Maggie Rizer ups East Bay fashion ante with San Ramon boutique


There is no such thing as “mom jeans” for model Maggie Rizer Mehran.

Overseeing final details at her new M by Maggie Rizer fashion boutique in the sparkly new City Center Bishop Ranch “lifestyle” complex in San Ramon, Rizer is dressed down in figure-hugging jeans that most mothers of four young children would kill to wear.

The 40-year-old fresh freckle-faced beauty rose to prominence in the mid-’90s, striding catwalks for fashion’s most heralded designers and gracing covers of countless magazines. But ironically, she hates many aspects of shopping in stores — the hovering salespeople and pressure to buy, only to learn the shoes she covets are not available in her size.

“I really dislike that entire experience — I think that’s why so many people buy online,” she says. “But I love fashion. For years, I’ve thought about designing my own line of jeans. And I’ve played with the idea of someday opening a store.”

That needle moved thanks to her husband, Alexander Mehran Jr. He and his father, Alexander Mehran Sr., are principals of Sunset Development — a major commercial real estate company founded in Livermore amid the post-WWII housing boom by Mehran Jr.’s grandfather, the late Masud Mehran, a storied Bay Area developer.

In 1978, Mehran Jr.’s grandfather and father purchased a 585-acre pear farm transforming it into Bishop Ranch, the site of 10 million square-feet of office space and home to Fortune 500 companies that employ some 30,000 people.

Within that behemoth is now City Center Bishop Ranch, a mere 300,000-square-foot, two-story complex designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano — his first-ever foray into retail design.

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“Alex encouraged me this was the perfect time and place to try my idea,” says Rizer, who lives about 10 minutes away in Diablo, near Mount Diablo. “To have a Piano building here in San Ramon is a draw in itself. It’s so beautiful you don’t even need to shop — you can just admire the space and rotating public artwork. But this center is the cake, and the boutique is my icing.”

While San Ramon may not come to mind as an obvious fashion destination, Rizer knows her clientele: fellow big-city ladies-turned-moms seeking good schools, warm weather and the relaxed lifestyle of affluent East Bay burbs.

“My hope is the boutique is more experience than just fashion. I want shoppers to feel like they’re enjoying a glass of Champagne in their own living room, flipping through art books as their children play in our kid’s corner,” she says. “Or they can just soak up the sun outside in Renzo’s modern version of an Italian piazza.”

The interior of her 2,000-square-foot boutique has a flouncy, femme vibe accented by a Champagne and coffee bar, with Matthew Williamson wallpaper and textiles, that features women’s designer apparel, Taschen and Assouline art books along with a 4-foot tall Victorian-era birdcage.

“I’m obsessed with vintage birdcages — they’re whimsically beautiful. We found this on 1stdibs,” says Rizer, with a laugh. “I’ve never owned a bird. But I’m about to own six finches. My children are choosing their names. So far we’ve got Feather, King and Cracker.”

Her boutique is intrinsically personal, like a boudoir stocked with fantastical fashions by some of her favorite designers, including Anna Sui, Temperley London, Rick Owens, jewelry designers Kim Mee Hye and Dean Harris.

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However you won’t find Rizer behind the cash register, mainly because there isn’t an obvious one — that’s stashed in the back. With children who range in age from 1 to 6 years old, she’s a behind-the-scenes owner. Retail management firm Maris Collective runs the daily operations.

“I choose every designer we carry and will update by season,” Rizer says. “But Maris is a great partner: They execute and I get to art direct.” She’s hoping to eventually return to fashion week as a buyer for the boutique.

Bishop Ranch visitors can also explore the center’s new Slanted Door restaurant by Charles Phan, a 10-screen LOT Theater, West Elm, Equinox Gym, Roam Burgers and the Boba Guys tea outpost.

Adjoining Rizer’s store is Trader, a dark-wood, antler chandelier-adorned men’s concept dreamed up by her husband, an avid outdoorsman who has spent so many hours researching the finest fishing rod or hiking boot that he decided to jump into the retail fray, too. The store will carry Filson, Belstaff and Fjällräven.

“Maris also executes Alex’s store,” Rizer says. “But I’m much more hands-on, almost a control freak. So I’m sure they enjoy working with Alex much more than with me.”

Rizer plans to host trunk shows and fashion events in her space.

“I’ll be very happy if people appreciate what I’m doing. It’s also a great place for me to shop,” she says. “I’m driving my staff crazy, wondering when the sequined-Pucci dress I’ve ordered will arrive. I think I’m definitely going to be one of my own best customers.”

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Catherine Bigelow is The San Francisco Chronicle’s society correspondent. Email: missbigelow@sfgate.com Instagram: @missbigelow



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