Sunday, December 31, 2006

Orchard Street Corset Center - Lower East Side

It's easy for those with small perky breasts to buy cute bras. From Victoria's Secret to JCPenneys, to La Perla, every mall and high street is brimming with them. Likewise for buxom gals built like prison matrons, with big proletarian backs and large motherly bosoms. They can find the appropriate Cross Your Hearts at any Mervyns, KMart or JCPenneys. But what about those of us who have normal size backs but larger-than-usual fronts? Even Nordstrom doesn't special order anymore.

Orchard Street Corset Center to the rescue. It's one of two places I can find bras in my size, the other being M&S. This old fashioned merchant is not for those who like slick merchandising and a leisurely browse to see what styles are in. The bras are hidden in boxes, in shelves lining the walls. The fitting room is a curtain, strung up across the stock room. All is overseen by Ralph, the king of customer service, and his wife the chief fitter.

When customers walk into his shop, Ralph sizes them up and tells them if they are wearing the wrong size brassier. One one shopping trip, I dragged my modest sister-in-law, Angel, in. As she was mumbling her size, Ralph stopped her and said. "No, this is the size you are." She tried to disagree but he countered with an authoritarian "I see everything," held a suitable size up and called for his wife to sweep Angel off to try on the proper bra. He was right. While she has not ventured back to the shop, Angel does admit that the bra she bought that day is the most comfortable one she owns.

One thing I should mention: The owners are Hasidic, so the shop is closed on Saturdays.

157 Orchard St., Between Stanton Street and Rivington Street
New York, NY 10002-2214

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Kate's Paperie - Soho

The Christmas decorations at Kate's Paperie in Soho, are simple, yet quite beautiful and appropriate this year: a large paper snowflake covering the whole ceiling.

561 Broadway
New York, NY 10012

Purdy Girl - Soho

Purdy Girl is a cute boutique that feels like the really large closet of a stylish friend, a few well-picked vintage clothes, a nice collection of mid-ranged clothes from small designers, a few small brands and some lovely costume jewelry made by local artists.

Macy's - 34th Avenue

The blindingly extravagant Christmas decorations don't translate well into photos, but the glow was visible for blocks before I could even see the store. This year, the poinsettia extravaganza inside was even better than the decorations outside.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lord & Taylor - Fifth Avenue

This store is for chic grandmas, with three restaraunts, nice, comforable places to sit down and a lavish collection of clothes, such as Eileen Fisher, for older women who don't mind spending a little money to look good. Their Christmas ornament selection, while not as eye-popping as ABC Carpet & Home, is well worth a look during the Christmas season.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Bûche de Noël at a Stop & Shop near you

The Bûche de Noël has now gone mainstream. When I saw Entenmann's "Yule Log" at the grocery store a couple of days ago, I felt a twinge of sadness. Does this mean Bûche de Noël will no longer be special? Will people be able to tell the difference between one you've slaved over for hours and one you've grabbed from the grocery store shelf?

Watch out Billy's Bakery. Red Velvet cupcakes are next.

Billy's Bakery -- Greenwich Village

Do not try to buy a cake here the day before Christmas Eve. You will be turned away, even though there are several cakes on display, ready to be sliced. Do not try to order a cake to pick up the next day, especially if you already tried to buy one minutes before. You will be sent away with nothing but a cupcake. The cupcakes are fair to middling, but the frosting is fantastic. It's good enough to convince me to go back again and try the red velvet cupcakes on a day when they're not sold out, or annoyed by too many pesky customers.

Note to self: Next time wear all black and affect an air of disinterested aloofness.

Myers of Keswick -- Greenwich Village

Myers' claims that they sell the only Cumberland sausages made in the USA. While I don't know how true this is, nor have I tasted them, this British grocer has a nice selection of canned and drygoods, including strange selections like Mexican-style baked beans. The deli counter look fantastick and is stocked with fresh made mince pies, pork pies, sausage rolls, and meat and vegetarian pasties.

634 Hudson Street
(between Horatio and Jane St.'s)
New York NY 10014

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nelson Antiques - Chelsea

Nelson Antiques is run by a lovely couple who have been in the neighborhood for donkey's years, Christmas ornaments, figureines, decco lamps and 50s-style tea sets are among the treasures to be found in this small shop crammed to the brim with tchotchkes.

184 Ninth Ave. (Near 22nd St.)
New York, NY 10011

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sermoneta Gloves -- Madison Avenue

Ahh, Italian-made gloves. At a fraction of the cost of Missoni, Sermoneta's first and only shop outside of Italy sells hats, scarves and lovely tailored gloves leather gloves. Known for their primary colors, they seem to be going away from the 80's this season with more muted shades.

609 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10022

It's an Andy Warhol X-mas at Barneys -- Madison Avenue

I love Simon Doonan. Who else could make a bust of Andy Warhol out of a bunch of cookie jars and Russell Wright crockery?

Madison avenue and 61st street
NY, New York

X-mas at Saks - Fifth Avenue

We are all unique masterpieces, just like the snowflake; at least that's what the story on the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue says to all the gawkers. Click on the photo to read it yourself. I didn't bother to read the whole story because it was split up on separate windows, corresponding to the scene depicted in each window, and frankly, I couldn't stomach standing in the long Disneyland-like lines to look at a bunch of naff dioramas.

611 Fifth Avenue, at 50th Street
NY, New York

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Santaland at Smith Haven - Lake Grove

This is the first grotto I've seen this season. Where have I been? While the Santaland is nice enough, it's not magical. However the Father Christmas more than makes up for the shortfalls in Santaland. His beard, his rosy cheeks and his Santa-like physique make him the perfect candidate for the jolly old elf.

Smith Haven Mall
Rt 347
Lake Grove, NY

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

5-7-9 Shop - Lake Grove

Often, when I'm taking pictures for this blog, kind hearted passers-by offer to take my picture in front of whatever store I'm photographing. Sometimes they'll want to be in the picture too. When I was taking a picture of the 5-7-9 shop at Smith Haven mall, this character insisted on being in the photo. He's certainly not a customer, but somehow, he fits.

Smith Haven Mall
Rt 347, Lake Grove

Monday, December 11, 2006

Feria Ubana - Inner Sunset

This is more like it.

Held at the Canvas Gallery on Lincoln Way, this Urban Fair is what I expected at Pandora's Trunk last night. Those who like jewelry and accessories hit the jackpot. Handcrafted baubles with a modern aesthetic shared table space with Victorianesque pieces in strange proportions.

Among the gifts for wry children, stuffed monster dolls, made more for parents than their kids, were among my favorites.

The only things that were a bit dodgy were bags made out of reclaimed materials, straight out of ReadyMade magazine and pillows in burnt out velvet that may be good for those who like to decorate with gargoyles.

I went with good intentions of buying Christmas presents, but left with gifts only for myself.

Canvas Gallery
1200 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pandora's Trunk - South of Market

I expected some sort of Punk Rock craft fair, but what I got, instead, was a bunch of baby clothes for adults and grandma does Blade Runner. Didn't rave clothes go out in 1989? They should have handed out whistles. I felt like I should go to the Hacienda to see Madonna perform.

While the concept was cute for some of the crafts, they weren't particularly well-executed, nothing I would buy to give as a Christmas gift.

At er reading about Art Basel Miami, though,I have to say it was refreshing to go to an art show held by real starving artists. They didn't even look askance at my H&M velour sweatsuit and scraggly hair, drenched by the deluge outside.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I've heard of red-hot sales, but this is ridiculous -- Great Lakes Mall

Picture this: A fire breaks out at your favorite Dillards during high-holiday shopping season. Do you grab your loved ones and run out the door, greatful to be alive and unharmed, or do you continue shopping, taking advantage of the blinding smoke to grab the goods away from your fellow bargain hunters? That's exactly what shoppers did at Dillards in Mentor, Ohio. The fire was severe enough to cause $130,000 in damages, but it didn't deter customers intent on finishing their holiday shopping.

This reminds me of the year I worked at Macys during the Christmas rush. The power went out and instead of leaving the store, customers were annoyed that we didn't have flashlights or mechanical cash registers to ring their purchases up with.

Full story on the fire at Dillards

7850 Mentor Ave
Mentor, OH

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Apple - Union Square & Oxford Circus

Have you ever noticed how many times the word "love" comes up when people talk about their Macs? If you type the phrase "Why I love Macs" into any browser, 100s of sites will come up. People put things like "mac user" on their MySpace and FaceBook profiles, on their blogs and on personal ads. A quick search on Tribe turned up groups devoted to Gay Mac users, Lesbian Mac Users, Black Mac users, Mini Mac, Old Mac, Burning Mac. HMMM - I wonder if there's any crossover? This brings me back to my question. Does Mac inspire this type of devotion with clean, sexy design, or are the types of people who gravitate to the more intuitive usability of the Mac more right-brained and naturally more in touch with their emotions?

My irrational love for my Mac, carries over to the Apple store, one of the few places offering free wireless access in the city. The Apple store at Union Square is almost identical to the Regent Street store, my home away from home in London and also one of the few places to find free wireless in London.

One Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

235 Regent Street
London, W1B 2EL
020 7153 9000

Monday, December 04, 2006

Top 10 Worst Places to Shop in the U.S.

In no particular order:

Ross -- There's nothing good about this chain. The stores look like someone's garage.

Marshalls / TJ Maxx -- See above, plus I've never been to a Marshals with a clean bathroom. They are filthy, even first thing in the morning. If the employees use those toilets, I don't want to touch anything in the store.

Big Lots -- Don't believe the TV ads. This place is depressing. It should be called Big Jobs.

Walmart -- Complete lack of corporate responsibility. If price is important to shoppers, there are cheaper, better alternatives.

Ann Taylor / Ann Taylor Loft -- bland

Barnes & Noble -- Terrible return policies and filthy bathrooms. This is especially disturbing since most Barnes & Nobles have in-store cafes.

Old Navy -- Cheap teenage wear made of cheaper fabrics. This season, the color palette seems to be mud. If you want cheap throw-away wear, go to H&M or Forever 21. At least those stores change their merchandise frequently.

The Disney Store -- More cheap crap from China. It seems that the nice Disney-themed things are sold elsewhere.

Victoria's Secret -- Cheap, poorly made underwear for those with small tits. The bras aren't even cute. They belong in a Tijuana bordello.

Pottery Barn -- Over priced junk made in third word countries. Plus, they lose points for being everywhere, adding to the blandifying of America.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Smelling like Paris at Macy's - Union Square

I've been to Paris in the summer, and all I can say is that I would not want to smell like that. The same goes for Paris Hilton. Does anyone really want to smell like her? What about Britney Spears? If all those photos of her going commando in various miniskirts are to be believed, she's a worse hoochie than Paris. Yet, they both have their names on perfumes. Why would Macy's waste valuable Christmas window real estate featuring photos of celebrities who endorse perfumes? Will the marketing spin ever end? Are we, as consumers, so stupid that we think the people on our lists will like this kind of swill?

It may seem like I'm picking on Macy's, lately. I actually love the flagship stores, San Francisco and New York. The Manhattan flagship is an institution equaled by no other, and, since the renovation a couple of years ago, the San Francisco store is even better. Unfortunately, Macy's doesn't successfully carry the brand throughout their stores. The Santa Rosa Macy's, is just not equal to the San Francisco Macy's, neither is the store in Corte Madera, Westminster, Long Island..... you get the point. This is why a pedestrian store, such as Nordstrom has just a high reputation among those who say they are "born to shop." The Nordstrom in San Francisco is pretty much the same as the one in Walnut Creek. The Scottsdale Nortstrom is similar to the one in Roosevelt Field. Macy's' flagships far surpass the others, but out in the suburbs, shoppers are subjected to rows and rows of, Inc, Charter Club and all those other house brands Macy's has manufactured in China. Eventually, it will be like Marks and Spencers, selling only house labels. I'm not sure why Macy's does this, but it seems to me that they underrate their customers. Are we really going to think we're in Manhattan where we're shopping at a low-end Macy's in Colma? I think not.

170 O'Farrell Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Thursday, November 30, 2006

X-mas trees at Bloomingdales - Westfield San Francisco Center

While not exactly a winter wonderland, the trees are pretty & the ornaments for sale are some of the best I've seen so far this season.

845 Market Street
Westfield San Francisco Centre
San Francisco, CA 94103

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Crowds at Union Square - San Francisco

The day after Black Friday, Union Square was a crowded mess. People jostled each other with shopping bags from Macy's, Old Navy and Victoria's Secret. Don't they have those stores in Hayward? Why do people come into the city to shop at these places? Wouldn't it be easier just to go the local mall? To add insult to injury, hundreds of people walked right by the striking engineers at Macys, just walked into the store without hesitation, then out again with their sale-priced goods.

While I'm on the subject of erratic behavior, why do people insist on wearing the ubiquitous Louis Vuitton bag with ugly clothes from Ann Taylor Loft or Old Navy? They'll buy the heavily branded bag, but would never buy a Louis Vuitton suit. If they were really into fashion, wouldn't they at look in the mirror before leaving the house? Even wearing something from H&M would be a step up. People are duped by marketing. It's the brand, not the look that interests them. These are the same types of people who drive BMW 300 series cars and carry Coach bags.

Wishbone - Inner Sunset

What could be a better x-mas present than an air freshener shaped like a poo? If you agree this shop is for you. Even if you don't, Wishbone has quirky unusual gifts for all the nontraditional people you buy gifts for, even yourself. The selection of cards is must nicer, and cheaper than Papyrus. Several cases sell fun, locally made jewelry and irreverent baby gifts abound.

601 Irving Street
San Francisco, CA 94122

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday - San Francisco

Black Friday is an American tradition, the start of the holiday shopping season, but it's not the biggest shopping day of the year anymore. Retailers are trying lure people in and get a jump on the competition by opening earlier and earlier. It's bad enough that Mervyns, Circuit City and JCPenney open at 5AM on the day after Thanksgiving, but worse yet, KMart and the 24 hour WalMarts were open on Thanksgiving day. How did they break the news to their employees that instead of getting holiday giblets, they would have to work instead?

I wish I had the wherewithal to get up this morning and see what type of people would shop on Thanksgiving day. Did they run out to buy extra roasting pans, or did they shop for Christmas gifts? Do they care that people had to work so they could shop?

It seems now that Japanese and French tourists have heard about this craziness and are booking vacations just to shop on Black Friday. Are they turning American?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Crossroads - Inner Sunset, Fillmore, Castro, Haight Ashbury

"You have some cool clothes, but...." This is the mantra that must be part of the training for anyone who takes a buyer/cashier job at Crossroads. If you want to sell your frocks, don't bother unless you have designer clothes, or premium brand names, like Levis big E's. Then, if you're lucky, you'll get $5 cash - or $8 in trade.

The selectiveness of the buyers is not reflected in the stock for sale but if you hunt you can find a few good things. For example, a recent shopping trip yielded a $300 pair of brand new, straight legged ACNE jeans for $60. A few designer garments, about 10-20 per store, are hung on the wall above the clothes racks, but overall, there is a lot of polyester, a bunch of t-shirts and jeans and some new, disposable Forever 21-type clothes. If you don't mind used shoes, some real bargains can be had on solid labels. Cute bags, purses and junk jewelry are a good way to complete your environmentally and fiscally correct recycled outfit.

The Sunset branch has the best selection for women, while the Castro branch has the most men's wear.

1519 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

1901 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA 94115

555 Irving Street
San Francisco, CA 94122

2123 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

Monday, November 20, 2006

Samsonite Black Label -- Union Square

Gone are the days of moulded plastic in Barbie colors. The Samsonite Black Label line is chic, chic, chic. The Alexander McQueen collection is not in the store yet, but Samsonite's new shop on Union Square is filled with luggage that proves form and function can peacefully co-exist. Each bag is displayed like a piece of art in this spare, clean interior, with a price tag to match. The prices didn't seem to be dettering shoppers, though. English tourists, rich with the strong pound, and Japanese tourists who, let's face it, know good things when they see them, were plonking down their credit cards.

The Union Square Building
287 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The V & A - South Kensington

Just visiting the exhibits at the Victoria and Albert museum is a form of shopping. I suppose you could call it window shopping, or as the French say "licking the windows." It's such a giant warehouse of fashion for the home and body, that I am seriously skeptical of those who say they can see everything in one day.

If shopping is only satisfying if you actually lay out some money, visit the V&A gift shop. It sells the requisite postcards, note cards, and history, art and design books, but it's also a nice representative of good British design. Whether your preference is Urban Outfitters or Harrods you can find clothes, accessories and nick knacks to suit your taste. I still regret not buying a purse I saw there a couple of years ago. I don't remember the designer, but it was made of many different labels sewn together, similar to the technique Fake of London uses. "I'll find it online," I thought, trying to be fiscally responsible for once in my life. Sadly, it was not available online. It was one of a kind. I lost my chance to support the arts and to own a thing of beauty.

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
London SW7 2RL
020 7942 2000

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Harrods - Knightsbridge

What can I say about Harrods? The foodhalls are great if you're rich enough to buy a small pinapple for £10, or you're an American who's nostalgic for a fresh Krispy Creme and dedicated enough to stand in the long line.

It's little bit Las Vegas...

... a little bit Disneyland, and a large dose of naff.

I think of Harrods as the eBay of department stores. If you want access to a large breadth of designer labels, from food, to clothes to china, this is the place to go. However, if you want to look at a carefully edited selection of obscure, up-to-the-minute collections, go to Selfridges.

I'm not saying it should be avoided. There are times you may want to see everything a label has to offer, especially during the sales. I bought a lovely Anya Heinmarch tote here at 50% off, and it was a style I have never seen anywhere else. The toy department at Harrods is fantastic. It's an extravaganza of posh dolls, teddy bears and expensive cars. If you're a Playmobil fan, you'll feel like you've hit the jackpot. This is also one of the last places in London you can buy the un-PC gollywog.

Knightsbridge SW1
020 7730 1234

Monday, November 13, 2006

Tchibo - London

How does a coffee mail-order business turn into a chain of shops that changes its stock every week? Were the executives sitting around drinking coffee and reminiscing about the lucky dip? "Wouldn't it be fun," they said to each other, "if shoppers could have a new experience every week?" That must have been some strong coffee.

Strangely, though, it works. This is not to be confused with job lot vendors like the £1 store. You never know what you may find at Tchibo, but it's all new, and made especially for the chain, from a shrink-wrapped set of men's pajamas, to a Chanelesque ladies jacket, also sealed in plastic, to handy items like curling tongs, battery chargers and home furnishings. It's all a bargain, but follow the Moscow rule of shopping if you like anything, because it will be gone in a week and replaced with all new stock, except for the coffee, served fresh all the time.

Barnet, London
19, The Spires Shopping Centre
EN5 5XY Barnet
Brentford, London

101 High Street
BR1 1JQ Bromley
Camberwell Green, London

74 North End
CR0 1UJ Croydon - London
Dalston - London, London

Kingsland Centre, Unit 14
E8 2LX Dalston - London
back to top
Ealing - London, London

Broadway Centre Unit 11
W5 5JY Ealing - London
Edgware, London

Broadw.Sh.Ctr Unit 22 Station Road
HA8 TBD Edgware
Enfield, London

Palace Garden Shopping C. Unit 13
EN2 6SP Enfield
Harrow, London

84 St. Ann'S Road
HA1 1JP Harrow
Hounslow, London

21 The Treaty Centre, High Street
TW3 14S Hounslow
Hounslow, London

112 High Road
IG1 2AS Ilford
Islington, London

Su 2, Parkfield Street
N1 0PS Islington
back to top

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sen -- Spitalfields

I've always thought of herbal teas as gag inducing, so the large sign on the window did nothing to lure me into Sen. Acupuncture is even more scary. What caught my eye was the beautiful packaging in the window. The shopgirls were quick to spot a sucker for expensive beauty products with unusual ingredients and quickly convinced me to buy a bag full of stuff I didn't know I needed. I even tasted a sample of their not-too-bad licorice tasting tea. Their milky bath oil made my dry, rough skin as soft as a baby's bottom. It smells a bit like parafin, but the transformation of my skin was so great that I went back for more. I have never bought a foot cream before, but impulsively bought the grapefruit flavored foot and ankle gel. That one smelled delicious, better than the tea. Supposedly, this stuff slims your ankels down to willowy twigs. I haven't seen much difference, but I have got compliments on the way my feet smell. Perhaps acupuncture will work better in the willowy twig department?

4 Market Street
Spitalfields, London

Come Buy With Me

The only good thing about air travel, besides the destination, is in-flight shopping. Where else can you buy support hose, premium liquor, perfume, a massage wand and a birthday cake without leaving your seat? Hmm--that sounds like quite a party.

Is it a coincidence that, while stopping almost everything else from entering the UK, including canned pumpkin pie filling, customs allows people to bring fully-cooked birthday cakes into the country?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Alameda Flea Market - Alameda Point

I'm not the type of person who longs nostalgically for the past. I mean, do we really want to go back to the times before penicillin and botox? I am, however, nostalgic for the Sausalito Flea Market that was closed years ago to make way for a low-end shopping center. I much prefer to look at junk piled up on a blanket in a parking lot than look at junk thrown on the floor at Ross.

Now I have to get my junk fix at the Alameda Flea Market, officially called the Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Fair. No matter what it's called, my first Sunday of every month is reserved for a good old prowl among the junk. It's a great place to pick up vintage patterns and fabric, china sold in grocery stores in the 50s, and branded premiums, like the toys cereal companies used to give away if you collected enough box tops. Furniture, clocks and Persian rugs are also big sellers. Even though there's a sign at the entrance stating that all items sold must be at least 20 years old. I'm not 100% convinced of the authenticity of some of the stuff sold here. Do fancy $300 repros of old movie posters count as vintage?

Nevertheless, it's well worth the $5 admission. This is the last great flea market left in the Bay Area. If it wasn't for the Alameda flea market, and it's dead sister, Sausalito, I've have to decorate my house from IKEA and Craigslist -- the horror!

Alameda Point
formerly Alameda Naval Air Station
at the end of Atlantic Avenue
Alameda, CA

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Where the Boys Are

Who says men don't shop?

Today, I stood in line at Lush behind a man who bought $90 worth of soap. No, that is not a typo. How do you spend $90 on soap? He looked like an ordinary businessman dressed in Friday casual khakis and a sport coat, doing a quick shop after work. His very ordinariness made me ponder the question of how and why men buy.

I realized, then, that I have seen a lot of men shopping lately. The other day at H&M, I stood in line at the cash register closest to the men's department, surrounded by men, most of them young, all of them buying clothes. Some were still shopping while in line, trying on sunglasses from conveniently placed racks. The basement of Urban Outfitters is always swarming with twentysomethings, trying on trainers and buying t-shirts, jeans and novelty costers. Young men aren't the only ones who shop for their own clothes. Every time I'm at Macy's men's store, it's filled with men carrying shopping bags. Apple is another store that's always filled with men of all ages, reading email, playing with the iPods & buying stuff.

This anecdotal evidence seems to prove that men do, indeed, shop. Shopping is not the same as browsing, though. Shopping is an end result, while browsing is a process. If I had to make a gross generalization about the sexes, I'd say that women see shopping as an activity in itself, regardless of the end result, while men see the end result.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Union Busting at Bristol Farms - Westfield San Francisco Center

My parents used to live in Southern California, in a part of Orange County that is far from gourmet grocery stores. It was very difficult to find any decent organic markets. Our closest option was Bristol Farms, about half an hour down the freeway, in Long Beach. It seemed like a shop for housewives who wanted to buy organic chicken at the same place they could pick up naff kitchen decorations. It was a good place to buy Amish-made cheese, but it was nothing like Rainbow Grocery, or Andronicos in San Francisco. The prices were double those at the local Stater Bros, so I simply assumed the workers had good grocery union jobs.

When Bristol Farms opened a new Northern California flagship in the basement of the newly remodeled San Francisco Center, I went to check it out. On opening day of the new mall, a few picketers held signs warning potential shoppers that Bristol Farms was a non-union shop. I stayed away from Bristol Farms that day, but many others simply ignored the picketers and crowded in, grabbing the ready made meals at the deli counter, eating freshly made crepes and gobbling up the nuts and chocolates. The irony did not escape me that while I was "virtuously" staying away from the evil union-buster, the stores I visited probably paid their employees the same, or less than Bristol Farms. Perhaps we expect that from retail, but not from grocery stores?

I went back a week later and went in the grocery store. I didn't buy anything, but I have to admit that the store was much nicer the Bristol Farms in Long Beach that we used to call the "posh Albertsons."

Well stocked shelves held a nice selection of grocery shelf staples, from Bob's Big Boy dressing to organic brownie mixes. Variety takes priority over quantity of any given item.

Pretty freezer cases stored high-end frozen goods.

The large candy section featured locally made chocolates and a nut counter: Think Sears in the 70s at many times the price.

Toiletries included designer and organic beauty products and baby staples galore.

The baked goods looked lush. I'm, at the moment, still taking the high ground and didn't taste any, but they looked marvelous.

While they don't sell locally raised, cruelty-free eggs, they do sell the New Zealand equivalent with the no beak clipping symbol on the side.

The picketers are still there, but not too many people are paying attention. Perhaps the union should recruit that shrill voiced lass who stood outside the Grand Hyatt during the hotel strike screaming, "Shame on you to cross that picket line. Shame on you!" People would pay attention then.

845 Market St - Suite 010
San Francisco, CA 94103
Westfield San Francisco Centre
Bart Level

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Roxie Market -- Inner Sunset

From the outside, Roxie Market looks like any other unassuming corner market with a deli counter. Step inside, though, and you will be surrounded by British sweets galore. In addition to lots of candy, tea, scones, Irish soda bread and baking supplies fill the shelves. The fridge is full of British cheeses and what look like homemade sausage rolls, black pudding, English rasher and other meaty bits. The prices have been hard hit by the terrible exchange rate of the dollar -- thank you Mr. Bush -- but ocassionally bargains can be had. I recently bought two 40 bag packets of PG Tips for $3.99. The original price was emblazened across the front of the box: 89p.

Of course Roxie sells other groceries too, and the sandwiches must be good, because any time I go to shop in the middle of the day, the deli counter is swamped by local workmen grabbing a bite.

500 Kirkham Street
San Francisco, CA 94122

Monday, October 30, 2006

Martin + Osa -- Westfield San Francisco Centre

If you want to wear pajamas all day, but don’t want to look like you're doing so, Martin + Osa has created the perfect comfy wardrobe. Their casual, yet polished clothes are great for Rick Nics who subscribe to the philosophy of travelling with only one carry-on, but don't want to look disheveled.

The people at Forth & Towne have it all wrong. Over 35s don't want to look chic in polyester blend tops and high waisted, side zipped cords. We'd rather wear tailored trousers made out of t-shirt material and silken tanks in jewel colors under soft woolen henleys with ballet slippers in winter colors, including metallic. If you're not a ballet slipper type of girl, Martin + Osa also sells limited release Pumas, New Balance and Asics trainers in colors that are stylish, but not too trendy.

These sporty travel clothes are nearly smart enough to wear to work. Who am I kidding? Any place that's a bit more age appropriate than Delias is a step up for me.

845 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94104

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Smoke Signals -- Russian Hill

This is the best news stand in the city. While they don't sell everything I crave, they do a pretty good job of appealling to nearly every discerning reader. The marvelous breadth of selection took up where Harold's left off, then went beyond. Fashion and lifestlye publications sold here include Japanese magazines (in English), Le Monde, and Time Out London. A nice selection of subversive rags like In These Times share shelf space with the strangly esoteric, like The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Oh, and they sell cigars and lottery tickets too.

2223 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109

Rude Parking - Union Square

Why do people park in public places when they are afraid to get their "precious" cars scratched or dented by other parkers? Yes, This is a Dodge. Perhaps I'm just being cruel, and this person is only guilty of inept parking.

Why post this on a shopping blog?

1. This car was parked in the Sutter/ Stockton garage on a Friday evening, prime shopping time.
2. This car was parked in the Sutter/ Stockton garage on a Friday evening, prime time to grab a quick bit to eat before buying movie tickets at the new San Francisco Center, the shopping connection is clear, no?
3. This car was parked in the Sutter/ Stockton garage on a Friday evening, prime time to meet up for drinks after work, after going shopping.
4. The garage was nearly full

Friday, October 27, 2006

Forth & Towne -- Westfield San Francisco Center

My idea of chic lands somewhere between between Sarah Jessica Parker and a professor at the Sorbonne, so I had high expectations when I heard Forth & Towne's catch phrase "The chic revolution begins."

I expected a step up from Bananna Republic, perhaps a few more luxe fabrics, perhaps a few less things made in China. What I saw, instead, was a step older and fatter, below Bannana Republic, but a bit more interesting than the bland selections at Ann Taylor Loft. Gap is marketing Forth & Towne to the more mature shopper who knows her style and has the money to spend on herself. All the PR spin defines this "mature shopper" as a professional woman over 35. In reality, Forth & Towne's selection better serves those old enough to want waistbands above the belly button and fat enough to want a size range from 4 to 20. I suspect, though, that anyone who's a size 4 would be better of at H&M or Anthropologie.

While I love, love, loved the vanity sizing that allowed me to go down a size, I was bored with the selection which seemed to include different variations of the Suzanna Constantine top, the top with the crossover front, suitable for the busty. I have many of this style of shirt myself, but I would hardly call it chic. These tops were strangely displayed with jackets for the narrow-nebbed, flat in the front and so boxy that anyone with breasts would look, at best pregnant, at worst matronly.

Forth & Towne does do some things very nicely. Large dressing rooms with flattering lighting are clustered in a circle at the center of the store. The clothes are grouped by "collection" in the same circular theme, and the staff is friendly and helpful. The shopping bags are cute too, if one is into that sort of thing.

865 Market Street
San Francisco, CA, 94103

Recon / Nort -- North Beach

Forget camping out at Niketown, this is the place to go for limited edition Nikes. Tucked away in North Beach, Recon sells streetwear that's more urbane than urban in a chic setting that's not intimidating or pretentious with sales staff who are actually friendly, even if you don't look like a skateboarder.

The street level boutique, Recon, sells special edition Nike t-shirts along with jackets, pants, shirts and bags sporting Silas, Future Labs, Wtaps and, of course, Rencon labels. In the basement, in addition to one-offs Nort sells the best selection of Nikes I've seen in San Francisco. Don't try to buy Air Jordens here, though, that's a different kind of street.

1827 Powell Street
San Francisco, CA 94133

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rugby - Stanford Shopping Center

Of course the rugby shirt is a staple at Rugby boutiques, but Ralph Lauren's new line for the well-heeled college student is so much more. Preppy meets punk rock with a nod to school uniforms and little bit of pirate in cute, age-appropriate outfits. On the boys side, jeans are slimmer, a welcome departure from the baggy, gang-banger look that's still found in Target, Sears, Costco, and other places men shop. A couple of three piece suits, all sold as separates, were more fashionable than Banana Republic but not too far forward to scare away the college student looking to dress for success. On the girls side, branded hoodies and tank tops share shelf space with mini skirts in skull & crossbones prints, jeans and tote bags emblazoned with the Jolly Roger logo. Pretty preppy blouses, such as men's-style dress shirts with ruffles added to them, pleated skirts, trousers, and cardigans are fit to be worn to work, while still being young and fun. Think of a punk version of Allie McGraw in Love Story or a sexy version of Annie Hall.

Most heavily branded clothing is obnoxious, but, for some reason, this label works. First of all the logo is a skull and crossbones, Jolly Roger style. Second, the label, Rugby, though it is plastered on much of the clothing in the store, doesn't seem like a label. Third, I haven't seen in it in every mall and shopping outpost. Ralph Lauren says the Rugby store will only be opened in college towns, adding cache to the brand.

369 Stanford Shopping Ctr
Palo Alto, CA 94304

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ruehl -- Westfield San Francisco Center

If Rhuel is meant to attract the older, college graduate brothers and sisters of Abercrombie and Fitch customers, it has missed the mark.

Ruehl's storefront at the New San Francisco Center is deceiving. The exterior looks like a posh townhouse or a Saville Row suitier of years gone by, but when visitors step inside, the wood paneled hallway, heavy with a woody, spicy scent that's sold somewhere in the recesses of the store brings another venue to mind. With its muted lighting, Ruehl feels more like a gentleman's club, where none of the men smoke, and they all smell good, except for the muzak, a mashup of Donna Summer and St. Etienne, which leans more toward the Pleasuredome than a clothing store. Think of it as the Pleasuredome mixed with JCrew, except that JCrew clothes are better.

Granted, the merchandise at Ruehl is less body conscious than Abercrombie & Fitch, and there are no photos of half naked models, but where are the clothes for the young professional? I didn't expect to find staid mainstays for the junior executive, but I didn't expect what I saw, either: a series of dimly lit rooms filled with hoodies, branded t-shits and jeans. How many people past college age will buy shirts with Ruehl plastered across the front?

865 Market St. Suite 251
San Francisco, CA 94103View Map