Stuck in town for Memorial Day weekend? I hear ya bro. But there’s no reason not to take the three days of relative calm in the city to explore some of its newish, dusty corners. You can start with Viracocha, Valencia’s antique store-community space that provides a room where we can all get a little folksy with it.
“So many people purchase things that fall apart in a few years,” owner Jonathan Siegel told me on a recent visit to the store. “We want to wean people from things that are being currently manufactured. These typewriters,” he gestures to a vintage one that soon after claimed a firm standing in my daydreams of possession acquisition, “when they first came out, the joke was that you could drop them out of a plane.”
The first time I encountered Viracocha was on a stroll one dusky evening in the Mission. We peeped through the front window to see that some sort of eclectic ’60s ski lodge had taken over the space next to the Artists’ Television Access. A plump black cat sat on one of the chairs by the door.
To know me is to know I love plump black cats. So back I went, and glad I am. The cat’s name is Asha. Scant are the price tags in the wood paneled living room of a store (Siegel may or may not spend some nights in the back rooms), which gives the place an air of comfort -- albeit comfort amongst treasure. An elaborate, 1950s custom made wicker chair sits at one angle, a pair of wooden ducks nestled on the table before it. There’s antique books, vintage clothes on a rack in the corner, a stack of goods at the counter by local artists.
The community feel is no happenstance. That was the point of Viracocha, kind of. Downstairs, Siegel hosts his extended family of artistic acquaintances, holding small shows for the up-and-coming. “We wanted the place to be a consistent anchor for people who are in that process of doing open mics, small scale productions,” Siegel, who moved here from New York to pursue his photography career, tells me in a calm, measured voice.
The flautist for that Saturday’s show wanders through to pick up a book of poetry she’d had her eye on. People from the neighborhood have dropped by on occasion to augment Siegel’s collection with their own hand-me-downs, telling him they thought the item “fit” at Viracocha. Proceeds from the goods go to support the shows at night, which Siegel has been accepting donations to attend.
Viracocha’s a neighborhood place, or at the least a pretty construction of what neighborhood should be. Comfortable, creative -- beauty that endures.
El Radio Fantastique feat. Shovelman
Sat/29 7:45-11:30 p.m., donations
998 Valencia, SF