Allen and Ayaka Lu work to bring employment and training to East Palo Alto residents

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on February 18, 2016

Post image for Allen and Ayaka Lu work to bring employment and training to East Palo Alto residents

Sometimes name recognition comes with what was, rather than what is. Such is the case for a trio of micro businesses that are located on Willow Road in a building that once housed Baneth Pharmacy.

Opened in October, 2015, EPAShop, EPAMade and EPAShip are the brainchilds of husband and wife team, Allen and Ayaka Lu. “We’d looked for space in East Palo Alto,” explained Allen, “but couldn’t find anything. But being here in Menlo Park, close to 101, and in a space that had name recognition for residents on both sides of the freeway, has been a blessing.”

Ayaka was serving at New Creation Home in EPA when she noticed that one resident was always knitting. “My thought was ‘what if we create handmade products together?’ These young mothers have capabilities and beautiful stories. And Allen had experience in e-commerce.”

Ayaka and Allen Lu_working

EPAMade offers new clothes for women and kids as well as candles, ornaments and knickknacks. They sell both in the store and online.

Complementing that endeavor are two others — a boutique thrift store and logistics warehouse. “We were surprised to learn from EPA residents that the closest thrift store was in Redwood City,” said Ayaka.

“We felt we needed to serve as a family,” continued Allen.  “The idea behind all three businesses is integrating our work careers with our personal life. We formed an umbrella organization that is a non-profit, and 100% of our profits are reinvested.”

EPAShop sells (and accepts as donations) new-to-gently used clean clothes, shoes, jewelry, bags, toys, baby wear, kitchen items and home goods. For buyers, they offer specials: 15% off jewelry on Wednesdays, 15% off clothes on Thursdays, and free toys on Fridays. “We want everyone who comes to the shop to walk out with something,” said Allen.

“We have an incredible team that’s been with us for six months,” he said, “and we feel we’re ready to set up a vocational training for retail associates, warehouse logistics, and manufacturing. The best training is hands on.”

The three businesses are located at 900A Willow Rd. Allen and Ayaka are seeking volunteers to do a variety of tasks. More information is available online.

Photos by Linda Hubbard (c) 2016

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Vicki Welch February 18, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Bravo to the Lus. Wish I still lived in the area to help out. But I challenge all Oak Knoll/MA alumni, Sephora peeps and fellow career retailers to lend them a hand. Great idea and all the best.

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