A Little About Us
THE BACK STORY
Alessandro and I were friends in high school, but neither of us would have guessed that our paths would cross a few years after college, we'd date, eventually get married and start a family and life together. Our career paths also crossed in creative ways. Alessandro in the world of architecture and furniture design and mine as a graphic designer and photographer. We had talked for years about starting a business where we would bring together our experience and interests. This is how SOBU was born!
Named after our kids, Sofia and Bruno, SOBU began with an idea for a kids' bed in 2011, which led to a pop-up shop in Old Oakland in 2013, then to sharing a space with another retailer in our dream neighborhood of Rockridge in 2014, and finally to taking over the amazing space in 2016.
We wanted to design modern, well-crafted pieces from all-natural materials that would last a lifetime. We saw SOBU as an alternative to the mass-produced, hastily made and somewhat soulless furniture available at every mall across the country from the corporate giants we all know. Products perhaps specifically designed not to last.
Our hope was to create with pride and love, and to connect with our customers for a much more personal and meaningful experience purchasing items for their homes.
We wanted to show our customers we care, appreciate them and are truly honored they have chosen our designs to add to their homes. We thrive from our personal interactions with our customers. It is a human thing. It is a high you get from going down the street to the corner store to buy some milk. They know you, they know your name, you talk, do a quick catch up as you check out and you walk home feeling alive and connected. That's SOBU! Your neighborhood furniture shop.
It is not our goal to sell our biz to the highest bidder down the road. We have no plans for a steady 20% annual growth. We are not a traditional company. We are a small, family-run business. We love what we do, and one of the best parts...it allows us flexibility to hang out with our kids as much as possible before they fly the coop!
ABOUT THE LINE + OUR MISSION
In addition to our own designs (DESIGN BY SOBU), we showcase furniture, art and a wide range of home accessories from local and global artists whom we hold in high regard.
Our mission with SOBU is really the same which we live by and which guides us as parents: to be authentic, respectful, generous, joyful and creative.
Alessandro and I also strongly believe that we do not exist in a self-serving bubble. We believe that the more we connect with members of our community, with fellow artists and our neighbors, then we can all mutually benefit and can thrive. You will always find art and creations by local artists at our Oakland shop. Artists do not have a lot of outlets for exposure and appreciation and we are an alternative to the exclusive gallery world.
In addition, we contribute, we share and we support organizations who advocate for Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, and the environment amongst others. We also give directly to our local public schools. The grave homeless situation both in Oakland where our shop is and Berkeley where we live, weighs heavily on us. We have empathy for all of the homeless and know that broken lives often mean broken childhoods. If we all consider the next homeless person we pass with compassion and consider that perhaps this could be someone we know and perhaps as a child they may have been neglected, abused, rejected and/or abandoned, then we may have a kinder outlook and wonder how we can help. Compassion, empathy and understanding will always diffuse fear and judgement.
We truly hope you enjoy your visit with us and that you take away with you some warmth and inspiration from the little world we have created together! - Laleh
Furniture designer and ex-architect Alessandro Latini was born in Rome and spent his childhood living in inspirational locales such as Sardinia and Rio de Janeiro. He attended UC Berkeley's School of Architecture and discovered his love of furniture making amongst the machinery in the school's architectural workshop. After graduation, Alessandro moved to New York and lived in an East Village basement apartment designing and building custom furniture. A chance encounter with his old high school friend Laleh (see below) led to a move back to San Francisco. He then worked for architecture firms BAR Architects and BCV Architects before transitioning to designing furniture and accessories for a large Oakland-based furniture company. His designs have been featured by retailers such as Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel amongst many others. Alessandro's expertise is not only in furniture design, but in sourcing sustainable materials and methods of fabrication from workshops worldwide.
Iran-born graphic designer and photographer Laleh Latini moved at the age of eight with her family to San Francisco to escape the revolution. She grew up mostly in the city, but moved to Marin in high school where she became friends with future husband and SOBU co-founder Alessandro. Laleh began her studies at UC Davis in the interior architecture program, but switched in her sophomore year to an independent design major with an emphasis on film and photography. A few years after graduating, she embarked on a shoestring budget, around-the-world trip with college best friend Chelsea Gilmore. Starting out in Madrid and ending in Taipei, the two travelled across four continents and 13 countries. Back to reality in San Francisco, Laleh did a brief stint as an assistant to a wedding and food photographer, quickly realizing that the commercial route was not for her. She vowed to avoid a full-time, 9-5 job as long as she could and instead embarked on a freelance graphic design career with clients including Pottery Barn and Design Within Reach. Through the years, Laleh has remained a devoted photographer and you can see her images throughout the SOBU website. Her work is also available for purchase here and occasionally at our Oakland shop.
Crossing Paths Again
While on a visit from New York, Alessandro spotted his high school friend riding past on her Vespa. He left a note in her helmet inviting her to coffee and the rest is SOBU history. The next chapter included living together all over San Francisco with numerous awesome and unforgettable roommates, and a somewhat ill-fated move to France that led to a 1-year relationship hiatus, then...back together, kids and SOBU.
Laleh's high school Vespa is still around and being restored by a friend (Michael, almost done?). Recent additions to the SOBU family include a rusty Citroën HY, Laleh's Honda CRF230L dirt bike, a naughty cattle dog named Nacho and the tiniest addition, Gia the mini aussiedoodle. We have a very full and lively house!
SOBU always welcomes your thoughts and suggestions. We love what we do and hope you feel the same way!