Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cliff's Variety -- The Castro

This is one of those rare instances when a store is aptly named. Cliff's Variety is much more than a hardware store. Of course it carries hardware; the typical you would expect to find, like nails, paint and light bulbs; the less typical you would hope to find, like Victorian ceiling sconces and latches for old-fashioned windows; and the completely surprising, like tiaras, toys and quirky kitchenalia.

Jungle-themed cleaning supply display. It's not easy being green.

479 Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sephora -- San Francisco Airport

To those of us who are addicted to beauty products, Sephora a pretty, nice smelling crack den. We can't leave the store empty handed. Nars, Fresh, Philosophy, Dr Perricone are just a few of my favorites. They also sell a great lip gloss that plumps the lips, Lip Injection Extreme.

For those who need a little retail therapy to sooth pre-flight jitters, Sephora at the airport seem to carry most of the lines available at the downtown store. Beware, though, it's before the security checkpoint so don't buy anything you can't carry on.

International Terminal
San Francisco Airport

Friday, April 20, 2007

Toy Safari -- Alameda

Forget Toys-R-Us. Toy Safari is a great toy store for kids and adults. It stocks the widest range of Play mobile I've ever seen under one roof. The range of other toys is equally broad. Nostalgic throwbacks to the past sit side-by-side on the shelves with the latest must have toys.

It's worth a trip just to look at old doll display case populated with many of my favorites from the Seventies including, Flatsie, Kiddles and Dawn. Check out astronaut Barbie.

1410 Park St
Alameda, CA 94501

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Self Edge - The Mission

Has anyone else noticed how Japanese make American products better than Americans? Take jeans, for example. When Levis get rid of old looms because they take too long to weave a bolt of denim, Japanese manufacturers buy them, then reproduce them because the quality of the fabric they make is superior to that of the high speed computerized looms many manufacturers use today. Where are the most expensive premium Levis made now? Japan. They don't stop with Levis. A whole industry of Japanese blue jeans has sprung up. Some of these brands, such as Sugar Cane, Samurai, Iron Heart and Flat Head are also sold at Self Edge. In keeping with the American theme, it's also a good place to buy gangsta inspired, handcuff and gun jewelry designed by Jewels Kim.

714 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Monday, April 16, 2007

Val 16 market -- The Mission

Right on the corner of 16th and Valencia, this is one of the last places that sells authentic Dulce De Leche, not Smuckers sauces or those weird hard candies with Dulce De Leche flavorings but the real thing, the kind you can buy on the streets of Mexico, only there it's called Cajeta.

There's also a good range of South & Central American groceries, fresh produce and some things that reflect the changing area, like Bawls soda. If you're a Gavacha expect pleasant service. The clerks are a little cooler to Gavachos, but not rude.

3100 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Therapy - The Mission

Furniture, nick knacks or shoes, this is the store, actually two stores for retail therapy. Both shops named Therapy sit side by side, one for furniture and one for gifts for yourself. Although the breadth of the stock is wide, there it's carefully chosen to reflect a specific sensibility, quirky, urban-cute, anti-hip.

541 & 545 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hideo Wakamatsu -- The Mission

Hideo Wakamatsu luggage and tote bags are more proof that form and function can peacefully and stylishly coexist. Modern lightweight design is mixed with traditional Japanese elements, such as the cherry blossom suitcase and the children's school bags made out of motorcycle helmet material. These suitcases certainly won't blend in with all the others on the baggage return and the ergonomic laptop carriers actually look nice.

Another nod to Hideo Wakamatsu's Japanese roots is the strange, automated greeting that goes off when you open the door to the store.

563 Valencia St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Thursday, April 12, 2007

If You Can't Afford Cartier -- Union Square

The next best thing is to buy your jewelry off the street. This vendor is part of the city artists program. She makes the jewelry while minding her stall. If you're partial to coral, like I am, it's much better that the plastic and base metal costume jewelry sold at Macy's.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Street Stalls -- Oxford Street

How do Londoners afford to live? The answer is simple, they shop off the street. While at first glance, this stall on Oxford Street looks like it could be filled with tourist tat, look again. Two pashminas for £5 is cheap enough to keep every Londoner's neck decoratively warm. I've also seen fashionable Muslim girls wearing them as head covers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Old Vogue -- North Beach

Old Vogue is a vintage store specializing mostly in men's clothing. They sell the type of fashion that doesn't change much from era to era, Hawaiian shirts, classic Pendletons, cashmere coats, so it's hard to say what decades are covered here. To the untrained eye, a 70s Pendleton looks much the same as one fron the 50s. One thing that stands out, though, is the excellent condition of all the clothes, including the vast selection of blue jeans on the top floor. It's not as low-cost as the vintage chains on the Haight but the nicely organized displays and high quality of clothing is well worth the cost for those who like this vintage style that would fit in well at the next Hillbilly Hop.

1412 Grant Ave
San Francisco, California 94133

Monday, April 09, 2007

Estate Sale - Civic Center

There's usually a sandwich board out in front of American Rag on the weekends that simply says "Estate Sale, Fern Ally." One day, I decided to follow the sign down the ally. I expected to find a ratty apartment filled with an old dead person's things, but I found so much more. This little shop is a collection of rooms filled with display cases and shelves filled to the brim with all sorts of household items, collectibles and books. Whoever is responsible for displaying the goods has an obsessive compulsive collector's sensibility appreciated by shoppers who like to look at collections of things, and there are many collections here. If you need a specific pyrex bowl to complete a set, this is the place to look for it, likewise for Jasperware, clocks, old radios, coctail sets, 60s and 70s lamps....

This little shop seems to be only open on the weekends, so keep an eye out for the sandwich board.

Fern Alley
around the corner from American Rag

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Portobello Green -- Notting Hill

If Portobello Market is a bit too rich, Portobello Green may be just right. Less antiques (none) fill the stalls, but there is plenty of vintage, and just plain used stuff to be had. Artists, jewelry makers and seamstresses sell their wares too.

Suitable for vegetarians? Expect to find the quirky and unusual, like these non-sweatshop made trainers. They look a bit like an art student made them.