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The Best Places to Shop in SF in 2016
San Francisco magazine | Photo: Zipeng Zhu; Courtesy of Retailers | June 24, 2016
Lifetime-lasting shoes, affordable (but impeccable) suits, unkillable plants, and the rest of the best swag in the city.
Eyewear: Garrett Leight
393 Hayes St. (near Gough St.), 628-444-3110
Helmed by namesake eyewear scion Garrett Leight (son of Oliver Peoples founder Larry Leight), this L.A.-based brand’s handmade acetate and stainless steel frames come in dozens of tortoise, matte, and metallic finishes (from $285). The 1,000-square-foot store employs a licensed optician to build frames from lens to finish. And in addition to its retro-inspired seasonal releases, the brand is known for its cool-kid collaborations with designers like Mark McNairy, Thierry Lasry, and Clare Vivier.
722 Montgomery St. (near Jackson St.), 415-513-1640
Detroit-based watchmaker Shinola hired Richard Lambertson and John Truex, the co-designers behind the once-beloved, since-shuttered New York leather goods label Lambertson Truex, to take over its men’s and women’s bag collections in 2014. The refreshingly logoless line’s emphasis is on the leather itself, sourced from family-owned American tanneries and drum-dyed in rich shades of bourbon, burgundy, cognac, and spruce. Though sizes span from wallets ($195) to roomy travel duffels ($1,195), the standout style is the multi-pocketed accordion bag—a compact cross-body sling.
Runner-up: Future Glory Co.
Women’s Shoes: Bryr
2331 3rd St. (near 20th St.), Bryrstudio.com
Capitalizing on the tendency of San Francisco’s terrain to destroy stilettos, British designer Isobel Schofield launched this sunny shoe studio in Dogpatch last year to create customized wood-soled sandals, clogs, and booties—think Rachel Comey kicks, but at a fraction of the price (from $250). Options include heel height and more than 20 leather hues. Although the soles come from Europe, all the shoes are made onsite by Schofield and her staff of four. A one-month turnaround time is typical.
Runner-up: Freda Salvador
544 Hayes St. (near Laguna St.), 415-431-4000
Whether your aesthetic skews time-tarnished and one-of-a-kind or faceted and finely cut, this boutique has a shiny something for every style (from $45). Owner Leah Bershad replenishes her store’s jewel-dotted display cases via international dealers, scouting trips, and studio visits. You’ll find engagement rings and new jewelry by local designers like Cinq and Ursa Major, as well as one-of-a-kind vintage baubles of Edwardian, Georgian, Victorian, and art deco origin. They’re intermixed with Bershad’s eclectic finds from the road, including woven bracelets from Peru, hand-beaded pins from New Mexico, and vintage signet rings from England.
Men’s Shoes: Barneys Men’s Store
2 Stockton St. (near O’Farrell St.), 415-268-3500
Descend the nautilus-like white staircase into the new 19,000-square-foot Barneys Men’s Store and behold a leather-scented shoe lover’s promised land. Sneakers, from patent leather Lanvin to studded Louboutin lace-ups and Balenciaga high-tops (from $285), are showcased in transparent cubes. Well-oiled dress shoes and weekend kicks line the marble walls, including wing tips, monk straps, boots, and driving shoes from brands like Harris, Di Bianco, and John Lobb.
Men’s Accessories: Tanner Goods
651 Divisadero St. (near Grove St.), 415-757-0614
For most men, the ultimate accessory needn’t be flashy or label-flaunting—be it a wallet, watch, or bag—just long-lasting. The focus here is on craftsmanship and high-end raw materials. The Portland-based brand is known for its Meridian English bridle leather, which is die-cut and stitched into finely crafted portfolios, wallets, eyewear cases, and wristbands. But the specialty is the standard belt ($125), an everyday accessory that rarely gets such care and consideration. Here, the edges are dyed, burnished, and waxed by hand.
Bath and Body: Jo Malone London
2157 Union St. (near Fillmore St.), 415-673-1091
Bath products are notoriously cursed by overpowering scents, as though potency denoted value. But not at this quintessentially British perfumer, which creates delicious-smelling body products in nuanced fragrances like dark amber and ginger lily, wood sage and sea salt, and orange blossom (from $25). The product line includes exotic hand and body washes, moisturizing body oils, and luxuriously rich body creams in a dozen citrus, floral, spicy, woody, and fruity scents. Any of the creams and lotions are available for a test drive in-store, along with a complimentary hand and arm massage at the boutique’s bar.
Runner-up: Elizabeth W
2136 Fillmore St. (near Sacramento St.), 415-885-1800
“Totally clean. Super good. Absolutely beautiful.” The mantra is scrawled in red paint across the back wall of this eco-minded, Boor Bridges–designed beauty boutique, where more than 100 brands are selected with an eye for natural ingredients. There are hard-to-find, botanical-based products for every beauty aim and skin type: masks, cleansers, oils, balms, exfoliants, toners, and more. Owner Shashi Batra, a former Sephora executive, has done his homework: Each product is displayed alongside a small placard detailing its nontoxic, paraben-free, organic virtues. Even the Tata Harper spa room in back looks like a secret garden, with a topiary of vines climbing overhead.
973 Valencia St. (near 21st St.), 510-230-7975
Fresh-hewn wood, anyone? What about green carnation with a hint of absinthe? Antonia Kohl fills her jewel-box perfumery with high-quality scents from indie fragrance makers. If the space looks more like a vintage shop than a beauty counter—a velvet Victorian sofa here, midcentury dressers and thrifted ceramic tchotchkes there—that’s by design: “I was going for whimsical and unintimidating,” says Kohl. The 45 artisan perfumers in the mix include Tauer Perfumes in Switzerland, Olympic Orchids in Seattle, and Kerosene in Detroit. Kohl regularly hosts lectures, trunk shows, and natural-perfume-blending classes (from $150).
Runner-up: Jo Malone London
Men’s Grooming: J.P. Kempt
351 Divisadero St. (near Oak St.), 415-437-1300
This celebrated barbershop is known for its retro-cool coifs. But the underappreciated part is not what’s happening in the vintage barber chairs, but what’s up front. There, shelves are lined with hard-to-find, barber-tested products for a glowing face and mane. The stash includes Fiber Grease hair pomade from Japan, Malin & Goetz skincare, Musgo shaving cream, Proraso soap, Kent combs, and more. The barbers never push product, but if you want to re-create that fresh-from-the-chair look, they’ll send you home with the proper goods.
Women’s Wear: Lexington Standard
3469 18th St. (near Valencia St.), 415-967-4261
Owned by Andrew Soernsen and Mark Lee Morris, the duo behind Mission decor and clothing boutique Aggregate Supply, this six-month-old sister store is AG’s grown-up, more daring counterpart: Lisa Says Gah meets the Mill. You’ll find a considered mix of Danish and West Coast labels to build an effortlessly cool, season-less wardrobe, including Rachel Comey coats, Martiniano shoes, Henrik Vibskov knits, Day Birger et Mikkelsen jackets, and Ace & Jig dresses.
Eco-Fashion: Amour Vert
Multiple locations, Amourvert.com
“Green” fashion often translates to waistless tunics and hemp sack dresses. Not so at Amour Vert, an S.F.-based brand that makes stylish basics from sustainable fabrics. The feathery micromodal tees, silk tank dresses, and lightweight jackets are all manufactured in the United States using nontoxic dyes. (Even the tags are made from recycled content.) But the company doesn’t sacrifice flattering design for do-gooder status: The silk tanks ($118) and Parisian-striped tees (from $68) are year-round staples. In partnership with American Forests, the company plants one tree for every Amour Vert tee purchased.
Runner-up: BeGood Clothing
Designer Boutique: Dior
185 Post St. (near Grant Ave.), 415-398-2204
The newly reopened Dior complex is a marble-and-glass shrine to French design, where private lounges and hushed salons beckon. The two-story, 10,000-square-foot space is inspired by the slick, bright-white Parisian flagship; even the facade is covered in a curtain of translucent glass. Sunglasses, bags, jewelry, and watches reside on the first floor, while ready-to-wear styles and a parade of show-stopping shoes are showcased upstairs. A gleaming, mirrored staircase connects the two floors, backed by a mesmerizing video wall by the visual artist Oyoram.
Jeans: AB Fits
1519 Grant Ave. (near Union St.), 415-982-5726
In a city that lives in jeans, Howard Gee reigns supreme. His 26-year-old North Beach boutique specializes in finding the best pair for every body type. The indigo-lined shelves hold more than two dozen brands, from classic labels like Levi’s Made & Crafted and APC to lifetime-lasting selvage Japanese denim from Matias and Freenote (from $169). And though AB’s longtime staffers are knowledgeable about jean maintenance, fabric makeup, and mill history, they’re easygoing and nonjudgmental: They’ll do a quick consult, pull a wide range of options, and offer dressing room feedback upon request. In-store hemming is on the house.
Runner-up: Self Edge
Menswear: Iron & Resin
7 Columbus Ave. (near Washington St.), 415-624-3288
With vintage motorcycles parked in the entryway and surfboards in the front windows, this is a clothing store for the anti-dandy. The SoCal label’s American-made line offers unfussy staples including crew-neck sweatshirts, indigo button-downs, lightweight anoraks, and cropped chinos. In addition to the in-house apparel, you’ll find a range of ruggedly cool accessories like Raen shades, Red Wing boots, and Tsovet watches, plus handcrafted extras like pocketknives, beach blankets, and trail soap.
Runner-up: Welcome Stranger
2170 Folsom St. (near 17th St.), By appointment, Everlane.com
Transparency is a buzzword in fashion these days, but before it was a cliché, it was a radical concept honed by Everlane. In its openness about fabric sources, production methods, and pricing strategy, the S.F.-based brand has nailed the essential elements of a great basic: wearability, durability, and affordability. From easy silk blouses ($78) to chunky wool sweaters ($78), the label’s well-made garb is the basis for a city wardrobe.
Runner-up: Kit & Ace
Women’s Work Wear: Modern Citizen
2762 Octavia St. (near Union St.), modern-citizen.com
Modern Citizen’s Jessica Lee, a former e-commerce strategist at the Gap, has filled a gaping hole in the market, offering a go-to work wardrobe for the everywoman, with designs that are fashion-forward but not overtly trendy. The wrinkle-resistant fabrics are sewn into easy silhouettes, from textured slip dresses (from $68) to comfy-chic cropped trousers ($108). Make an appointment at the S.F. showroom to try on the full line; new styles are released every month.
Men’s Work Wear: Taylor Stitch
383 Valencia St. (near 15th St.), 415-621-2231
Though competing San Francisco factions hail the rise of the hoodie and the return of the suit, the basic button-down remains a wardrobe mainstay. Taylor Stitch goes to great lengths to create a flattering, well-proportioned shirt for every man’s build (from $98). Custom shirt fittings are offered by appointment or walk-in, and the 12-step measuring process and consult lasts no more than a half hour. The fabrics are high-quality cotton, linen, and wool from mills throughout Europe and Japan, and the shirts are hand-sewn by L. Gambert, one of the oldest shirtmakers in the country.
Runner-up: Café Coton
175 Maiden Ln. (near Stockton St.), us.suitsupply.com
Finally, the answer to every suit-wearing man’s prayers: a happy medium between J.Crew and Kiton. Unlike at the city’s many made-to-measure spots, where you’ll blow a month’s rent on a single suit (and spend the next decade wearing it out), at Suitsupply the trifecta is fit, variety, and affordability (from $399). The company designs, manufactures, and sells all its clothing in-house, avoiding markups while controlling quality. The materials are sourced from family-owned mills in Biella, Italy, a region known for its fabrics. And though the modelesque staff look as if they’ve been teleported from the streets of Milan, they’re well versed in talk of super count and silhouette. Minor alterations are done on the spot, in 30 minutes or less; major alterations—like lengthening sleeves—take three days; and custom suits are completed in four to six weeks.
Runner-up: Tailor’s Keep
722 Montgomery St. (near Jackson St.), 415-658-9231
This Seattle-based apparel brand has been shielding outdoorsmen from the elements for more than 100 years. That means that when you’re huddled around a bonfire on Ocean Beach, camping in the East Bay wilderness, or bracing against the wind-whipping chill on Bernal Hill, this is just the hardworking fog wear you want. The signature tin cloth coats (from $330) are constructed from a treated oil-finish cotton, making them warm enough to weather the city’s nightly temperature swings but lightweight enough to be stuffed into a tote by day.
Runner-up: Welcome Stranger
Vintage Art Prints: Schein & Schein
1435 Grant Ave. (near Union St.), 415-399-8882
From the gold leaf signage and tin ceiling to the vintage-crate displays, this North Beach shop feels like a step back in time. Owners Marti and Jim Schein specialize in prints from the 14th to the 20th centuries, with a particular penchant for California maps. Printed rarities like wine country imagery, medical and scientific illustrations, atlases, and nautical etchings are arrayed in wooden shipping crates and letterpress drawers that are organized by city, country, and theme. Though century-old maps can run into the thousands, discount bins bear treasures for as little as $5. Schein & Schein also offers museum-quality framing services onsite.
Runner-up: Lost Art Salon
New Art Prints: Park Life
220 Clement St. (near 3rd Ave.), 415-386-7275
Part design shop, part gallery, part art library, Park Life is a retail space that acts as a springboard for unrepresented local artists. Owners Jamie Alexander and Derek Song curate 10 exhibitions a year, including the work of emerging contemporary artists like Kristina Lewis, Marina Luz, Katy Kosman, Joseph Ferriso, and Serena Mitnik-Miller (prints from $10). But while Alexander and Song know their art, the store doesn’t take itself too seriously. Up front you’ll find a rotating array of original paintings, illustrations, drawings, and limited-edition prints, all displayed alongside art tomes, T-shirts, stationery, and toys.
Runner-up: Rare Device
1226 9th Ave. (near Irving St.), thewildonessf.com
Laura Seymour of the Wild Ones has been creating exotic, textural arrangements for clients like Outerlands, Lyft, and Everlane for years. This spring, she launched her first retail space, offering a bounty of locally sourced blooms. A student of ikebana—a Japanese approach to floristry that emphasizes sculptural shapes and graceful lines—Seymour incorporates fruit-bearing and flowering branches, peonies, and bearded irises into her custom arrangements (from $35 in-store). But in her new space, she encourages shoppers to buy blooms and branches by the bunch ($5 to $25) and arrange them according to their own sensibilities.
Tableware: Sue Fisher King
3067 Sacramento St. (near Baker St.), 415-922-7276
This boutique has all the makings for an elegant dinner party, from gold-plated flatware to hand-printed indigo napkins. The walls gleam with glass and ceramics, including glossy white Astier de Villatte earthenware from Paris, Juliska barware made using 17th-century techniques, hand-turned cherry and black walnut bowls by Andrew Pearce, and Laguiole knives in wood, bone, and horn. Beyond the tabletop, the shop sells party accoutrements like cocktail nuts, stationery, and Diptyque candles.
Runner-up: Heath Ceramics
2300 Fillmore St. (near Clay St.), 415-292-6199
Mother-daughter owners Judy Gilman and Marcella Madsen share exotic tastes, sourcing worldly gems from across Europe and Asia. The vibrant bedding selection at their pair of Pac Heights and Berkeley boutiques is a testament to their travels. You’ll find cozy alpaca and wool throws from Ireland, India-inspired block-print quilts by Kerry Cassill, embroidered silk duvets, and Austrian cotton-blend blankets—all complemented by an assortment of East Asian embroidered pillows.
Runner-up: Urban Mercantile
Vintage Furniture: De Angelis
573 Valencia St. (near 16th St.), 415-861-9800
Formerly at the helm of the decor store Monument, owner Michael De Angelis is a true mid-century mastermind. Since reopening his store as De Angelis in 2014, he’s honed its focus to Italian and Danish design from the ’50s and ’60s, all restored to pristine condition (from $395). The store’s tags read like a who’s who of midcentury furniture and lighting icons: You’ll find a Jens Risom magazine table, an Edward Wormley desk, a George Nelson chest, a Paul Frankl dresser, and countless curvaceous recliners, lounges, and chairs by Hans Wegner, Milo Baughman, and Finn Juhl.
Runner-up: Mixed Nuts
New Furniture: Zinc Details
1633 Fillmore St. (near Geary Blvd.), 415-776-2700
This Lower Pac Heights home-design unicorn stocks timeless furniture and decor from a slew of designers at a range of price points. Newcomers never get the silent once-over here—the vibe, from longtime owner (and neighborhood fixture) Vas Kiniris down through the ranks, is cheery and unstuffy. The long, narrow shop stocks stylish, functional furniture for modern San Francisco living, including Normann Copenhagen and Blu Dot chairs, Pablo lighting, wool sectionals, and multipurpose storage units.
Home Decor: Anyon Atelier
3452 Sacramento St. (near Walnut St.), 415-814-3849
This 600-square-foot shop is a hidden gem tucked into the front section of Lindsay Brier’s interior design studio. The selection of decor, while limited, is impeccably curated, from naturally dyed marbled pillows by Rule of Three ($225) to Louise Roe enamel bowls (from $68) to Alex Marshall ceramics (from $48). The trove spans cutting boards, frames, glassware, and tabletop decor. But the surprise star is the rotating assortment of contemporary art, including César Ancelle Hansen surf photography, Shauna Pickering paintings, and Gary McIntyre prints.
Runner-up: One Kings Lane showroom
Unkillable Plants: Succulence
402 Cortland Ave. (near Bennington St.), 415-282-2212
Four years ago, Ken Shelf transformed Four Star Video, his dying video store, into a lush destination for unkillable plants. The rustic store (built in part by Keith Aderholdt, the guy behind Outerlands) contains hundreds of varieties of succulents and air plants, as well as vessels of all shapes and sizes. Many returning customers bring their own containers to the shop’s planting bar, where they’re given unlimited access to a wide array of rocks, colored sands, tumbled glass, dried mosses, and more (from $10). Classes in vertical gardening and DIY terrarium building (from $65) are offered three times a month.
Plants: Flora Grubb
1634 Jerrold Ave. (near Phelps St.), 415-626-7256
This verdant indoor-outdoor plant store feels more like a botanical garden than a typical nursery. (It’s also the lone gardening store slinging Ritual coffee, luring even the black-thumbed.) Succulents and air plants, flowering trees, fruit trees, and winding vines sprawl across the courtyard, where areas are divvied up by climate and aesthetic rather than into rigid rows. Inside you’ll fi nd plentiful gear, from the arty—ceramic and glass terraria, mounted succulent displays—to the dirt-under-your-fingernails functional, including seeds, dirt, fertilizer, and tools.
Museum Store: Museum of Craft & Design
2569 3rd St. (near 22nd St.), 415-773-0303
This is the rare museum store that isn’t focused on postcards and silk scarves. Instead, the array of wares—much of it by Bay Area makers—is geared toward designers, artists, and creative kids. The shelves mix useful gear, including bottle openers, flashlights, and kitchen utensils, with craft kits, handmade ceramics, jewelry, and accessories. The kids’ collection encompasses both retro (beautiful wood figurines and block sets from Italy) and modern (“playable art” by Beyond123). Don’t miss the sizable book section, which covers DIY projects, architecture, cooking, art, and pop culture.
3075 Sacramento St. (near Baker St.), 415-931-7433
Visiting March is like entering into some sort of minimalist Dwell dreamscape where the white floors are never scuffed, the Aga cast iron cooker is stoked, and every tool deftly marries form and function. Materials take center stage—marble, steel, stone, horn, cast iron, and wood—and each gadget feels like its ideal archetype. You’ll find Royal Copenhagen dishes, glinting Pallarès Solsona knives, iron spice grinders, and Dutch ovens. Don’t miss the additional merchandise in the carriage house out back.
Runner-up: Heath Ceramics
Gifts: Gravel & Gold
3266 21st St. (near Lexington St.), 415-552-0112
It’s not kitschy or precious. It’s simply a thoughtfully stocked shop for original clothes, accessories, stationery, jewelry, and home decor. Owners Holly Samuelsen and Tomra Palmer champion local designers, filling the shelves with Capital Eyewear, Juniper Ridge beauty and home products, Pansy lingerie, and Ursa Major jewelry. The in-store label offers colorful, print-happy clothes, bags, and home goods each season. (This is ground zero for the now-ubiquitous Boob Print, splashed across totes, bedding, tees, and more.) The storefront doubles as a community hub for maker workshops, art openings, and launch parties.
Runner-up: Rare Device
Surf Shop: Aqua Surf Shop
3847 Judah St. (at 44th Ave.), 415-242-9283
After 15 years on Sloat, Aqua relocated to the hipper side of the Sunset last year. Luckily, the longtime staff—a dedicated crew of local surfers—followed. The store may not match the sprawling size of Wise or the artsy-cool vibe of Mollusk, but the owners make up for it with a well-selected assortment of gear—including boards from Bic, Boardworks, and Surftech—and hands-on customer service. Ocean Beach regulars love Aqua for its frequently replenished used-board section; newbies vouch for the 24-hour board and wetsuit rentals (from $25 and $15, respectively).
Runner-up: Wise Surfboards
Spirits: Epicurean Trader
401 Cortland Ave. (at Bennington St.), 415-872-9484
This is where bartenders go to stock their home bars. Owners Mat Pond and Holly McDell handpick their booze assortment with a focus on small distillers and craft producers. Though the shop stocks an assortment of rare mezcal, rum, tequila, gin, and bitters, it’s best known for its brown spirits. The stash includes over 200 handcrafted varieties of whiskey, rye, bourbon, and scotch from distilleries like Alley Six, Kings County, and Lost Republic. The store’s Whiskey Club (a monthly subscription) numbers over 150 members.
Wine: Arlequin Wine Merchant
384 Hayes St. (near Gough St.), 415-863-1104
There’s often a divide between the city’s wine shops: trendy newcomers who specialize in a handful of esoteric local wines and old standbys that stick to crowd-pleasing European classics. This neighborhood mainstay melds the best of both worlds. Wine director Ian Becker calls it the kind of place where “wine geeks can go with their grandmothers.” The shelves are amply stocked with award-winning European varieties—with a particularly strong selection from Burgundy—as well as avant-garde natural and unsulfured picks from “new California” producers like Broc Cellars, Jolie-Laide, and Horse & Plow. The shop holds tastings every Thursday, hosting winemakers from around the world and throughout wine country. If you like a bottle, you can buy it, uncork it for $5, and drink it amid the racks—there are bistro tables set up for that purpose—or take it next door to the café.
Beer: City Beer Store
1168 Folsom St. (near Rodgers St.), 415-503-1033
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, this bottle shop and tasting bar remains a beer lover’s holy grail. The coolers bear over 400 brews arranged by style, from sours and Belgian darks to single, double, and triple IPAs. Customers can mix cans and bottles to create their ideal six-pack. Over the years, owners Craig and Beth Wathen have developed a relationship with many California breweries, resulting in collaboration bottles with Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, the Bruery, and Cellarmaker Brewing. The spot is known for its sours and IPAs, which the store strives to receive directly after bottling for peak freshness. In addition to the bottle shop, there are 15 rotating beers on tap at the adjacent bar. Added incentive to drink in-store: The store’s so-called magic cooler is stocked with rare, aged, and limited-edition collaboration beers, offered on the premises only.
Runner-up: Ales Unlimited
Used Books: Green Apple Books
506 Clement St. (near 6th Ave.), 415-387-2272
Since planting its roots as a 750-square-foot used book nook 49 years ago, Green Apple has annexed adjacent storefronts to grow to 10 times its original size—vastly expanding its wares in the process. Though today the shop also sells new books, records, and CDs, the dusty used book rows remain unequaled, offering everything from rare ’70s graphic novels to a wide array of poetry volumes, literature, and cookbooks. The skylit used section is quieter and less crowded than its contemporary counterpart, making the very act of browsing a meditative treasure hunt.
Runner-up: Great Overland Book Company
Bikes: Valencia Cyclery
1065 and 1077 Valencia St. (near 22nd St.), 415-550-6601
At this well-stocked Mission shop, the mechanically disinclined won’t be upsold or condescended to, but experienced riders can geek out over high-end cycles and custom components. Cyclists who purchase from the large selection of bikes here ($350 to $3,000), which includes Treks, Specializeds, Raleighs, folding bikes, and even unicycles, get free adjustments for six months.
Runner-up: Citizen Chain
Magazines: Juicy News
2181 Union St. (near Fillmore St.), 415-441-3051
When owner Mo Salimi shuttered his longtime magazine emporium on Fillmore Street last year, his dismayed regulars invoked the death of print. Then Salimi gut-renovated this storefront around the corner and reopened, revealing a sunny, high-ceilinged space lined with a vastly expanded array of glossies and weeklies. Thousands of publications are organized by theme, from travel and home design to fashion, art, and food. (You’ll also find mags for niche pursuits, from Vegan Life to Surf Girl.) The trove includes the most current issues of hard-to-find art journals, alt zines, quarterlies, and every international version of Vogue. Upstairs, there’s a cozy room devoted to Rizzoli art and design volumes.
Runner-up: Smoke Signals
Art Supplies: Flax
2 Marina Blvd. (near Laguna St.), 415-530-3510
Although its long-standing Market Street location closed earlier this year, Flax’s Fort Mason outpost is no less packed. Its diminished size is a virtue—it avoids the overwhelming mazelike quality of its Oakland sister store, but there’s something for professionals, teachers, kids, and crafty types, from pipe cleaners and marker sets to color-coded rows of paint by Gamblin, Windsor & Newton, Liquitex, and Golden. Every size sketchbook imaginable is displayed alongside paintbrushes, illustration markers, and colored pencils. The store is well stocked with necessary tools—gaffer tape, canvases, X-Acto knives—and playful surprises like vibrant hand-silk-screened paper from Japan and miniature architectural models of trees, flowers, and people.
Runner-up: Artist & Craftsman Supply
Camp Gear: REI
840 Brannan St. (at Langton St.), 415-934-1938
There are plenty of stores around the city to make you look outdoorsy; REI peddles the real deal. The two-story, warehouse-size complex is packed with everything you need to hack it in the wilderness: dozens of boot styles, camping backpacks, tents, and more from brands like Osprey, Merrell, Kelty, and Coleman. If you’re not happy with your gear for any reason, no problem: The store has a generous return policy, good for either a replacement or a full refund within one year of purchase.
Runner-up: Last Minute Gear
New Books: Booksmith
1644 Haight St. (near Clayton St.), 415-863-8688
This spacious, art-dotted indie bookstore shines where it counts: in expansive, daily-replenished new book tables up front, helpfully divided into nonfiction, fiction, hardcover, and new-to-paperback. The handwritten staff picks are thoughtful and witty—as are the clerks behind them—and if the store doesn’t have a book in stock, they’ll order it on the spot. And since co-owner Christin Evans is also the organizer behind Berkeley’s Arts & Letters author series, the space hosts a lively schedule of readings, book parties, and creative, lit-minded social events.
Runner-up: Green Apple Books (Ninth Avenue)
Hardware: Cole Hardware
956 Cole St. (at Parnassus St.), 415-319-6705; Three other city locations
The hardware store purchased by city native Dave Karp in 1961 is, in many ways, what San Francisco aspires to be. It’s a homegrown, local chain; a place where you can drop by and pick up hard-to-find bolts or hinges for pennies; the place to find expensive lotions and potions or, hell, a Wiffle bat; and a place where the sign “There are no strangers, there are only friends we haven’t met yet” doesn’t seem cheesy at all.
Runner-up: U Save Plumbing and Hardware
Cameras: Samy’s Camera
1090 Bryant St. (at 9th St.), 415-621-8400
Professionals who tote $7,000 cameras into mob scenes recommend Samy’s for its broad selection and fair pricing. But one needn’t be Ansel Adams to find this a celluloid Valhalla. Whether you’re buying a $9,200 Canon EOS-1D X Mark II SLR or a Vivitar point-and-shoot for 10 bucks, the attentive but un-pushy customer service remains the same. In addition to cameras, Samy’s offers photo classes, equipment rentals, and an inventory of collectibles featuring treasures like a Crown Graphic camera that, befitting Jimmy Olsen, can produce sepia-tone snapshots.
Runner-up: Camera Heaven
Pet Store: Noe Valley Pet Co.
1451 Church St. (at Cesar Chavez St.), 415-282-7385
Call it fang shui. Walking into this bright, friendly Noe Valley shop just feels good. Which is fitting: Everything sold here is designed to make your pet feel good, too. There’s high-quality and often grain-free wet, dry, and raw food from nutritionally correct companies like Orijen and Honest Kitchen; locally made beef and chicken jerky treats; and a vast selection of accessories, toys, and reference books. And if the helpful counter staff can’t find something, they’ll order it for you—while they’re passing free treats to your furry friend.
Runner-up: Bernal Beast
Sporting Goods: Sports Basement
1590 Bryant St. (at 15th St.), 415-575-3000
In San Francisco, the mom-and-pop sporting goods store has gone the way of the underhanded free throw. Luckily for athletes in need of gear, this chain’s Bryant Street and Presidio locations offer a warehouse’s worth of anything a weekend warrior could need. Athletic shoes, pads, balls, bats, and more—all at a reasonable price. It’s not Kaplan’s, but then again, it’s not Amazon, either. The upside? Quantity and a range of equipment suitable for pickup game players as well as those aspiring to Steph Curry status.
Runner-up: Big 5 Sporting Goods
Running Shoes: On the Run
1310 9th Ave. (at Irving St.), 415-682-2042
The salespeople at On the Run have a knack for sussing out your feet’s pain points and producing the perfect pair of shoes. Associates spend an uninterrupted half hour with customers, watching them walk and take exaggerated steps (an indoors-friendly analogue for running). Their knowledge of the stock—which includes Asics, New Balance, Brooks, Saucony, and more—is encyclopedic, and their facility with foot anatomy is exacting. And if the fit needs further modification, they’ll doctor the insoles or bring you the right orthotic insert to try. Many of the 20-plus varieties of orthotics are designed by owner Mark Watcher.
Runner-up: Fleet Feet Sports
Originally published in the July issue of San Francisco