Bethany Clough

Fresno couple has faith in Fresno, expands popular novelty store Root

Cassey and Kirk James own Root and say they have faith in the future of downtown Fresno.
Cassey and Kirk James own Root and say they have faith in the future of downtown Fresno. Special to The Bee

Root, a downtown general store that was in one of Fresno’s tiniest storefronts, has moved to a new, bigger location.

The move coincided with the store’s one-year anniversary as a downtown Fresno business.

It left the spot next to Peeve’s (which is officially closed) on Fulton Mall and moved a few blocks north to 1424 Fulton St. It’s in one of the spaces flanking Warnors Theatre.

Root now has 1,500 square feet to stretch out in, which feels scads bigger than the long, narrow 600 square feet of sales space they had before. The change also gives them more room for the design and screen printing side of their business.

They’re still selling bags and T-shirts with pro-downtown sayings like “Fulton Street: the real main drag in the heart of Fresno, Calif.” and “Hecho in Fresno” (Spanish for “made in Fresno”).

But there’s a lot more going on with this place than a customer strolling through the store might realize.

Root has, well, roots – my apologies for the corny metaphor – that stretch out to other parts of our community. Or maybe you’d call them runners, stretching out like wisteria vines to artists and artisans who make products sold in the store. Relationships with other local businesses have played a role in Root staying healthy in downtown, too.

Some of those relationships are typical for a store, but Root owners Cassey and Kirk James seem to take things a bit further.

Root took over the former All Things Fresno space facing Fulton Street. Just around the corner on the Tuolumne Street side of the theater is newly opened Scraps, in part of former Misc. Trading Co., which closed but still sells online. Owner Tony Stamolis decided to open the store – stocked with vintage posters and ball caps from the former Penny Candy store and more eclectic stuff – after a conversation with the couple behind Jameses.

You may have read about Scraps in reporter Joshua Tehee’s Nov. 2 column.

At Root, some of the locally made products are familiar – like Basilwood Farm’s natural goat-milk soap – and others aren’t.

“Local is definitely our focus,” Kirk James says. “If not, it’s at least small independent … designers.”

Some products you won’t find anywhere else in town, like necklaces from five and two in Fresno.

Some napkins with prints of toast and seed pods for sale at the store were created after Cassey James reached out to artist Adrianna Alejo Sorondo in Fresno.

Putting Sorondo’s art on products used in the home was something that was new to her.

“I helped push her to create something to turn her art into a commercial product that we could turn around and sell,” Cassey James says.

That kind of support runs both ways, with local businesses supporting Root through its printing business. Surviving downtown might seem tough, but like-minded entrepreneurs turn to them – like Ampersand Ice Cream, Lanna Coffee and local bands – to have their T-shirts printed.

“The community support down here that we’ve felt is amazing,” Kirk says.

And even though Fresno still has a few people afraid to go downtown and there’s construction of a new overpass just a few doors down, Root’s owners say they never want to leave downtown.

“We believe in this area and we know everything isn’t going to happen overnight,” Cassey says.

Hours: Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m., with extended hours during ArtHop and other events.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough