So many shops are pitching on the rough coronavirus seas these days, trying to figure out how to stay afloat in this changed world. And each independent shop helps support a whole web of independent designers and craftspeople whose work they sell, so we're supporting many small businesses at once when we buy from these shops. Any mention or purchase, no matter how small, helps them out.
In that spirit, I thought I'd tell you about a few of the little curated shops I love to visit, in person and online. Running a shop like these requires expertise and a strong point of view, and that's what I go there for.
The people who run these shops want to show you what they love. They think you might love it, too. And you might leave with some discoveries - a book about an artist you've never heard of, a beautiful handmade ceramic vase the store owner found at a flea market somewhere, an eraser from Japan that's the perfect eraser ever made and makes you happy every time you use it. I love immersing myself in someone else's point of view for a bit and letting them show me what the world looks like to them.
Rare Device, San Francisco, CA
I used to work here doing visual merchandising and window decoration (the exterior shot above shows some of my window handiwork), and RD was my first Navy Midnight stockist! This store is an unusual thing - one that is truly looking for new up-and-coming designers and artists to feature and support. Ceramics, jewelry, stationery, books, kid stuff, and art exhibitions - they've got things you won't see anywhere else and also some design classics. You will not leave without seeing something unexpected - and something (or several somethings) that you really want. It's dangerous that way, but you're not scared of a little temptation are you?
The Perish Trust, San Francisco, CA
The Perish Trust is just down the street from Rare Device and has a completely different vibe. It's a very personal, moody, vaguely Southwestern-meets-Japanese world created by a photographer and photo stylist who love having a space they can style and restyle to their hearts' content. I sometimes have a hard time buying things there because I want so many things that it short circuits my brain, and I can't make a decision. I go there often enough, though, that I have succeeded in buying quite a few things - some of my very favorite ceramics, for sure. They also have furniture, artwork, jewelry, books, paper goods, clothing and bath and body products. I always love walking in the door, breathing in the palo santo, and seeing what they've done with the place.
AB Fits, San Francisco, CA
Usually I'm wearing at least one thing I got at AB Fits. Right now, I'm wearing a pink pair of Levi's I got there a few months ago. Their specialty is denim, but they have a lot of other stuff, too - shoes, hats, scarves, shirts, jewelry. You could shop here for your whole wardrobe, except for your ball gowns maybe, and I pretty much do. It's non-boring basics, expertly curated by owner Howard Gee for the last 30 years. Yes - 30 years. He knows his stuff, and he'll help you find the perfect thing. And if you can go in person or do a FaceTime shopping appointment - do it - the website's great, but it doesn't have everything in the store on it.
The Aesthetic Union, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco doesn't have many letterpress print shops anymore - not much industry of any kind, really, in this expensive-real-estate town - but James at The Aesthetic Union is keeping print alive. So many reasons to go there - you can see the huge old presses at work, buy amazing art supplies and James' artwork, pick up a Black Lives Matter poster, and then go next door to Tartine Bakery or Heath Ceramics. Check the website before you head over in person, though, because as of mid July, they are finishing up a shop remodel and not open in real life - though always on the web.
Bon, Tucson, AZ
This is the only shop on the list that I haven't been to in person - I know them through their website and Instagram. But if I'm ever in Tucson, I will be there straight from the airport. The mother-daughter team at Bon designs a few clothing pieces themselves and sources others from various simple and refined clothing lines. I aspire to master Bonnie's sophisticated and classic look - a simple Japanese shirt paired with worn-in jeans, a little Native American jewelry, and some red lipstick. Plus they have accessories and housewares and straw hats that all could have come from a French flea market - but somehow not put together in the cutesy way things 'from a French flea market' might look in less skillful hands. Like the folks at The Perish Trust, these ladies are masters of patina, texture and atmosphere.
And there you go! So many beautiful discoveries to be made at these shops!
I hope you'll consider shopping small and quirky and independent when you can.
Note: Photos are by the stores listed, except the first photo is by me.