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

Monday, October 02, 2006

Camping out at Niketown - Union Square

It seems that I pass a row of people hunkered down for the night at least once a month outside the Union Sqaure Niketown. Every time a premium pair of sneakers is introduced, these Nike collectors come out and stake their place in line. Often the line of folding chairs and sleeping bags snakes around the block. Niketown seems to encourage this sidewalk squatting by issuing numbered wristbands to those in line every time a particularly coveted style of Air Jordans is released.

The last last time I noticed these campers, it was a Thursday night. They were waiting for a Saturday release of the Air Max Hybrids. Where do these people come from and why do they wait all night, often for several nights in a row, for a pair of shoes they could buy on the Haight without sacrificing a good night's sleep?

278 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94108