The Grateful Dead has started a family business in Marin, and it is as much a community center as a cash-and-carry enterprise. The wives of the band members and others have opened a store, Kumquat Mae, at 1218 San Anselmo Avenue, San Anselmo. “We just got tired of sitting around all day while the men rehearsed,” said Kristine Healy (her old man is soundman Dan Healy). “In the old days, before the Dead got rich, we were much more involved in things. When the band first went on tour in 1965, we all piled into a van and drove to New York. Now if the guys want to go somewhere, they buy a plane ticket. The whole rock scene has changed. It’s big business now. Four years ago we were doing things like the original Carousel Ballroom dances— and the ladies would take turns cooking. I made 40 spice cakes one day. Annie Corson ran the kitchen. She made real gourmet food and we would serve this to all the people who came. “So we were all staying home and watching the kids, sewing, playing baseball. Then Susila Kreutzmann said, ‘Why don’t we have a store?’ and we all really dug on the idea. It’s a way to extend our family trip to the outside world again.” The store opened last September with ten dresses and not much else as stock. The women weren’t sure what it would turn into, so the name Kumquat Mae seemed about right. They got the name from Mountain Girl. Right now the store carries clothes of all sorts, furniture, jewelry, antiques, paintings, sculptures, and home-blown glass. Over one hundred artists and craftsmen have brought in their work since the store opened. Much of the merchandise reflects the store’s connection with the Grateful Dead. A table near the cash register is covered with Dead t-shirts and records, and one window is plastered with concert posters. A large photograph of the group is prominently placed on a wall. Joie Gage, who outfits musicians, offers clothes made to order through the store. Birgitta (“no last name, I’m 100 percent Birgitta”), makes intricate crocheted dresses, coats and vests. “It takes me a month to make a dress, and I get attached to them. Here I can get to know the people who will be wearing my stuff, so it’s alright?’ The store also carries fabric dyed by Courtenay, who designed the speaker covers for the band. “We don’t see this place as just a store. We want it to be more a center of activity. If some-one is looking to buy a 1959 Volvo stick-shift, they should stop in and ask us if we have any leads. We couldn’t have opened the store without that kind of help ourselves.” Kumquat Mae includes a free store, which has a good selection of clothing, toys, records and furniture. “We have a lot of projects going,” said Kristine, “and the more we do, the more we want to do.”
— Merrill Sanders (Rolling Stone ’72 )
Birgitta Bjerke dancing
Birgitta in front of one of her fabulous crochet creations
Kristine Bennett Healy, one of the creators of Kumquat Mae, and many of the beautiful clothes made there
Kumquat Mae had its own childcare, from the left is Annabell Garcia, Sunshine Kesey and Ambrosia Healy.
Birgitta and a friend at Kumquat Mae
Photo Credits: Main and bottom-right – Jon Goodchild, Others – Birgitta Bjerke