Wednesday, June 24, 2009

San Francisco Shopping Guide - Valencia st

Shopping Guide Map - Valencia st, The Mission (ahhh, feel so much better now I am reunited with my textas!)

The thing with San Francisco, is that everything is quite spread out. It's not as instantly accessible as I expected... you can't just wander around aimlessly and hope to uncover the most gorgeous little coffeeshop or quaint little shopping strip. Instead you have to do a little bit of research... which we kinda learnt the hard way!

San Fran dolls houses! - top and bottom left photos by Joanna Forever on Flickr

No on told us that the best place to hang out in San Francisco is Valencia st. Sure, a few people said we should check out 'The Mission' area... but it took a good frustrating hour or more of traipsing up and down Mission st looking at cowboy boots and dodgy $1 shops to realise that Valencia is where you wanna be!

Street art in The Mission

Anyway, it was so exciting to (finally) discover some of the city’s best loved indie design shops and little creative hubs dotted along this busy main road - including The Curiosity Shoppe, Little Otsu and much more!

...But the absolute highlight of this area was visiting Dave Eggers incredible Pirate Shop at 826 Valencia. If you have no idea what I'm talking about you MUST watch this video. Pleeeaase watch it. 826 Valencia is an absolute inspiration... as is the charming Mr Eggers. It was so so so great to visit this magical little place for ourselves. Photos and other highlights below!

The Curiosity Shoppe - 855 Valencia at

The Curiosity Shoppe - images found on flickr here and here

The Curiosity Shoppe was our first Valencia st discovery... a small but gorgeous little shop filled with all those curious necessities - like stick-on moustaches and knitted apple-jackets. Genius! There's also a cute little exhibition area down the back which showcases the work of local illustrators and artists, and a small but fantastic little library of craft and design books. You can also browse a lot of their current stock on their website.

Little Otsu - 849 Valencia st

The shots above are alas not by me... Little Otsu were re-doing their window display during my visit. Instead these shots of an earlier window display are from a gorgeous set by Sweetiepiepress on Flickr. My shots below.

More gorgeous paper goodies and printed matter from Little Otsu, including the cutest recipe cards (which I couldn't resist!) by Susie Ghahremani.

My heart was all aflutter when I stumbled across Little Otsu on Valencia st... I had heard so much about this fantastic independent publishing house and their collaborations with many talented artists and designers, it was so exciting to visit their store in person! It was also great to see the work of artists and bloggers whose work I've admired for so long but have only ever seen online - stunning screenprinted posters by Claire Nereim (blogged here before), illustrated stationary by Susie Ghahremani and beautiful paper-cut illustrations by Nikki McClure.

It was also lovely to meet Yvonne Chen, founder and co-owner of Little Otsu... she was super lovely and only too happy for me to take some photos to share here! Yay for that. :)

ps) you can also shop online with Little Otsu (gorgeous, unique finds that you won't see anywhere else in Melbourne!)... and they also have a super-cute blog.

826 Valencia Pirate Shop
- 826 Valencia st

Pirate Supply Store! So fun!

Pirate necessities - including Peg Leg oil (of course)

Top image - the kids writing workshop at the back of the pirate shop, bottom image - pirate noticeboard - 'have you been impressed against your will??'

Oh my. The excitement. Even my boyfriend had fun at 826 Valencia! And that's saying something. Dave Egger's incredible pirate supply store / kids writing workshop needs to be seen to be believed. You really must check out his TED video to truly understand the magic.

Highlights included witnessing unsuspecting customers being 'mopped' by the cheeky Pirate Store attendant... discovering all kinds of pirate paraphernalia that you never knew existed... and chuckling at all the hilarious instructional notes and signs everywhere. HILARIOUS. You must have a good long browse of the website. Promise?

Paxton Gate - 824 Valencia st

Exterior of 826 Valencia and Paxton Gate next door

One again my fella seems to have made his way into my photo...! This is Paxton Gate - showcasing taxidermied animal heads and strange prehistoric-looking plants!

Right next-door to the fabulous Pirate shop was Paxton Gate - a store which had fortuitously been recommended to me by a reader only a few days before I arrived in San Fran! (Thankyou Melinda!).

Paxton Gate is a unique shopping experience - a very eclectic mix of taxidermy and scientific ephemera such as fossils, crystals, incredible corals and deep sea crustaceans and shells... as well as kooky plant life (think venus flytraps and other almost prehistoric-looking flora). It's all beautifully displayed - you could seriously lose hours just browsing at all the unexpected little details. I don't quite understand their target market, but it seemed pretty popular when we visited!

Regalito Rosticeria - 3481 18th st (just off Valencia)

I try not to include too many random eating-spots in these design/shopping guides... but it just seems so handy to know where to stop for lunch if anyone happens to be re-tracing my steps at some point in the not-too-distant future!

We had such a truly delicious modern Mexican meal at Regalito Rosticiera, I thought it was well worth a mention. The food is surprisingly light and interesting... not your usual heavy Mexican Fare. If you eat meat, I highly recommend the 'Papas con Chorizo' (potatoes with Chorizo). So tasty!

- 572 Valencia st

Monument is a 20th Century furniture store with a fantastic range... kinda pricey but these are quality collectible pieces, beautifully restored and (unfortunately) worth every penny! Well worth a browse... and you can check out their current stock online here thanks to 1st Dibs - an incredible online marketplace which brings together some of the best vintage and collectible design pieces worldwide! It is a truly fabulous website for 20th cemtury interiors especially - if you don't know it, you're missing out!

Clothes Contact - 473 Valencia st

I can't say I usually have the patience for op-shopping (or as they say in the US, thrift-store shopping)... but of the many, many vintage clothing shops along Valencia st - this bustling, colourful little store really caught my eye! The main drawcard seems to be their 'thrift by the pound' policy - ie all sales are charged by weight! They just weigh your items in bulk on scales at the checkout, and charge you accordingly. Awesome! No website I can find... but some more info and customer reviews here.

Farnsworth 20th Century Modernist Design - 393 Valencia st

Another great little 20th Century Furniture store - a little smaller, less showy perhaps than Monument... but no less interesting. Some key collectible pieces (including a wonderfully aged classic Eames leather / rosewood rocker and ottoman - divine!), but also slightly kookier finds including interesting ceramics and other small accessories.

Four Barrell Coffee
- 375 Valencia st

OK so San Francisco has this weird thing going on with Coffee. There seem to be a lot of 'high concept' coffee stores around this town... most of which you have to queue up outside for AGES to get a coffee... and also most of which don't really sell many snacks or lunch stuff at all... just coffee!? I found it a bit weird, as I have no patience for the kind of hyped-up, self conscious coffee 'manifesto' thing... but perhaps that's just because we are so spoilt in Melbourne with all the good food and good coffee (which you can surprsingly usually buy in the same place - without even queueing up!!). ANYWAY, it seems San Franciscans are more than happy to wait 15 minutes for a cup of painstakingly produced coffee, so who am I to judge...!

Four Barrell Coffee in Valencia st seemed one of the popular options, and had a shorter queue than most! The space was huge and quite cool and industrial inside - thus even more frustrating when we found out they don't do lunch! :(


  1. can't believe you are blogging already! you are hardcore.
    lovely post, even though you should be sleeping.
    had heard about the pirate shop. how fantastic.

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  3. You are AMAZING!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you for all your lovely posts, you really are an amazing blogger, artist, writer and photographer!!!


  4. one day i would like to sift through these shelves, but for now visiting vicariously through you is lovely.

  5. so fun hearing about your travels! thanks for this guide. I'm making my first trip to San Francisco later this summer and I'll definitely be checking out Valencia Street.

  6. OOh thanks so much for your comments guys!

    Jess - what can I say ? Addicted. (actually most of this post was pre-prepared, had been working on it for a few days...)

    Angela - AWW thanks so much for your sweet comment! you are too kind! I really appreciate the kind words

    Amy - thanks also for your sweet words! Yes I love reading travel news on other people's blogs too.. it's the next best thing to going on holiday!

    Jen - Oh great I hope this little guide comes in helpful! Let me know if you discover anything new! Thanks so much for your comment :)

  7. so glad i had some downtime this morning, and checked out your blog!
    I'm going to NYC and San Francisco in a couple of months, and will be scouring your posts for some designy/crafty touring tips.

    (yes, every melbournite is making the trip at the moment, because of the great cheap tix! so exciting)

    any good suggestions on where to stay in NY? :)

  8. What a great looking city! Makes me want to pack my bags and leave now :)

  9. I have always wanted to visit the Curiosity Shoppe. It is owned by the fabulous couple, Lauren and Derek, who do the DIY posts for Design Sponge.