Claire, Glory Days' resident globetrotter, hits the streets of San Fran in search of their very best vintage and files her latest report for the Telegram.
San Francisco took a day to grow on me. It is a giant Wellington-like city, complete with unpredictable cool weather and trolley buses. It is huge, with many different faces and it took me a while to find the ones that I liked. In the end, of course, it took a local to show me.
In terms of getting around the sprawling city, San Fran has a vast array of transport options. It pays to go straight to the visitors centre and grab one of their maps - don’t be like me and get sucked into a ‘passport’ as I later found you can do it far cheaper with a refillable Muni card (unless you want to spend a lot of time on the cable car but one way was enough for me!).
Being a vintage loving girl, the vintage transport was the most fun - yes the cable car is enjoyable, but the vintage F line trolley bus was my favourite, they are so beautiful and they go everywhere.
Vintage shopping was high on my agenda, and of course I headed straight for Haight Ashbury. I have to admit that the area itself was a big disappointment. It is like a 1960s theme party, with a plethora of tie dyed tat and smoke shops. I can’t help thinking Janis and Jim would turn in their graves and besides, they wouldn’t have been able to afford the rent there these days anyway.
However the good news is that there are a few great vintage stores, right on Haight Street.
First up is Decades (1653 Haight St) - a huge museum like shop with things handily divided into decades. I met the lovely Summer there (pictured above) who also is a vintage hair stylist. She gave me the run down on the nightlife, there seems to be no end of swing dancing , big bands and Jazz.
Just down the road at 1605 is the fantastic Relic Vintage, run by the infamous Oran (pictured below) - I say infamous as everyone I saw seemed to know him. Relic is reasonably priced and has some incredible pieces, Oran really knows his stuff. I found a great 1920s dress for a third of the price it would be at home in New Zealand.
Also down the road is a goodwill store, that doesn't offer much vintage but is very cheap!
The other district I explored, thanks to people in the know, was The Mission- this is how I had pictured San Fran, quirky boutiques, lovely parks, few tourists and an artsy feel.
I visited two shops here. First up was Retrofit Vintage at 910 Valencia Street run by the fabulous Stephen LeMay... he is funny, loves his vintage and takes good care of it. As an actor he also caters for show people with a huge range of stage makeup and flamboyant dresses. It was a blast hanging out in his shop (pictured left) and his prices are fantastic by the way.
Then to Schauplatz at 791 Valentin St (pictured right). offering a good eclectic range, more on the retro side of things, and again very reasonably priced!
Any vintage aficionado must check out the Musee Mechanique at Pier 43. This is a fully working collection of vintage arcade games, free to enter but make sure you bring all your spare change. There are all the old favourites, peepshow boxes, fortune telling machines, palm readers and there is also a big model of a fair from the 1930s (pictured below left), made by a retired Carny. It was so intriguing, I found it hard to leave.
Then there is Coit Tower (below right), built in 1933 with money from Lillie Coit, an interesting woman who had a love of firefighters after being rescued by them as a child. The San Fran council commissioned murals around the inside of the tower, featuring great depictions of 1930s life.
Food time, I was too busy shopping too sample too many eating places but I did get taken to a little gem of a diner, ‘It’s Tops!’ 1801 Market Street. In the same place since 1935, it is the real deal, but doesn’t make a big fuss about it. No huge queues here, but great American diner food. Highly recommended.
While on my San Fran travels I also met the owners of one of the best vintage clubs in town, Stookeys Club Modern at 895 Bush Street and Taylor Street. As members of the Art Deco Society of California they know their Art Deco, and it was a grand old time hanging out with them!
San Francisco has a rich, interesting history and pieces of it are found all around the city, so spend some time here, get away from the tourist areas and let San Fran woo you... I'm sure that you, like myself, will eventually be hooked.