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Top Shopping Options in San Francisco

Discover refined ceramics, upscale fishing gear, and local fashion at these detour-worthy stores

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Heath Ceramics

If you eat in enough casually cool restaurants in California today, you’ll notice some familiar aesthetic tropes: potted succulents in the corner, watermelon radishes on the menu, and Heath Ceramics plates on the table. Heath has an unparalleled California heritage: Potter Edith Heath founded the company in 1948 and opened a factory in Sausalito in 1959 that’s still going strong. The company designs, manufactures, and sells highly functional goods for the home, most notably tableware and tile. The couple that now owns Heath—Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic—have brought it into the modern era, in part by staying true to the brand’s craft roots. Today, they sell directly to customers from this Mission Creek location, at a small outpost in the Ferry Building, and in the original Sausalito store. At the Mission Creek complex—the building was once an industrial laundry—shoppers can view the factory floor and see how tile is shaped and fired in the massive kilns. The glazed platters and bowls for sale—in such classic Heath colors as moonstone (blue), persimmon, and French grey—make for great gifts and classic San Francisco souvenirs. Don’t miss the Heath newsstand in the front of the building, which sells a vast selection of international magazines.

City Lights Books

Camp out in the basement of this North Beach institution, the Beat’s former clubhouse, and try to think of a time when scandal came in the form of a book of poetry. Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and the obscenity trial that followed put this three-story independent bookstore and publishing house on the map. More than 60 years later, the shelves are better organized and smoking has been banned on the premises, but the spirit remains the same. Readings, lectures, and meetings are still held four or five nights a week in the poetry room, and the publishing arm of City Lights still puts out about a dozen titles a year. And don’t forget about the books. From lesser-known independent titles to collectors’ editions, City Lights has it all. Limited-edition signed copies of Van Morrison’s lyric book Lit Up Inside were a recent hot ticket, selling for $100 and some old-school deal making: The shop wouldn’t take orders online—Van fans had to place their order over the telephone or come into the shop. Talk about revolutionary.

Lost Coast Outfitters

Fly fishing may not be top of mind while walking through San Francisco’s Financial District, but fantasies of casting in crystal clear rivers and commencing the day around a campfire are sure to materialize once you step inside Lost Coast Outfitters. The upscale sporting goods store specializes in top-of-the-line fly fishing gear, but shop owner George Revel has an eye for provisions that tug at the inner outdoorsman in all of us, such as indestructible Yeti coolers, leather-trimmed duffle bags from Filson, and classic Simms flannels in timeless red-and-black check. The grand historic Beaux Arts building only adds to the appeal, as does the 300-plus-bottle whiskey collection hidden behind a wall of waders and waterproof booties. Pro tip: Inquire about joining the exclusive Tin Cup Society to gain access to speakers, casting clinics, expeditions, and curated gear packages.

Freda Salvador

There are a few contemporary boutique brands poised to put San Francisco on the fashion map. Freda Salvador shoes have become the “it” footwear for a subset of effortlessly cool creative women. Editors and designers can be spotted sporting the brand’s modestly heeled modern loafers, mules, boots, and sandals, which come in gorgeous colored leathers and satins. The shoes are all designed in Freda Salvador’s Sausalito studio by cofounders Megan Papay and Cristina Palomo-Nelson, and fabricated in a tiny family-run factory in Elda, Spain. Quality is paramount, as is wearability, but it’s the styles that have truly set the brand apart. The San Francisco flagship on Fillmore Street attracts a ladylike version of the obsessed sneakerhead—Freda fetishists who collect new styles like playing cards.


“Fewer, better things” is this fashion brand’s motto, and you will be tempted to toss out everything in your closet once you run your fingers over Cuyana’s silk striped tees, poplin button-downs, leather bags, and simple cashmere crewneck sweaters. These luxury basics are all crafted by artisans around the globe and are timeless in design—Cuyana truly intends for its pieces to last a lifetime. Its retail space may be located in the heart of bustling Union Square, but its second-floor location, accessed via elevator, is easy to miss. Once upstairs, customers get a glimpse of what a life with less could look like—the space was designed by Lauren Nelson Design to look more like a stylish live-work loft than a store, with Eames chairs and floating wood shelves sparsely styled with impeccable objects. A few choice items hang on each clothing rack—a literal representation of the brand’s “lean closet” philosophy. Cuyana will even help customers get started: With each purchase there is the option to receive a reusable bag to fill with items “that aren’t helping you live your most beautiful life.” Drop it in the mail with the included prepaid shipping label and your items will be donated to women in need through the nonprofit organization H.E.A.R.T.

In Partnership with Afar.

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