Red Stella  • A Welcoming Stop For Visitors and Locals Alike • Time to Visit Judith and Robin's New Store

Red Stella • A Welcoming Stop For Visitors and Locals Alike • Time to Visit Judith and Robin's New Store

     Perhaps it’s the beautifully decorated windows that draw you in, or maybe the stylized name Red Stella with the striking red star on the entrance wall. A friend or acquaintance may have told you something about the store. Or maybe you were taking some time in town to have a latte or a glass of wine, and you noticed the new home of Red Stella on Highway One in the center of Gualala. For locals and visitors on the Mendocino coast, the name is really about a destination. It’s not a shock that a store like Red Stella exists on the south coast, but rather a pleasant discovery.

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     Since 2005 the store has been both a discovery and a go-to place for clothing, fashion accessories and bright and thoughtful additions for the home. Judith and Robin Leeper created and continue to own this oasis, and the store reflects both their professional vision and their personal taste. Judith and Robin—mother and daughter—have a philosophy. When their travels find them looking for new clothing, personal items, gifts for the home and more, they purchase things that they like, and believe that those items reflect what other friends, neighbors, residents and visitors will like as well. And over the years that’s been a key to Red Stella’s success. Know the residents and the visitors, and yourself.

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     On a recent visit to the store I spoke with a woman from Point Richmond (east Bay) who was here on her annual visit to the Mendocino Coast. Although she’s rented a house on the coast for almost ten years, she no longer frets over what to bring. She told me “these days we calmly pack, make the drive, settle in and begin immediately to unwind.” In her view, whatever she’s forgotten to bring, she knows the markets will have plenty of food, there may be new and old favorite restaurants to enjoy, expanded trails to walk, and the ocean to see. “If I’ve forgotten something I need for me, I know I’ll find it here.” And a little conversation with Judith or Robin confirms her expectation.

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     Red Stella’s new store in Gualala is a perfect reflection of coastal life, and walking through it is a journey of discovery. With each twist and turn the eye finds a sweater for a chilly evening, or a soft wrap for a warm day at the beach; a casual dress for a lunch or an evening out, or shoes, boots or accessories to complete the look. There’s dinnerware for any meal on the coast. I happened across a white cereal (or soup bowl) that I knew would be perfect for our home. All around the outside there was plenty of attitude in print. For example, near the rim on one side it offered “What exactly were you trying to make?” apparently forcing you to defend or rethink the recipe. And a small twist of the bowl brought “I like this meal from a distance.” It’s all in good fun. And the irreverent attitude of the bowl fit perfectly within the charm of the store.

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     Many locals observed, in 2017, the transformation of the old Gualala Post Office building into the new, and greatly expanded Red Stella. I took particular notice of the old loading dock. Understanding that Judith and Robin would use much of that former warehouse-type interior space for the store itself, I was curious about the gates on the south side of the building where the trucks once unloaded the mail. As it turned out, their creative minds did the natural thing: they created a space that was as useful indoors as out. Their intention is to utilize "the porch" for special events. Perhaps a wine tasting, or a mixologist to demystify their art. Or a home decor specialist to answer questions about decorating. Maybe even a little music on a warm summer evening to accompany some small plates. Whatever the season, Red Stella will be here to welcome you. And you’ll quickly understand that you’re in good hands.

     Red Stella is on Highway One, Pacific Coast Highway in downtown Gualala. The store sits across the driveway from the newly reopened Gualala Hotel. You can also contact them at (707) 884-1072,, and at

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