important to view this month’s inventory for the county not just in relation to January 2018 (“inventory is up 8% from last year, oh no!”) but in the context of all the recent years since we’ve been in recovery from the Great Recession. Yes, inventory IS up from last year for Santa Clara County, when the first 6 months of 2018 saw prices shooting up like a geyser due to highly restricted inventory and ongoing demand. Most of 2017 and early 2018 were off-the-charts into overdrive. From early 2012 through 2016, we had a market that was appreciating at a good pace – too fast for some buyers, who opted to become permanent renters rather than to participate. Current inventory levels are very low relative to 2012 and later.
A return of some of the normal patterns?
Inventory Los Gatos 95030 & 95032 2016-2019
Inventory tends to rise throughout the first half of the year, so I am expecting that to happen again in 2019. To the left, see a chart displaying the inventory of homes for sale in Los Gatos 95030 & 95032 from Jan 2016 to today. This is a pattern we usually see – though of course, it’s not a rule, and it can change.
Prices also tend to rise in the early part of the new year as inventory does not keep pace with demand, and I see no reason why that would not happen again.
Equally important is to understand that in the 2nd half of any given year, prices often soften. Home sellers sometimes believe that “summer is the right time to sell”, so get their homes on the market then. But activity from buyers slackens after the spring buying season, so in many years, inventory is higher than demand – so prices level off or even decline.
In 2018, prices in LG and the county did decline dramatically from the spring peaks, perhaps in the 12-15% range, generally.
Economists tell us that they expect the first half of 2019 to be decent to good, but not as wild a ride as early 2018. (Milder appreciation, 3-5%?) Some believe that the second half of 2019 will be much softer. A real estate correction is expected sometime between now and 2-3 years from now. We do believe that locally, in Silicon Valley, we are at or near the top of this real estate cycle. For those wishing to sell and move out of the area, 2019 could be a good year in which to do that. It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact top or bottom of the market, though. That is something we only know when it’s passed, just like with the stock market.
It’s time to decorate some pumpkins! Sereno Group is hosting its 10th annual pumpkin decorating contest and invites kids to transform a small pumpkin into a work of art! This is not a carving contest and there should be no punctures of any kind as these works of art will need to last, and any cuts will cause rotting.
Every child who enters will get a small gift. Voting on the best work of art will take place during office meetings for each of three age groups, with the winner of each getting a prize.
Small pumpkins are being given away at the Sereno Group office locations in Los Gatos, Saratoga, Willow Glen, Aptos / Santa Cruz, Los Altos and Palo Alto – please see flier for office hours. O[tionally, entrants may bring their own small pumpkin.
The deadline is Friday, October 19th, 2018. Have fun – we cannot wait to see the decorated pumpkins!
Courtstyle and Wimbledon Place, which is also referred to as Courtside by many locals, are townhome communities located between La Rinconada Golf Course and Winchester Boulevard, just behind the Los Gatos Bay Club Courtside. (The Bay Club Courtside was originally just “Courtside”, and that seems to be the reason for the community’s nickname.) This is a convenient commute location near both highways 17 and 85, and the area is within the Los Gatos Union School District, which is a big draw.
The Courtstyle and Wimbledon Place communities are sometimes confused with each other since they are nearby neighbors with some similar features and not terribly far apart in age, but they are distinct.
The Wimbledon Place HOA put Wimbledon Place signs up at the front and back entrances of the community not too long ago with the intention of getting the neighborhood branding corrected.
Wimbledon Place, or Courtside
The Wimbledon Place townhouses were built in 1977 and often “feel” like you’re in a single family home as the rooms are a good size, the floor plans are fairly open, and living rooms frequently feature vaulted and beamed ceilings. This is an uncrowded neighborhood, with plenty of parking in driveways and other designated spaces. It’s a very tidy, well kept neighborhood and seems to be one of the best values in town.
In the past, some of the homes felt dark as there were a lot of oversized (but beautiful!) redwood trees. When I was there this week, I noticed that a number of them had been cut down. It’s sad to see them go, but at the same time, they were close to power lines and cast a lot of shade. There are still a good number of trees there, too.
What are the homes like at Wimbledon Place?
St. Mary’s Country Fair in Los Gatos is a fun, annual community event that always occurs the second weekend of October. This year, it’s October Oct 5th – 7th, 2017.
Open to everyone, and with no admission fee, the three day fundraiser is a great place to enjoy so many cool things, including:
- carnival rides
- bouncy house (several)
- country store shopping
- arts & crafts (such as pumpkin decorating)
- martial arts displays
- dining (good and affordable!) – several food booths to choose from
- pancake breakfast on Sunday morning
- play games
- giant slide
- spaghetti dinner
- full service coffee shop
- talent show
- live bands
- bingo (of course!)
- Harvest Market
- See even more at the event’s website: http://stmarysfair.squarespace.com/
This is a fabulous place to walk through and simply bump into friends & neighbors from all over Los Gatos and the nearby communities. It’s also a fun place to take photos. Each day is a little different, some return again and again!
St. Mary’s Church and School are located in downtown Los Gatos on Bean Avenue near Tait (and near North Santa Cruz Avenue) in the historic Almond Grove neighborhood. You can also reach the party by coming from Main Street and Lyndon Avenue.
Country Fair Hours
Friday, October 5th 5pm-10pm
Saturday, October 6th 10am-10pm
Sunday, October 7th 10am-5pm
Like a bargain? There’s an easy way to save money. Visit the parish or school office before Friday at 2pm and buy your Butler ride tickets at a substantial discount – and avoid the lines! (Tickets are sold in the 2 weeks leading up to the fair most years.)
Also, much of the Almond Grove District of Los Gatos has permit parking only in the evenings. So don’t park in the neighborhood! There are lots of public parking spaces between North Santa Cruz and University Avenues in Los Gatos, and they are no cost, so park there instead. I usually like to park between North Santa Cruz Avenue and University Avenue in the public lot. If you’re in biking distance, consider cycling in – just remember lights are required when biking in the dark, and remember road safety!
Each year, in early to mid-Septemeber, the Los Gatos Morning Rotary Club, sponsors a fun end of summer bash: Claws for a Cause. The annual Maine lobster party features good food, live music, and dancing. It is often a sell-out event!
Proceeds going to the Los Gatos Morning Rotary Charitable Foundation (supporting music, art and youth scholarships).
This year it’s Saturday, Sept 8, 2018, from 5:30 pm to 10pm and it will be held at the Los Gatos Lodge.
Last year, tickets sold out! Learn more and buy your tickets here:
Saturday August 11th and Sunday August 12th mark the return of the Fiesta de Artes Los Gatos, Art & Wine Festival, the only Art & Wine Festival in town all year! It will be located at the Civic Center lawn, and the hours are 10 am to 6 pm both days.
What happens at the Fiesta de Artes?
Think food & drink, art & shopping, dancing & socializing! Once again, there will be more than 150 vendors with a huge variety of artists and vendors displaying and selling their artwork, plus booths with food and wine and of course loads of music throughout both days. The hours are 10am to 7pm Saturday and 10am to 5pm Sunday, but music plays a little longer ending at 9pm on Saturday and starting an hour before Sunday events open.
Where is the Fiesta de Artes held?
In previous years, the festival reserved the Civic Center lawn across the street from Los Gatos High School. Last year it was a block party on N Santa Cruz, but it has been moved back to the Civic Center lawn again for 2018.
For more information, please visit http://www.lgfiesta.org/
Every September, the Town of Los Gatos hosts a free movie at Oak Meadow Park in the month of September for kids and kids-at-heart. This is the annual “Screen on the Green“.
In 2018, the movie will be Hotel Transylvania, and it will be September 28th, 2018. We’ll fill you in on the details when the date gets closer.
~~~~~~~~~~~ Info for the 2017 Screen on the Green is below ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
September 15th’s the night for the 2017 Screen on the Green! Fun activities for children begin at 6:00pm, with train rides, carousel rides, face painting, games and more. The film, Disney’s Moana, will begin at 7:30pm and will be projected onto a 25′ inflatable screen on the meadow. A snack bar will be open from 6:30-8:30pm, so have dinner before or bring a picnic. Bring a picnic and some blankets, then come early to grab a good seat!
Attendees, it is important to bring layers and something low to sit on – blankets, cushions, or low backed lawn chairs, are alright. I always bring a flashlight for after the show. The gopher holes in the lawn are easy to find by accident with your foot.
For additional details, please see the Los Gatos town website page for Screen on the Green:
Los Gatos, Campbell, and Saratoga meet near the intersection of Quito Road and Pollard Road in the far northwest end of LG. People driving through for the first time are often confused about what city is where. To complicate matters, some areas belong to one municipality but have the mailing address, or postal label, of another.
Such is the case with Cameo Park West, a lovely residential pocket of Campbell which is a bit of an outpost for that city and hence has a Los Gatos mailing address to make it simpler for letter carriers. The schools, of course, are not impacted either way since they have nothing to do with the city or town boundaries.
This popular neighborhood, which has claims of some sort to both areas is well built and well kept. For Los Gatans commuting to Cupertino or Sunnyvale, homes in west Los Gatos and nearby offer a shorter commute than from downtown LG or east Los Gatos.
What are homes like in Cameo Park West?
The houses found along Elwood Drive, Hyde Drive, Hyde Court, Bearden Drive, and Pollard Court were built mostly in 1966 and 1967 by a well respected, San Francisco Bay Area builder of houses, Leep Homes. There were many extras that went into homes built by Leep, among them copper plumbing (well before that was typical), two way fireplaces, front porches, formal entry halls, step down living rooms, central forced air heat, wood shake roofs (originally, now most are composition shingle) and beautiful hardwood floors. This builder was active in Santa Clara County and we see Leep subdivisions throughout San Jose, Los Gatos, Campbell and many other places within Silicon Valley.
Cameo Park West homes range in size from 1380 square feet to 2620 square feet and sit on lots as small as 6000 SF to as big as 12,600 SF. Most lots are around 8000 SF and a typical house might be about 1800 SF with 3-4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Most of the homes in this area are single story but a few are two stories.
Most houses are “interior” to the neighborhood, but some are close to or face Pollard Road, others are next to the freeway (and with it, the high voltage power lines & towers and also the train tracks) or the school or the creek. Many would prefer a creekside setting or a school as a back neighbor, but not everyone shares that feeling.
How expensive is Cameo Park West real estate?
As of this writing, late July 2018, in the current market homes have sold between about $1,500,000 and $2,000,000. Homes may still sell as low as $1.5 million or less if they’re small, have location issues and / or fixer uppers, but within the last year one sold as high as $1,805,000. Continue reading