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.

“Its flavor is truly authentic,” says Ben Ospital, co-owner of MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing), which opened its doors in Hayes Valley nine years ago. “Whether you’re going out for a Blue Bottle coffee, sweets at Miette, or dinner at Bar Jules, Hayes Valley has everything to do with who makes and grows things in San Francisco – and the local community they serve.”

Over the years, this area once plagued by urban blight and decay has morphed into a destination neighborhood with its own biannual design festival, locally run shops, chef-owned restaurants, and chic art galleries, all within a pedestrian-friendly half-mile radius.

“It’s one of the few neighborhoods that really encourages the boutique lifestyle,” says 29-year-old Jenny Chung, who opened Acrimony clothing boutique in Hayes Valley in 2008. “It’s about well-curated shops and edgy designers with unique perspectives.”

Having moved her store from Gough Street to the central shopping artery on Hayes roughly a year ago, Chung says she’s most excited about the recent arrival of Boxing Room, the Cajun-themed restaurant from the team behind Absinthe in the former Citizen Cake space.

More than a year ago, Lily Lin, a global and public affairs manager at Google, decided to buy a condo in Hayes Valley after shopping throughout the city because of the neighborhood’s diversity, central location and, most of all, its promise.

“My sense is that the neighborhood is still going through a lot of transformation and growth,” says Lin, 35, who favors Propeller for finding cool home decor and Place Pigalle as her go-to neighborhood lounge. “Hayes Valley is already pretty awesome, but you can feel that it still has so much more potential. I want to be here to witness that.”

We hoofed it around the bustling intersections of Hayes and Gough streets to bring you this breakdown on the most recent openings and oldies (but goodies) you won’t want to miss.

Rand + Statler offers high-fashion finds from sneakers and T-shirts to billfolds and statement jewelry. Photo: Craig Lee / Special to The Chronicle

2 Rand + Statler

Formerly home to a record shop and, for years, a boarded-up furniture warehouse, Rand + Statler is an artful designer boutique, thanks to Catherine Chow and Corina Nurimba. Inside this breezy, loftlike space adjacent to the founders’ perennially popular Azalea, you’ll find on-trend wares including fluorescent leather Comme des Garcons billfolds, slouchy Alexander Wang T-shirts, chunky Fallon statement jewelry, Twelfth by Cynthia Vincent cocktail dresses, and Acne and APC jeans. Building upon their mini S.F. retail empire (Chow and Nurimba opened Welcome Stranger men’s store last fall), this vast but welcoming shop offers high-fashion finds for men and women.

425 Hayes St., (415) 634-0881; http://www.randandstatler.com.
3 Gimme Shoes

Leigh Stackpole, co-owner of Gimme Shoes, likes to think of the newest location of this San Francisco footwear favorite as a “work in progress.” With more room in the back stock area to possibly expand later and house her dot-com staff, Gimme Shoes’ third store now carries a bigger selection of handpicked “designer-oriented” shoes that are “sculptural and beautiful, but not overly trendy,” Stackpole says. Perched atop the showroom’s shelves, which are constructed from repurposed wood harvested from Presidio Cypress trees, are collections suited for the shoe-obsessed: sherbet-hued loafers by local designer Martha Davis, lace-up rubber rain boots by Danish designer Elsa Jacobson, Florsheim by Duckie Brown metallic brogues, and Italian-made Fiorintini and Baker oiled-leather boots, to name a few.

381 Hayes St., (415) 800-8992; gimmeshoes.com.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

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