The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world in more ways than we can even comprehend at this point, globally, locally, financially and psychologically. Here in San Luis Obispo, we can expect to see some dramatic alterations to the landscape of our charming downtown. Just one example of that is Bambu Batu, the House of Bamboo, which will be closing its doors and switching off the lights for the last time on May 31.
Given the timing, it’s natural to assume that the 14-year-old shop’s closure is a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic shutdown. In fact, the story is quite a bit more complicated than that. And I’ve written a series of articles detailing the backstory and rich history of Bambu Batu leading up to this current crisis.
I’ve been so prolific on our blog and on social media, in fact, that a number of local news outlets even picked up on the story. My plight as a father, an ex-pat and a small business owner has appeared on the 6 o’clock news as well as the front page of the SLO Tribune.
NOTE: For a more uplifting diversion, check out this Pictorial History of Bambu Batu.
I won’t bother to rehash the gruesome details here, but suffice to say that I look forward to putting the whole story to rest. So now is the time to share my deep gratitude to the community, not only for supporting the shop over the past decade and a half, but especially for coming out in the past month and half to show some real appreciation for this House of Bamboo.
For me, Bambu Batu was always more than just a business. It was a way of life, a model of living in accordance with environmental, spiritual and community principles. And as long-time customers flocked to the store—even in a time of quarantine—or contacted me by phone or by email, over the past few weeks, it became clear that so many people genuinely resonated with those intentions. So despite the sadness we share over the shop having to close down, knowing that there will never be another place quite like the House of Bamboo, we’ve also had a chance to acknowledge the shop’s unique place in the community.
It’s been four years since since I’d moved on from Bambu Batu, never thinking I’d come back. But the opportunity to connect with you all, for one last farewell, has made the whole ordeal of the last 6 months worthwhile. From the welcome I received when I showed up in October, to the warm wishes, virtual hugs and deep expressions of gratitude I’ve seen since announcing the store’s final shutdown, I’m left feeling that Bambu Batu was indeed a great success.
As much as I wanted to keep the shop open and keep the spirit alive, I see that I accomplished what I set out to do. And even without Bambu Batu, I know that the spirit is and will remain very much alive. It’s been an honor to carry the flag of that spirit, but all good things must come to an end. I’m just grateful that I could be here to see it end with dignity.
Life goes on, of course, and when the door to Bambu Batu closes, other doors will surely open. As reported in the Tribune, I’m now off to the Spanish Pyrenees to write poetry. The headline may have sounded somewhat farcical, but it’s a true story. Perhaps some of you will follow me there. Trust me when I say you won’t regret it if you do.
PHOTO CREDIT: Nick Wilson at the SLO Tribune