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Retail Shopping - Keep it Local!

Posted by Theia Grazi on

We love browsing local boutiques and discovering hidden retail gems, and we’re incredibly lucky to live in a place that encourages so many fantastically creative independent businesses. And while we don’t usually play favorites when it comes to shopping, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t have a soft spot in our hearts for the wonderful shops that have been kind enough to support us in our own local venture. These three groovy Bay Area boutiques, each with their own distinctive style, serve up original pieces and unique collections from local and independent designers – including offerings from yours truly. We had the chance to catch up with the owners of the three stores and chat to them about their business and the daily grind of fashion retail.

Local Take SF storefront
The Place: Local Take
The People: Kyra and Jenn


When, How and Why did you open your store?

We searched each San Francisco neighborhood for not only storefront availability but for a good fit for our personalities. We were also looking for a neighborhood that didn't have a similar type of store already. We used real estate postings and craigslist for an available storefront to rent before we settled on the Castro. We got the keys April 30th and worked 18 days straight to complete preparing the space and gathering local artists' and designers' goods and opened our doors May 18th, 2013.

As designers ourselves, we were sharing booths at street fairs and specifically the Castro Street Fair, October 2012 when we came up with the idea. We worked well together at the street fairs and both were looking for a new project anyway, so opening a store just made sense. Jenn has a lot of experience with merchandising, fashion, and running a store plus being a maker herself, and Kyra had developed decent sales and marketing skills to that point, so the combination seemed right for a successful business partnership in those regards, as well.

Who is your target market or your customer?

The target customer is about 50% locals, especially from Castro, Lower Haight, Noe Valley, the Mission, SOMA, downtown, Twin Peaks, and the Divisadero Corridor, and 50% tourists. Upper middle class and 85% gay as we are located in the Castro, and between the ages of 30-45, 65% male, 35% female.

Why do you think people have to support local?

People have access to more information than ever before, and we are hyper-informed at this point of the many upsides of buying locally-produced products as opposed to big box store products and imported, unregulated merchandise in general. Buying local is giving people a better sense of community and place.

What do you like about your work the most?

It's almost like playing match maker between the designers and artists and the public. It is very rewarding in that everyone wins. The instant gratification on a daily basis from making all of these "connections" makes coming to work a real joy. We enjoy dreaming big and planning for the future, and learning and growing in regards to the daily functioning of the store. We're in a really great market right now, we are a good team, and the possibilities are endless, which makes for a rewarding work life, as well.

 Simply Smashing Boutique Store Front

The Place: Simply Smashing
The Person: Deb


When, how & why did you open your store?

I was repping a home-party style, custom clothing line and wanted to find a cute spot to set up shop in a welcoming way (rather than hauling to & from party destinations, setting up/tearing down, etc.) and bring the custom clothing parties to me, where the style samples & fabric swatches would be easily accessible to customers and they could enjoy the experience. I opened my first little retail spot in Downtown Campbell in November of 2000.

Who is your target market or customer?

Simply Smashing is ever-evolving. 14 years later, my target market is women (ages 20s-60s) who understand and appreciate true boutique shopping, who are true to themselves and who truly want to enjoy a great shopping experience.

Why do you think people have to support local?

Supporting local, independent, small businesses is the only way to keep them alive. This is especially true with brick & mortar businesses where individual shop owners are putting out for overhead and working the business themselves. Unless we are ok with seeing retail completely taken over by big box businesses, everyone who shops should vote with their wallet.

What do you like about your work the most?

The best part of what I do is building relationships. We provide a special place where women can shop for distinctive apparel and adornments that speak to their own true style, at a boutique that is ever-evolving ♥

 Gather SF storefront

The Place: Gather SF
The Person: Daisy and Christian


When, How and Why did you open your store?

We opened Gather May 3rd, 2014 with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It was one of the hardest things my husband Christian and I have done but also one of the most rewarding. Part of the reason we moved to the West Coast from the East Coast was to open a shop where we could bring together artists and share their work with the community. To actually be living this dream is surreal. 

Who is your target market or your customer?

Most of our customers are women in their 20s- 40s. Though we want people of any gender or age to feel comfortable so we have a little something for everyone.

Why do you think people have to support local?

I think people want to support local so that they feel a connection to what they are buying. Finding out a story about a particular piece or meeting the artist makes one really value what they are spending their money on. 

What do you like about your work the most?

I love coming across a new artist that I know my customers will enjoy. I can hardly contain my excitement to get their wares into the store. And when a customer buys that special item that I took the time to curate for the shop everything comes full circle.


We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know these inspiring small business owners and their awesome stores! Be sure to stop by and check out their wares next time you’re in the neighborhood – and check back on our blog to see what’s new in local fashion!


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