When Fred Hornaday first opened San Luis Obispo’s Bambu Batu, using bamboo for anything other than a backyard hedge seemed exotic. Now, six years later, bamboo sheets, towels, clothing and home décor products are commonplace.
“The more exposure people have to alternative, natural fiber clothing with the mainstream, the better it is for all of us,” noted Hornaday.
Bambu Batu still has the edge over chain stores when it comes to sheer selection and variety of bamboo, natural and eco-friendly products. Among its newer offerings are products made in San Luis Obispo County such as Peace Bronze jewelry (made from dismantled nuclear weapons systems), Skin Food (all organic, handmade skin creams and moisturizers), Elemental Herbs (organic, all-natural lip balms, salve and sun screen), and Haute Couture (intimate apparel made in San Luis Obispo from bamboo fabric).
Bambu Batu expanded its products for the home when it moved to a larger location in 2010. It still carries the rustic bamboo pole pieces most of us associate with bamboo furniture. But it also offers more modern furnishings crafted from solid boards that are laminated in a process similar to bamboo flooring. In the showroom are smaller pieces like stools and accent tables, but the store can special order larger items like dining tables and bedroom sets.
Bamboo towels are soft, absorbent, hypo-allergenic and naturally anti-microbial. The same goes for sheets and other home textiles. Bamboo bowls, trays, platters, cutting boards and utensils offer a warm and organic look for the kitchen.
A newer offering at the shop is a line of bowls, vases and candle holders carved from sustainably harvested mango wood, which has a striking, swirled grain.
For some, bamboo is more than a raw material — it’s part of a lifestyle choice.
“We’ve really been developing our niche as a source for mindful and metaphysical home accessories,” said Hornaday.
This includes Eastern statuary, hanging scrolls, stones etched with spiritual messages, meditation cushions, and yoga mats.
For Asian, but not necessarily spiritual, décor, there are Indian tapestries and bedspreads, shoji lamps, fountains, Asian brushwork art, bamboo floor mats, and other accessories.
A big part of the Bambu Batu philosophy is to work with manufacturers that, according to the store website, “abide by the highest standards of ecologically responsible production and socially responsible labor practice.”
Hornaday personally researches each company he plans to deal with, often visiting factories and workshops. He favors products that are organic, fair trade, and sustainably-produced. He also ensures that all bamboo products are panda-safe, meaning they are not varieties eaten by pandas, or from a region inhabited by pandas.
Now that bamboo products are found everywhere from chain stores to boutiques, Hornaday encourages customers to ask merchants how the products are sourced and manufactured.
“Not everyone has the time to spend hours researching everything they buy,” he said. “I’m the owner and I’m here all the time, so I’m happy to answer those questions.”
Bambu Batu is at 1023 Broad St. in San Luis Obispo, 788-0806.