Kati Koos was on the telephone when I walked into her shop last week, directing the caller how to get to Roseburg Square from Highway 99. That’s the kind of thing to be expected when you relocate to Modesto after 24 years in downtown San Francisco.
That’s what Koos and her husband, Siga Bari, did recently. For Koos, it was a homecoming. She lived in Modesto from the age of 10 to 17. And she couldn’t wait to get away.
But over the years, as she and Bari would drive to market in Southern California, they would stop in one small town or another and say, “This is nice. We should move here.”
In January, Koos’ mother, who had lived with her for the last several years, died. When the couple came to Modesto for services, Bari said, “This is nice. We should move here.”
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“So we did,” Koos said. “And we love it.”
I asked what had changed, Koos or Modesto, since she left. It sounds like both have changed.
“Modesto was a town of 32,000 when I was here,” she said. Now, though it’s far larger, it keeps the smaller-town vibe, particularly in the college neighborhood where the couple lives.
“People here are authentic,” Koos said. “They’re nice. They will talk to you in the grocery store. They complain about crime but they don’t really know how bad crime can be.”
Koos and Bari originally ran a single store before branching into their own separate sites in San Francisco. They are back together, with the larger space in Roseburg Square. Koos describes her side as the more romantic, floaty pieces, while Bari’s side sells more contemporary, streamlined fashion.
The pieces are relatively expensive – I looked at one dress that was $225.
“But they will last forever and they are all machine washable,” Koos said. “You can wear them out to dinner, or you can wear them to do the dishes.”
Koos and Bari have developed a following of loyal customers, some of whom traveled from the Central Valley when they were in San Francisco and others who come here from there now.
What’s their secret? Well, there are a couple. First, there are no trendy ripped jeans or thigh-high boots.
“If we’re not different, nobody needs us,” Koos said. “We don’t follow fashion. Style is what you love. Fashion is what a magazine says you should love.”
Second, they are truthful. Sometimes, to the surprise of their customers.
“Sometimes, someone will try something on that they just love and we will tell them it doesn’t love them back,” Koos said.
“We will be honest about it,” added Bari.
Another upside to the move back home: the commute. I asked Koos how long it takes her to get to work now.
“Four minutes,” she said.