Hidden away on the corner of Pismo Street and Walker Street, just down the way from High Street Deli, three San Luis Obispo locals assembled Appendage and Bough from the inside-out. Ryan Ratzlaff, Tim Beebee and Malik Thorne have filled the space with various treasures they find at swap meets, estate sales and flea markets.
The store’s wide-open garage door allowed a breeze to brush past visitors who flipped through an array of recycled books, iron-on patches of famous cities and bands, and classic rock ‘n’ roll vinyl. Ratzlaff smiles as he tells the story of the wooden table he made using parts he collected from various junk yards.
“I have a hard time throwing things away,” he said.
Bits and pieces of Ratzlaff and his partners’ personalities are displayed throughout Appendage and Bough — a collection of vintage, repurposed and homemade items the owners describe as a lifestyle store.
“I just like hunting for things,” Ratzlaff said. “I like finding interesting things, and hopefully somebody who sees it here can enjoy it, too.”
Map by Tori Leets
Ratzlaff, garbed in a weathered denim button-up and a local brewery’s baseball cap, has a passion for building and collecting things he finds valuable that others may not.
In 2011, Ratzlaff channeled his passion by starting Appendage and Bough, which, at the time, meant building and selling furniture through the online craft sales platform Etsy. As online sales increased, Ratzlaff was prompted to call on his friend of 15 years, Beebee, to help him with the business.
The two maintained an online presence before finding and moving into their garage-front nook in downtown San Luis Obispo in 2015, where their online sales turned into physical ones.
“It’s a challenge,” Beebee explained as he crossed his arms with a pencil tucked under his hat, his black dog, Luke, attached to his hip. “But you learn a lot. You learn a lot about yourself. Building and being creative is the best part of it.”
Their shared passion for building and creating gave life to the name Appendage and Bough. Appendage means “arms” or “hands” and bough means “limb of a tree.” Beebee and Ratzlaff laughed as they explained that the interesting word choice can be attributed to a lack of available website domains and the help of a thesaurus.
Video by Allison Martinez
Beebee and Ratzlaff build their products in Visalia, California where they operate their own woodshop.
To find materials for their projects, the two salvage wood from a variety of locations including old buildings, floorings and barns. They call this collection their own “personal lumberyard.”
“I’ve always been interested in the history of stuff — who designed it, where it’s been found,” Ratzlaff said.
While self-made items are a big part of the Appendage and Bough operations, most of the store’s inventory is from local artists and vendors.
Walking through the store, visitors will find a ceramics collection of colorful plates and bowls made in Atascadero, vintage leather wallets from an artist in San Luis Obispo, and handmade scented candles collected from a vendor in Santa Cruz, California.
Many of these connections are through Thorne, the third owner who was brought on to operate the storefront in San Luis Obispo.
“Once you make stuff and share stuff, you connect so many people so fast,” Thorne said.
Thorne, who has worked at the record shop Boo Boo Records for 15 years, is a familiar face to many San Luis Obispo locals.
His love for music, books and people brought a new vision to Appendage and Bough. Thorne has filled the shelves with books, from James Baldwin novels to camping how-to’s. His broad range of music taste is displayed through the vinyl collection, which ranges from classic rock to African hip-hop.
“Having a space where I can do a small show and invite people or get some art up on the wall from someone who’s just starting out, or even just create a space where people can come in and find some things and talk about music or books, for me, that’s it,” Thorne said.
All three owners agree that impacting every customer that walks through the door keeps their business alive.
“The people that work there are extremely approachable and really take interest in you,” business administration student and frequent Appendage and Bough customer Claire Lorentz said. “Going there is a much different experience than any other store in [San Luis Obispo].”
Thorne sits on a rusted yellow stool and recalls a moment he shared with a customer who he said embodies what he values so much about his job.
“We had someone here the other day … we both had this passion for Neil Young. We just talked and sat and watched Neil Young videos from ‘The Last Waltz,’” Thorne said. The two then exchanged band recommendations. “It was such a nice moment to just share that with someone else. It’s that. It’s that communication — that you get to meet so many different people and learn.”
The owners count on this type of connection as well as word of mouth to make up for their isolated location.
Despite the disadvantages of a more isolated storefront, Beebee, Ratzlaff and Thorne value their little garage on the corner for more than just its affordable rent.
“We like that it’s a forgotten part of town,” Beebee explained. “We think it really fits our brand.”
The three also value the absence of nearby neighbors, which allows them to host events like pop-up art shows and intimate concerts.
Being an active part of the community is a staple value of Appendage and Bough. Hosting events like this allows them to connect with the community.
“Being a part of your community is really the biggest thing you can do,” Thorne said. “It’s an important part of civic duty in some ways.”
With success in both online and in-store sales, the men of Appendage and Bough feel accomplished.
When asked about plans for the future, Ratzlaff, Beebee and Thorne agree they want to let any expansion happen naturally.
“I think it’s happened pretty organically up to this point, so it’s hard to say,” Beebee said. “But we like the direction.”