The Bayside Way: An Insider’s Guide to Shopping in San Francisco

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San Francisco often gets a bad rap for its fashion sense. But one thing is certain: it’s impossible to impeach the city’s shopping scene – one I have been successfully mining over the years indeed. The city is a buyer’s paradise, stuffed with an eclectic mix of boutiques and department stores. Here’s an introduction to some of my favorite local shops in neighborhoods you may not know.

Hayes Valley

Meet my hands-down favorite place to score giddy-inducing fashions. Think of this neighborhood, anchored by Hayes Street, as the SoHo of San Francisco, except teensier and without a recognizable chain store in sight. In other words, welcome to the coolest cluster of independent boutiques in town. You’ll find hip and sophisticated women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, fabulous footwear, and funky housewares and home furnishings all within five square blocks. The best way to tackle it? Just wander—and lust.

Gimme Shoes

Gimme Shoes

For almost 20 years, shoe addicts have deified it for its cutting-edge men’s and women’s footwear and hard-to-find brands (hello, Fiorentini+Baker). A second outpost, down the street, joined the original a couple of years ago for double the pleasure.

416 (original) and
381 Hayes Street
415.864.0691

Rand + Statler

This airy and still-newish boutique woos both genders with an ultra-chic bounty of coveted clothing from the likes of Comme des Garcons, Acne and Alexander Wang. Excellent customer service and amazing accessories by local artists add to its allure.

425 Hayes Street
415.634.0881

RAG (Residents apparel Gallery)

A hipster favorite—it’s all about promoting and selling new, emerging and eco-friendly local designers. The perfect spot to purchase gifts, edgy tees with San Francisco graphics, fun jewelry and decidedly cool baby and kids clothes.

Located just off Hayes
at 541 Octavia Street
415.621.7718

Minimal

The MO of this happy little shop: sleek and simple with a Scandinavian twist. Cool kitchen gadgets, jewelry, home accessories and unique gifts are stylishly displayed along with products by Marimekko, Design House Stockholm and Alvar Alto.

364 Hayes Street
415.400.5572

Welcome Stranger

Welcome Stranger

The whimsical windows of this cavernous menswear spot will demand that you enter, while the Americana vintage vibe and fresh mix of denim, sportswear and workwear are sure to keep you interested. Styles run the gamut from full-on fab Zig-Zag shoes for $20 to investment pieces by Rag & Bone and Paul Smith. Crazy-cool curios with a manly-man slant add to the fashion fun.

460 Gough Street
415.864.2079

Jackson Square

How about a side of Barbary Coast history with your shopping? Situated in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid (north and west of the Financial District), this little-known enclave has an Old World feel with its beautiful brick and ornate cast-iron buildings dating back to the Gold Rush days. It’s home to the city’s finest arts and antique dealers, as well as modern design stores and two of the best women’s boutiques in the city.

Meandering these historic blocks is a wonderful way to spend a couple of only-in-San Francisco hours. Grab a bite at Bix—a San Francisco institution—or the more casual but equally historic Old Ship Saloon. Prefer a champagne break? Pull up a couch at The Bubble Lounge.

Montgomery Gallery

Whether you’re in the market for a new masterpiece or just window-shopping, take a whirl through this almost-30-year-old gallery, one of the city’s finest, specializing in 19th- and 20th-century European and American paintings with a focus on California artists.

406 Jackson Street
415.788.8300

Carrots

Ladies, prepare for 4,000 square feet of uber-chic fashions in a landmark building, formerly occupied by Ernie’s restaurant, featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. What’s being served up nowadays is a meticulously edited menu of sophisticated designer clothing. Name-dropping just a bit to whet your appetite… Helmut Lang, Rick Owens, Viktor & Rolf… Throw in gorgeous accessories and footwear? Swoon-worthy is an understatement.

843 Montgomery Street
415.834.9040

La Boutique l’art et la Mode

A relative newcomer, this insouciant boutique continues to make a positive impression on local stylistas who flock to the bright bi-level space for innovative European designer collections. Another plus: It’s also part contemporary art gallery and event space. Ooh la la!

414 Jackson Street
415.693.9950

Union Square

Even though the best way to sop up the local flavor is to hit the boutiques and neighborhoods, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give Union Square a proper nod. It is, after all, the city’s central shopping hub overflowing with department stores (Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Barneys New York and Nord-strom) and designer storefronts (Prada, Gucci, Hermès, Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton and just-opened Mulberry). Also noteworthy: Maiden Lane, just off the square (between Geary and Post Streets from Stockton to Kearny Streets), a cobblestone, pedestrian-only street clustered with more luxury stores (Marc Jacobs, Chanel, Diptyque and Tory Burch) and outdoor cafes. Local highlights include Manika Jewelry, Glory Chen and Gump’s, the 150-year-old legendary retailer that sells artful objects, jewelry and home décor. (Just look for the red awnings.)

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