Hayes Valley shops keep charm amid rapid growth

As seen in the San Francisco Chronicle July 10, 2011

Illustration courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle

Nerissa Pacio Itchon, Special to The Chronicle

With the burst of activity happening in Hayes Valley lately, it’s hard to believe this bustling San Francisco neighborhood has nary a Starbucks in sight. From the groundbreaking of the $50 million SF Jazz Center and the opening of high-end spin-offs to several existing boutiques, to the new restaurant flurry and more to come, one might expect to find shoppers – Venti Mocha Frappuccinos in hand – walking their well-groomed labradoodles.

But ask anyone who knows this charmingly compact, decidedly big-chain-averse neighborhood and they’ll assure you that although the Valley is growing rapidly, its personality is definitively intact.
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Noteworthy Newcomers to Hayes Valley

Me with Cindy Spade, the always-helpful co-owner and buyer for Ver Unica in Hayes Valley.

As much as I love shopping online, there’s no better substitute in my mind than exploring a neighborhood on foot—especially when that neighborhood is Hayes Valley. Popping in and out of some of my favorite boutiques there (Azalea, M.A.C.-Modern Appealing Clothing, and Flight 001, to name a few) never fails to remind me of why San Francisco is such a cool place to live.

Ver Unica is another local favorite I’d put at the top of my must-frequent list, namely because co-owner and veteran buyer Cindy Spade has a killer eye and stocks an impeccably edited collection of vintage clothing and accessories from the 1920s through 1980s, including one-of-a-kind dead stock. Although I’m usually game for rolling up my sleeves and digging for that hidden gem, sometimes I need the immediate gratification of easy-to-find, mint-condition goods.

Try not to panic if in the next couple months you find Ver Unica has vanished from its 437 Hayes Street digs. Just head over to the 500 block, where Spade says she and her husband will be opening a bigger and better shop by summer. They’ll celebrate with a grand re-opening party, which I’ll post here as soon as I get wind of it.

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