Jacobs Design, Inc. was the Architect, Interior and Fixture designers for Aca Joe Mexico (the founding company) from 1980-1998, 19 years; likewise for Aca Joe International (the worldwide licensor in the USA at the time) from 1983-1987, from beginning to end.
The Aca Joe stores in the San Francisco Bay Area and other locations, to see these and other stores visit the project on our website @ Aca Joe Stores.
We are releasing first the story of the Stores in the San Francisco Bay, then will follow with other regions or stages of the prototype. Certainly we hope you enjoy! If you do, please let us know, to follow-up and keep you posted.
When I started planning to go to Architecture school, I had thought of how Architecture and Interior Design, could contribute to sales; through Brand, Location and Magnetism.
In other words, creating beautiful environments that would attract customers and produce income.
I didn’t think much about it for years, and as an Architect working in an industrial fabric production project and office buildings, until I came across Joe Rank at a party in 1980.
CONACYT at UNAM, Mexico City 1979. By Arq. Gerardo(Jerry) Jacobs, CAM and Arq. Enrique Carral Icaza†, CAM
Late 70’s Brutalist or Bauhaus Architecture. While under construction. Now the Museum of Science, at UNAM, MX.
Joe then asked me to help him with a store in Puerto Vallarta. He had a lot on the Waterfront, and a small store in an extraordinary location. Sounded fun, I said why not, and was on a plane there a week later. Landing in the morning and returning to Mexico City in the evening, nice way to have a meeting and spend the day outside the office.
Acapulco Joe as the stores were initially called, was a successful small chain of boutiques (8 stores) throughout Mexico’s beautiful resorts, Acapulco, PV, Cancun, Mazatlan, Mexico City and so on. Each small store in the best location in each town. It was all about exposure and presentation.
They were profitable while the prices were low or reasonable. People, especially American and European tourists in the resorts, would line up to enter the stores and line up again to pay. It was so successful that everyone in the USA wanted them, Bloomingdales, Macy’s and others sent invitations.
As Architects and Interior Designers, we started by redoing all the existing stores in Mexico and adding new ones, tearing small buildings down, redesigning structures, building from the ground or remodeling, and always complemented with the Bespoke interior and Store Furniture we had designed for them.
A clean Architecture and Interior Design or Store Design, that would “let the product speak”. Let the product line, the fashion, be the star. So at a very early age in my practice, I had my architectural ego exchanged for “Transparency”; I’m glad I did.
Influenced by the modern architecture of the day the Pompidou by Piano and Rogers, and Norman Foster’s Ipswich and Cambria buildings as well as contemporary Italian design.
Fixtures were bespoke. The wire basket, much copied after, the stainless steel hanging rods, the checkout counter.
The Signature Façades. Seamless glass as wide and tall as circumstances allowed.
A business swap in 1983 with even older and defunct US Brand, “Tops & Trousers”, mainly for a corner location in Union Square, had me jumping on a plane and start working, in San Francisco, and so I did 33 years ago. I designed and built around 200 stores for Aca Joe International, from 1983 to 1987, or about 40 a year.
I recall towards the end of that period working on a deal for 80 stores in Japan, unfortunately it didn’t happen.
ACA JOE International closed down, losing a battle with Benetton and The Gap among other financially much stronger brands at that time.
Zarah, H&M and specially UNIQLO were not even in the US yet, though Zara I learned was already on the move in Europe.
As mentioned before the 8 stores already there when I started supporting the venture, were in great locations. Mainly on streets and in resorts.
When Joe asked me to meet him in PV, I first went to see his store in Mexico City so I would know what they looked like. As in most projects there is usually a sense of insecurity, specially when what you are to alter is not bad to start with. The stores were chocolate brown interiors, with polished brass rods and mexican market wood crates. Sort of American Canteen.
I did the PV store with a tile floor and a space frame and plastic crates. I wanted to change everything. It was a nice experience. Gradually the prototype developed, from 1980 to 1983. Here are some of my favourite ones which we have images of.
Masaryk Boulevard in Polanco, Mexico City. This store had many transformations. First the store on the left was built from the ground up. Then they bought the one on the right.
As the photo says on the left altogether I must have designed and built around 250 stores. About 60 or so in Mexico. 8 prototypes, some before the classic, while others came after. We wont show examples of all as our website does show a range, we will only include a set.
12 Stores in Mexico with the original Logo. From top to bottom left to right: Amberes 19 Zona Rosa (Antes telas Pani), Monterrey, Acapulco, PV, Cozumel, Guadalajara, Cancun Centro, OV. Seguidas por tiendas de doble frente, Acapulco Costera, Cancun Caracol 2, Aeropuerto CDMX, Cancun Caracol 1.
Aca Joe Store design at Union Square, corner of Geary & Powell, San Francisco
Geary and Powell, a Union Square Corner, San Francisco Ca. Interior Design and Façade by Jerry Jacobs Design. Now the Swarovski flagship in the San Francisco Bay. Swarovski kept our storefront intact after 30 years (except for the Logos of course).
Certainly I remember sitting and chatting during the grand opening with Cyril Magnin a San Francisco Historical personality and Magnin’s department store owner in the next corner Geary and Stockton.
I also remember trying to get inside the store at the Party, there must have been at least 150 people in 1,100 ft2 store only, certainly above fire code, but then we had the connections, and champagne bubbles kept coming out of a fountain all night long…
As an Architect and Interior Designer in San Francisco it was both and honor and a challenge, to design my first store in San Francisco at a Union Square corner, in the USA, having only worked in Mexico then.
Most noteworthy the two biggest American Architects of the late 20th century Philippe Johnson at Neiman Marcus (Geary and Stockton), and I.M. Pei at the Hyatt hotel (Post and Stockton) had done San Francisco corners too.
Now 30+ years later Lord Norman Foster and Associates, are Designing both Apple’s World Flagship Store in a San Francisco Union Square corner (Post and Stockton), and Apple’s headquarters in Silicon Valley.
Probably it will have taken when opened about 2+ years (much larger and important than AJ), so one cannot argue this being, certainly one of the Best Retail locations in America and having done a good job.
Unfortunately we only had about 4-5 months, but then that was part of the excitement.
The logistics were hard, they needed to promote the IPO, and have a grand opening within a few months and given San Francisco strict building codes, it was very difficult, and though we were not able to achieve exactly what we wanted, it wasn’t bad, as it is not to date for Swarovski.
7 International stores. From top to bottom, left to right: Union Square SF, Stamford Ct., Chicago, London Piccadilly Circus, Royal St. New Orleans, Miami, Pier 39 SF
Among other tempered Glass issues, we were the world’s first to do awnings suspended from the glass with no additional hardware, in a high wind zone, and subject to very sophisticated Engineering and code.
Several of the largest and most notable Architecture and Interior Design firms in the City were networking with me at the party, with offers to be my Local Architects or Architects of record, including no other than Gensler associates, now the largest Architectural and Interior design firm in the world.
Unfortunately in those days I only understood design not business.
Here I saw the ground breaking. When I visited all I had was a cement floor, and the posts. As well as the Tenant package. Designed as a village the dormer style facade, blade sign and other elements were new to me, as a designer. I floated the columns in front of the glass, just as I had learned from Mies and Corbu. Wrapped them in metal (Horton Plaza Style).
In the Silicon Valley now this mall practically dead recently will become the most interesting one through a remodel by Rafael Viñoly. Right next to Apple. Backlit sign fabric covered.
Wood pier style dominates de Mall. The space had a frontal Octagon with columns in every corner. We were able to run a totally uninterrupted glass skin in the interior. Like a jewel Clearing all the structure, as Mies and Corbu taught us. Placing the entrance at the center very classic.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, we designed 9 stores (7 shown):
For the full list of Stores we design for Aca Joe International please sign up on the Blog and request.
We designed Aca Joe retail stores in 30 states stateside, as well as in London, Paris, Toronto, Viena, Costa Rica and of course in many cities and resort of Mexico, altogether about 300 stores designed.
Zara the largest Apparel wear retailer in the world and Uniqlo (a similar concept to AJ concept) which didn’t exist. We had lost the business battle , had we not I would be very wealthy indeed. I used to joke on almost owning the Gap. Gradually the Aca Joe Brand disappeared in the USA.
We did a few stores in London and Continental Europe, Canada, South America, et. Aca Joe Mexico, remained profitable and we did over fifty stores for them through 1998, from our Interior design office in San Francisco and in Mexico City.
A good plan, excellent attractive pricing and good Store design or attractive Facades and locations, had people waiting in line to pay.
That was a lot of fun and a learning experience; we appreciate Joe for the invitation, and his patience.
We went on to do, as you know many other stores for other Brands worldwide, and of course Residential Architecture and Interior Design as always.
Seems like, that there are some Aca Joe stores left that we have heard off in Mexico at the Comercial Mexicana , and in weird places like Honduras, South Africa and in the USA Key West (which was rebuilt after a fire, and reopened as a shoe store with the same Logo), even more but completely lust track. I understand in Mexico the Brand is now licensed through Commercial Mexicana chain of Department stores (Mexican Target or similar).
The Acapulco Joe stores which existed by 1979, when I started to design their stores, had a very interesting fixture. The Mexican “Huacal”. Translates to box as in getting out of the box, more literally a box ideally suited to carry mainly basic produce. Or Market box.
The Acapulco Joe stores had them both stacked on the wall to a reachable height, maybe 5-6 of them, and sitting in groups on the floor as in island. His “Look” was perfect to that extend. The environment and decor were something to work on. As an Architect, I dream buildings. When Joe invited me to see a site for one of his stores, and I hadn’t seen one of them, so I only dreamt Architecture for a Store. So when I saw the store I immediately approved.
I had a very strong “Modules” background. Had studied Japanese Architecture, as well as Archigram and other European Urban Futuristic Designers, let alone Pompidou in Paris, so I was well influenced as an Architect. The Mexican “Huacal” which I was brought up around, proved its value by design with millions of unity produced, and used by everyone.
All food markets had them as well as many other users. A historical standard wood crate! On my first store design attempt for them in Puerto Vallarta in 1979-1980, I had produced a Huacal in Plastic. We actually used them (I hope I can find a picture one day), but we didn’t like it. It looked cheap, though well made.
Mexico and other parts of the world had milk delivery and that was on small “Wire” crates, also universal. More of a European influence on me, sleeker rader than rustic. So I came up with the Aca Joe Wire crate. Here are the picture I took of my prototypes in 1980-81. So in those days in Mexico people would copy outright or managed to, when Joe mentioned someone had, we decided at least it was flattery. Pretty soon our supplier was stocking all the markets in Mexico with our wire basket, him and many others I assume. Such is life.
Though very few were able to use them as Joe and I had intended. By using metal and distributing weight better we could do “Vertical” merchandising which was beginning to get cool in those days. In 1983 when we first opened stores in the USA (me as the Architect and I.D.) the “baskets” or Canastas as we call them were coming from Mexico to the US, because we were opening two AJ stores. So at an average 1000 to a store, it made sense, no need for local production.
As we started doing more stores at a very fast pace, we developed the local production, and they worked and looked better. Cost less too, made in California, so that killed the business in Mexico. My estimate is at least 500,000 Canastas or wire baskets were produced for us. I have kept a cabout 100 with me in my different homes., with other uses, mixed in my Studio and Garage.
Some of the Actors. Joe Rank on the left (the Joe), Gerald Jacobs (The Architect and the author), Joaquin Clausell (General contractor), at the Acapulco Carlos’n Charlies after the opening of the Costera Store, 1981
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