Best of the Bay 2011 Editors Picks
Tweekin Records in the Lower Haight was one of the centers of Bay Area dance music culture for the better part of two decades. But besides the basic insanity of operating a specialty record store in these e-times, the Tweekin brand had gotten a bit ragged over the years. So it was a charge for vinyl lovers when Manny Alferez and crew stepped up for a reinvigoration, unveiling Black Pancake Records. Pretty much the same concept reigns: great funk, soul, house, techno, jazz, and even (gasp!) rock records, plus a friendly staff with some primo recommendations. Perhaps best of all, there are a couple of those rarest of beasts — listening stations. Yep, you can put the actual circular whatsit on the doohickey that spins around and hear it make the music, little Johnny. All without clickety-clicking on the wee mouse-thingy.
593 Haight, SF. (415) 626-6995, www.blackpancakerecords.com
Peruse the labels of say, a kitty-shaped exfoliating washcloth or exquisitely lacquered bento box at Ichiban Kan, and you're likely to see a Good Housekeeping seal of approval-style label trumpeting that the item won a design award in Japan. At times it seems like everything wins a design award in Japan, then the realization sets in that no other country seems to have dedicated itself so fervently to assuring that the everyday things of life — from paper clips to cooking utensils — be attractive, eminently functional, durable, and well-designed. When we want to load up on the best of the quotidian (we're particular fans of the rolls of plastic wrap for $1), we come here.
Various locations, www.ichibankanusa.com
It's a constant nerd alert — not that that's a bad thing — at Cards and Comics Central, a Richmond District shop where employees know the difference between vine whips and seed bombs and can explain why destroy effects don't harm a cattank. Kids into Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokémon, or Magic will be overwhelmed by the shop's vast selection. Parents will be overwhelmed at the price tag — you can spend more than $100 on a single card, though assorted decks (available for under $10) might keep the average young collector sated. Check out the back room for the real action — pale adults playing Magic with an intensity you won't find at most Vegas poker tables.
5424 Geary, SF. (415) 668-3544, www.candccentral.com
What does it take to win a gazillion green business awards? It certainly starts with a great concept, a seriously vetted supply chain, and a commitment to spreading the eco-word. It also helps to have a pleasing storefront in Noe Valley, cute and eager staff, luscious products, and bulk-store prices without the forklifts and doublewide shopping carts. Green 11, launched by married couple Marco Pietschmann and Bettina Limaco and inspired by a Rachel Carson observation ("For the first time in history, every human being is being subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception to death."), offers soaps, cleaning supplies, pet food, shampoo, conditioners, and lotions, all ready for your refillable, affordable use. Bring your own containers or put for up a starter container at the store.
3980 24th St., SF. (415) 425-5195. www.shopgreen11.com
You think your head hurts from the plumage parade that alit on Dolo Park this year? Think of the feather-farm roosters and other avian amigos that have lost their lives to appease the current mania for quill jewelry and hair extensions. Happily, two gentle crafters have taken the torture out of the trend: Erykah Prentice and Martha Hudson started their accessories label Divine Dandelions for peace, not plucking. The two create their cascading earrings and fanciful headdresses from foraged feathers, selling them from a sweet little gazebo at festivals up and down the West Coast. If you find yourself Bay-bound during next month's Gaia Festival (up in the hills of Laytonville), you can always check out their Kahlil Gibran-quoting website for custom-made creations.
Are your childhood camcorder memories gathering worrisome mildew by the minute? Entrust your VHS-ed precious moments to the Mission's Video Transfer Center run by Jennifer Miko, a 2008 graduate of the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and a collaborator with the Image Permanence Institute. Miko, along with husband Buck Bito, boasts some of the best equipment in the biz — including a fancy-pants transfer system for 8mm and Super-8 that the center says is California's first and only. For a small fee, the team will inspect, repair, and transfer your film memories to a digital format that will last forever ... or at least until we figure out brain-to-brain info-beaming.
395 South Van Ness, SF. (415) 558-8815, www.videotransfercenter.com
Mission vintage stores tend to cater to your typical high-waisted jean-clad, chain-smoking-in-front-of-Four-Barrel kind of girl. (We love her!) But New Jack City is a breath of fresh hype air. This "throwback goods" outpost at 15th and Guerrero streets specializes in sports gear and B-boy stylings straight from your favorite scene in Houseparty 2. Vintage Giants jackets, old school stripes, Bugs Bunny tees of various ages, priceless Afro-centric relics, and breezy caps repping teams or just plain reppin' ... . Actual 1980s and '90s B-boys (and newer admirers) will feel they never left their Cold Crush Brothers and KRS-One cassettes in their cousin's janky hoopty's deck once they step inside.
299 Guerrero, SF. (415) 624-3751, newjackcitysf.blogspot.com
You know those girls who flounce down 24th Street, vintage pastel print sundresses fluttering over their kicky cork wedge sandals, carrying a perfect sexy grandma purse? We know their style secret. Oakland's Field Day Wearables' bedding dresses are handmade by a crunchy-awesome label that wants to take the disposable out of fashion. They've got pockets and detachable straps that double as a matchy-match headband, and you can find them in patterns from striped to pansied to Batman (yes, they're made from actual sheets). Score 'em at myriad brick-and-mortar distributing boutiques — or even better, by trying them on over your jeans at one of the craft fairs and street walks where FDW sets up a pretty post.
Available at various Bay Area locations. www.fielddaywearables.com
Apparently all the people who came of age in the late 1960s and early '70s are either dead or too busy filling out Social Security forms to notice that at least one of their cherished craft projects is making a comeback. (No, not candle-splattered Mateus wine bottles or macramé hanging plant slings.) We're talking about terrariums, the terrestrial equivalent of a ship in a bottle. So what if many G4-era terrarium enthusiasts call them "terraniums"? Their variation on vivarium nomenclature does nothing to diminish the charm of these glassed-in mini-worlds. And particularly high on the charm assessment scale are the creations of the good women of Studio Choo, part of Prairie Collective, whose arrangements of tiny ferns, succulents, and other floral inspire full minutes of unbroken, smart phone-free contemplation.
You've redecorated your living room, but still something is missing. Could it be? Yes it is — a fuchsia-toned chaise lounge. Do not despair, for we have your marching orders: SF Antiques and Design Mall. The 13-year-old Bayview behemoth is something akin to an indoor flea market, and is home to 200 experts in the art of antique, all of whom have booths filled to the brim with fanciful paperweights, glittering heaps of costume jewelry, and ever-so-whimsical seating options. Seriously, if your interior design is hankering for a touch of the over-embellished, a whiff of kitsch, or perhaps a splash of hanging basket chair, you will find it here.
701 Bayshore, SF. (415) 656-3530, www.sfantique.com
Natural wooden tables, colorful blankets spread here and there, a goat's head staring placidly down on wonder-covered shelves — Hayes Valley's Reliquary could be a gaucho explorer's treasure room. And — minus the gaucho part — that's pretty much what boutique owner Leah Bershad has created it to be. Bershad stocks the year-old space with crafts and vintage finds from all around the country, plus Europe and — in the case of some elaborate bead-and-quilt satchels stacked near the counter — Afghanistan. The store's racks of secondhand embroidered dresses and its smattering of designer wear like high-waisted Court denim mean that, as far as fashion church goes, Reliquary lives up to its name: a container for sacred relics.
537 Octavia, SF. (415) 431-4000, reliquarysf.tumblr.com
If you've ever spent an afternoon wistfully clicking your way through the Craigslist "free" section — pondering all you could do with an extra this or that — you've sampled a certain seductive sweet taste. Beware: the California Materials Exchange is crack to Craigslist's cocaine. It's eBay on steroids, Urban Ore for colossi. A state-sponsored recycling program, CalMAX facilitates the transfer of bulk, odd, and industrially useful products for wholesale and discount rates, and sometimes for free. So, looking for extra cubicles? How 'bout a free 1000-gallon asphalt-emulsion tank? Or 7,500 pounds of apparel, including 300 women's black twill pants missing only the waist button? That'll cost you a paltry 10 grand, but for someone with a plan — and a lot of storage — it could be just the thing.
A sobering fact: your clothes were probably made in a sweatshop (sorry). Most of our industrially produced togs — you are probably aware — are made by people making far from decent wages, working with toxic, health-shattering dyes. Small wonder then that local fiber movements are beginning to stitch. Visit Oakland yarn shop A Verb For Keeping Warm to be indoctrinated. Owner Kristine Vejar sells an in-house line of local fibers and natural dyes, and stocks other brands as well. Plus she gives classes on the skills you need to clothe yourself sustainably and hosts free sewing nights to develop community among people who purl — responsibly.
6328 San Pablo, Oakl. (510) 595-8372, www.averbforkeepingwarm.com
Beautify the street and bolster your curb appeal in classic style with some legit hand-lettering from New Bohemia Signs. Using traditional enamels and gold leaf, New Bohemia practices its old-school art with pride — snazzing up placards with over-the-top fonts, providing elegant window signage for boutiques and restaurants, crafting appetizing menu boards, even revamping your Victorian with a gilded transom. Founder Damon Styer and crew have also branched out into the gallery scene: a recent art show at Guerrero Gallery featured work by present and past New Bohemia staff. The vintage feel, handmade aesthetic, and design-addict cache — New Bohemia's products have even been salivated over in The New York Times — seem a perfect sign of our local, small-batch, skill-appreciative times.
281 Ninth St., SF. (415) 864-7057, www.newbohemiasigns.com
The website of the Foam Monkeys concept modeling studio has an "awards" section that admits, "While we can't honestly recall Foam Monkeys ever actually being mentioned for an award, the company has certainly been a part of many award-winning product development teams." But we're giving the company itself a real, bona fide Best of the Bay to boast about. Why? Because! Here you can not only construct a polyurethane primate, but also all sorts of useful stuff — like prototypes for everything from MacBooks to microchips. Sure, the company is geared toward creating serious conceptual models for industrial design and product development, but that doesn't make the idea of an accessible foam-based 3-D modeling studio any less awesome.
32 Shotwell, SF. (415) 552-5577, www.foammonkeys.com
Deep in the thick of the taquerias, bodegas, butcher shops , and joyerias of 24th Street dwells this exotic little shopping outpost for fearless cultural adventurers. Explorist International captain Chris Dixon (known on assorted music bills as Phengren Oswald) lets his collector come out to play here, sharing new and used recordings of global party riddims, heady jazz, weird old folk and country blues, and various unclassifiables — as well as art books, micro-run zines, and McSweeney's volumes. The record bins are where the real action is, though: Moondog vinyl canoodles with Sperm Walls rarities, and Charlie Nothing crashes with the Indonesian prog and funk of Those Shocking, Shaking Days. Would we like to snag that vinyl copy of Luk Thung: Classic and Obscure 78s from the Thai Countryside? Yes, Dr. Livingstone, we would indeed.
3174 24th St., SF. (415) 400-5850, www.exploristinternational.com
Literature and coffee: such sweet, sweet dependencies. Enable both on the cheap at Reader's Café . Inconspicuous to those on a casual Fort Mason stroll, this used book treasure trove on the bay is infinite and grand once found. With $20, it's possible to take home a few written works (some only $1!) and still have change for indulging in a custom-brewed cup of Blue Bottle. Reader's is a production of the San Francisco Friends of the Library, so not only does each purchase soothe the DTs, it's for a good cause.
Building C, Room 165, Fort Mason Center, SF. (415) 771-1076, www.readerscafe.org
In a perfect world, each visit to the Apartment would be a leisurely half-day treasure hunt. The Mission District store is packed with vintage furnishings, boxes of old family photos and 1960s magazines, even a $1 tray for affordable finds. No plywood or cheap IKEA stuff here — everything on offer is well maintained and crafted. Of course, that quality comes with some heft, but if you've fallen in love with a cedar armoire when you were supposed to be on the hunt for a throw rug, the Apartment will pay for its delivery: $65 plus $10 for every flight of stairs it must ascend to your door. So accommodating!
3469 18th St., SF. (415) 255-1100
After a five-year effort by chain-wary neighborhood activists to keep it off the grand hippie boulevard, megachain Whole Foods opened at Haight and Stanyan streets early this year. It furthered the neighborhood's fitful transmogrification into Fancy Town (or Ashbury Valley, the 'hood's new NoPa-like real estate agency-created moniker), but Haight Street Market is rising to this market-share challenge. With shifts starting before the crack of dawn, the 30-year-old family-owned shop has stepped it up, adding a high-quality butcher counter, a deli, the least pricey and most diverse beer selection in the Upper Haight, and a buffed-up coffee selection. If only all small businesses could up their game in the face of corporate claims.
1530 Haight, SF. (415) 255-0644, www.haightstreetmarket.com
Stepping into cobbler Suzanne George's shop is like entering a hide-covered time warp. George crafts her clodhoppers in much the same way that shoes were made several hundred years ago. She works the leather by hand, stitching the pieces with thread and hammering it all together with actual nails. Not only are the shoes custom-made to fit every tootsie they encase, they are also unique pieces of art, nearly too lovely to take tramping on the dirty pavement. George shares her high-quality, low-technology workshop with Peter, a shoemaker originally from Italy who used to make sandals for Mother Teresa. Together they make some damn fine throwback sling-backs.
1787 Church, SF. (415) 775-1775, www.suzannegeorgeshoes.com
While a marijuana home delivery business may sound like nothing more than a couch-bound stoner's dream come true, the Green Cross actually offers a valuable service to many of the city's neediest residents who are less mobile as a result of illness, disability, or age. And this is no slapdash selection, either. Brick-and-mortar dispensaries can't beat its impressive array of hard-to-find THC-infused specialty items like olive oil and agave nectar. Plus it boasts vegan, gluten-free, and nut-free goodies, all made in-house. So toke it all in — a portion of the proceeds are reinvested in the community, supporting social service agencies like the SF AIDS Foundation and the YMCA.
(415) 648-4420, www.thegreencross.org
Toby and Libby Rappolt hardly leave the balls behind when they exit their 20-year business, Sunset Soccer Supply, for the day. The Rappolts are players, coaches, and fans too. If they're not holding up the counter at their shop, chatting with regulars about the most recent match or the best way to teach a kid to dribble or selling a team-sized box of scrimmage vests, there's a good chance they're out supporting the SF soccer community. The business is especially into rooting for women's teams: it was present at the Civic Center showing of the World Cup final, it sponsors tournaments, and it has even invited players to in-store signings.
3401 Irving, SF. (415) 753-2666, www.sunsetsoccer.com
Where to trundle if you want to wear that pretty pierced stone you found on your first anniversary hike up Mount Diablo? The Bead Store has a vast assortment of necklace-ready cords, and the Castro shop's friendly staff can point you toward a nice clasp, or even tie a slip-knot for you if you're not fancy. It's the city's smallest and oldest bead store — it has been in the same spot since 1964 — and stocks centuries-old beads and rare stones you won't find anywhere else, as well as the standard tools you need to take your diamonds from the rough.
417 Castro, SF. (415) 861-7332, www.thebeadstoresf.com
Jewelry — it can be scary! We don't mean the fun ornamental kind of jewelry, like Celtic nipple rings or jade idol earrings or purple pentagram pendants (although those can be scary too). No, we're referring to real jewelry — like the fancy traditional kind you'd better get right or Bridezilla/o is gonna 'splode and slap you silly with a rolled-up copy of Country Weddings magazine. How will you know how to score the perfect engagement ring, or wedding band, or anniversary bracelet, or birthday watch? Don't fret. The enormously helpful and nice folks of Just Bands will help you with everything, from sizing and color to design and polish. Their showroom in the labyrinthine San Francisco Gift Center sparkles not just with diamonds and silver, but with the smiles of satisfied lovers whose romance wasn't tarnished by stressful transactions.
888 Brannan, Suite 151, SF. (415) 626-2318
The N-Judah thunders by it dozens of times a day, but because it's tucked well back in a garden courtyard, you'd never know this spirited, magickal little "multitraditional world mysticism" shop existed. Unless you capital-K Know. Look into your third eye: do you Know? Randy, the genial owner of the Sword and the Rose — a man who is part Keith Richards, part Baba Yaga — definitely Knows. And he'll graciously tell you, spinning tales of about gods and goddesses from esoteric cultures past and present, or reading your tarot cards in a cozy nook warmed by an amber fire, or selling you his house-produced incense, or offering lessons in spellcraft, all while bestowing friendly (if a bit confusing to the uninitiated) guidance to more transcendent realms. First stop: Cole and Carl streets. Next stop: the Divine.
85 Carl, SF. (415) 681-5434
Let's face it, if you're a happenin' gentleman or a trouser-trusting lady in this fancy-pants city, you're going to need to bust out the occasional tuxedo. But who wants to spend a few hundred bucks on a new tux? Screw that noise, get over to Held Over, and check out the selection of $20 used tux shirts and wide variety of full monkey suits — from the 1970s-style mariachi look to something a bit more classic. Hell, why don't you mix-and-match it up? They've already got you in a suit, so you might as well have some fun with it.
1542 Haight, SF. (415) 864-0818
A visit to the cavernous Potrero Hill digs of Big Daddy's Antiques ushers you into a wondrous, uncannily postmodern version of the past. There's definitely a little vintage-meets-steampunk aesthetic going on — Big Daddy grand poobah Shane Brown and his magic elves have collected enough old-school film lights, globes, wooden angel wings, horse-drawn buggies, large animal heads, giant pillars, and studio cameras with bellows to kit out the dreams of antique queens and cyber-fanboys alike. (Tech guys, please get your decor here.) And the large collection of Depression-era Americana like shoe shop signs and flag bunting adds to the pleasantly discombobulating Twilight Zone feel. Don't worry though; the amiable Big Daddy's staff will guide you though it all.
1550 17th St., SF. (415) 621-6800, www.bdantiques.com
We just have one question for you, Revolver: can we move in? We would fit so well in your charming, roomy, homey, comfy store-and-gallery. On warm summer days, we could don one of your light summer frocks and Illesteva sunglasses, like contemporary post-ironic preppies but not that heavy; seal in our dewy look with one of your delicious moisturizers; and have coffee while pondering the art on display in your back room. Evenings, we could venture out in a pair of Tretorn rubber boots or suede Volta high tops and Creep khaki chinos, then settle in for the night on one of your durable cotton Japanese Workers pillow covers. In short, Revolver, we like everything about your small, beautifully curated store. Just one more thing: Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you glad to see us?
136 Fillmore, SF. (415) 578-3363, www.revolversf.com
You know what's tired? Using your iPhone to take a picture of yourself in the mirror for your Google+ profile. You know what's not tired? Using a low-fi medium format 120 film Chinese toy camera from the 1980s to snap that same pic. Sure, you could just download Hipstamatic, but the hardcore among us prefer to use the delightful original mechanism — an actual Holga camera — which, thanks to a mini-craze in the past few years, has become readily available in the U.S. But you'll need the right roll of film, and the awesome Photoworks is here to provide. Photoworks stocks hard-to-find film from all over the world, offers excellent print production services, and will even stretch your Holga hotness on a canvas to hang in your hallway.
2077-A Market, SF. (415) 626-6800, www.photoworkssf.com
Backpacks, tents, and BPA-free utensils designed with an eye for classic retro outdoors-y accouterments (think 1980s L.L. Bean and 1970s RV campers), Mission District-based camping company Alite Designs' gear is innovative, body conscious, and oh-so-considerate of our decadent ways. Take for example its Sexy Hotness sleeping bag — at first glance, just a pretty sack for camp-crashing, but unzip the center fastener and it becomes a thermo-Snuggie with built-in feet, its center zipper freeing your nether regions for trips to the john or even a little nature nookie. Plus, the bags connect endlessly, so if you roll deep 'n' dirty, your camp orgies will be well served.
2505 Mariposa, SF. (415) 626-1526, www.alitedesigns.com