Variety of personalized templates for cards or invitations to baby showers, weddings, and birthday parties
Zazzle Custom Flat Invitations & Announcements
Zoobooks, Zootles, or Zoobies Magazine
All-things-animal magazines written for kids 12 and younger teach about anatomy, habitat, and socialization in photos, articles, and games
Rosetta Stone Level 1–4 Set
Interactive program engages learners with speech recognition, an online community, and live tutored sessions
For Books Inc., it's been a long road, and if you trace the lines back to its origins, it's California's oldest bookstore. After striking gold?literally?back in 1851, Anton Roman set up shop as a bookseller. Although the shop moved, was sold, burned down, changed hands again, and was rebuilt, the spirit remained intact, and today, multiple locations of the indie bookstore have sprouted up across The Golden State. Staff members keep the shelves lined with classic and contemporary tomes in all genres, and a myriad of book clubs help keep the love of literature alive. They also run a vibrant event program featuring author events and readings where patrons can enjoy an experience they can't download.
General Beads overflows with brilliant beads, gems, and sparkling rhinestones, patiently waiting to bring dreamed-up craft projects to fruition. Whether looking to create a one-of-a-kind jewelry piece or a beaded taxicab, hand-crafting artists will discover a wide selection of suitable beads and adornments, such as Swarovski crystal rhinestones ($1 for 12 pieces), Czech bugle-seed beads ($5.50 for a hank), and Czech 4mm round beads ($2.75 for 100 pieces). String bold beads and gleaming gems together with a variety of materials, such as gold-plate cable chain ($1.65/ft.), Soft-Flex beading wire ($9.60 for 30 ft.), or tasty cinnamon dental floss. With an attentive and informed staff on hand to answer questions and give advice, bead buffs will have no problem locating the supplies and inspiration needed to create memorable gifts and name-brand counterfeit moccasins.
Just like the organism from which it takes its name, Amoeba Music?s stock of tunes has no definite form. At each location, expert music gurus?many of them musicians themselves, all of them record-store veterans and dedicated sonic obsessives?amass thousands of new and used CDs and LPs from the most mainstream artists to the most obscure underground bands around. LPs, posters, and memorabilia surround the musical inventory, which, like Ringo Starr?s pants, changes every day. Amoeba buys goods from customers, meaning that on any given day the store might usher in a rare vinyl LP, DVD, VHS, or even LaserDisc. Visitors can sign up for any number of contests while admiring Amoeba?s enduring dedication to its green practices and community outreach. Amoeba couples its huge selection of entertainment with visits from the artists themselves, welcoming past guests such as Paul McCartney, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords, and Elvis Costello to play in-store.
Get your music where plenty of San Francisco deejays get theirs: Rooky Ricardo’s Records. Music snob-approved since 1987, yet refreshingly judgment-free to this day, this den of vinyl in the Lower Haight is a fantastic place to fritter away an afternoon, combing through the racks or listening to audiophiles argue about their beloved obscurities. Specializing in – but by no means limited to – funk, soul and disco, this is the record store for those who know the difference between an LP and a 45. The expansive and eclectic shop was recently profiled in GQ, and honored with a drink named for him at Virgil’s Sea Room. Owner Dick Vivian periodically purges his stock at street fairs, but his shelves are always full of gems and rarities. Patrons frequently walk out beaming, having found the album they were looking for at last.
Self-described as “the oldest black bookstore in the country”, Marcus Book Stores remains as vital as ever. The narrow storefront in the Fillmore has seen more than half a decade of business come through its wood and glass front door, and has long been home to student pamphleteers and a strong activist tradition. While time has largely quieted the colorful shop, the long-running bookstore remains a must for any book tour author from across the African American diaspora. Speakers and patrons have included James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, August Wilson, Bell Hooks, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey, as well as hundreds of fledgling authors chronicling the African American experience. A stop into Marcus reveals a calm, intelligent oasis amid a neighborhood in perpetual flux.
Whether it’s through their coffee or some unidentifiable means, the Mission’s café/sci-fi-fantasy bookstore Borderlands Café has not only stayed afloat through the reign of the e-book and third-wave caffeination shops, but actually expanded its cultural reach. From Philip K. Dick to Lord of the Rings, Borderlands is a paradise for every tribe of self-described nerd, and the adjoining café is the perfect spot to tear into an out-of-print horror anthology paperback from deep in the stacks. With a calendar bursting with readings and author conversations throughout the year, Borderlands acts as a hub for a vibrant community of San Francisco fanboys. And with their dedicated following, pleasant atmosphere and strong preference for quality works by some of the science fiction genre’s greatest names, it’s likely that Borderlands Café will continue to weather the dwindling book economy for years to come.
As the layout can feel slightly vortex-like, Dog Eared Books is one of the best places to let an afternoon spiral away from you, browsing and thumbing through well-loved copies of used books. An ever-chatty staff serves as a nice rejoinder to all the usual book snobbiness, making even causal readers feel right at home. Dog Eared is a Mission institution, complete with the classic discount shelf cart parked out front that acts as a honeypot for erudite idlers. Being such staunch supporters of the writers and authors who live in the area, a purchase at Dog Eared feels more like arts patronage than a mere commercial transaction.
Local bookstores are increasingly becoming an endangered species, but in a perfect world, every neighborhood in America would have its own Browser Books. As a beloved and unchanged San Francisco institution since 1976, Browser provides just enough eclectic disorder to give it a well-loved appearance. It’s the kind of place where you could probably read an entire novel deep in the stacks somewhere, without anyone bothering you. The psychology, Eastern religion and cookbook sections are especially treasure-laden, but a peek at the vintage titles in the children’s section will leave any adult transfixed with nostalgia. Or, better yet, inspire a lifelong love of reading in any budding bookworm. Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights might be lined with upscale boutiques, but unpretentious Browser Books remains as cozy as a sweater and a cup of tea.
These days, most video rental stores are the subject of more curiosity than anything else. The museum-like hush of Lost Weekend Video, with its threadbare carpeting and Asteroids arcade game and foreign films playing nonstop on a non-flatscreen television, reinforces its aging position as one of only a handful of places in the Mission to rent a DVD. Chock-full of auteur directors’ passion projects, black-and-white obscurities and out-of-print sci-fi flicks, this is not the place for first-run big budget rental flicks; it’s where cineastes bump into film fetishists, fighting over a copy of Berlusconi or Kurosawa. Lost Weekend also plays host to several comedy nights every month in its “Cinecave,” a stage and screening room in the back. This is a treasured remnant of the Valencia Street’s pre-restaurant-paradise days, alive and kicking no matter how anachronistic it might appear.
Although technically a party-supply store, Casa Bonampak is not the right retail outlet for cheesy Mylar balloons or morbid 40th-birthday gag gifts. Rather, it’s a place to get ready for Carnival and Day of the Dead, or when stocking up on hand-carved Nativity figures for Christmas. Casa Bonampak works to preserve Mexican and Latino culture from the Maya to Frida Kahlo – with a stock of cultural clothes and playful skeleton statuary – winning acclaim from many national outlets along the way. Colorful papeles picados (celebratory paper banners) are so meticulously sub-categorized that there’s even paper decorations for Jewish weddings. As a store, an art gallery and an education center attached, Casa Bonampak is the Mission’s best custodian of Latin American folk art in all its diversity and vitality.
Like video rental houses and bookstores, record shops have endured severe Darwinian hardship, and only the best have survived this far into the Age of Digital. Well, it's still the Age of Aquarius, too, and Aquarius Records on Valencia continues to flourish by offering unbeatable selection and superior knowledge that keeps the Bay's most eclectic audiophiles as devoted as they were in 1970. Curated, yes, and certainly a mecca for obscure oddities above all else, this is still one of the city’s definitive places to expand your sonic horizons – and pick up some actual, real-life cassettes! With few frills and a sometimes bristly staff that certainly knows their stuff, Aquarius may shame you into stumbling onto new favorites the old-fashioned way – but you’ll be glad it did.
“Why didn’t they just take their nest egg and corner the market on cassette tapes?” asked a befuddled San Francisco Chronicle reporter upon learning that Christin Evans and Praveen Madan had quit their corporate jobs and purchased The Booksmith, an independently owned bookstore. The answer, as outlined in their own Huffington Post article, is simple—they love books. And they firmly believe in the power of independent bookstores, so much so that before purchasing a store outright, they offered their consulting skills pro bono to many area bookstores. In 2007, they they took the leap and bought their own.
The duo understood the pratfalls of owning an independent bookstore in today’s day and age. But, like Proust and his infamous robot madeleine, they looked toward the future instead of the past. They envisioned a 21st century independent bookstore where the simple art of selling books is complemented by literary-community building programs, enhanced browsing systems, and print-on-demand features. And so far, their vision is paying off. Praveen launched Berkeley Arts & Letters, a new-author event program, and the couple has built a literary haven inside of their bookstore. As a result, the spot has transcended the label of retail outlet and become a place where authors and readers can gather to engage in a literary community.
The experts at Back to the Picture preserve artwork and keepsakes in both readymade and custom frames. For the latter, technicians create cut-to-fit mouldings and mats for your treasured photo, painting, or self-portrait in macaroni before placing it behind glass with antireflective or nonglare technology. An 11"x14" piece of art with a basic wood frame, regular mat and regular glass typically starts around $150. Helpful staff members can also help visitors pick out the perfect frame.
The many traditions of herbalism and folk remedies collide at the Mission’s Scarlet Sage Herb Company, sourcing quality organic herbs on Valencia Street since 1995. For holistic healing methods outside the parameters of standard Western medicine – think aromatherapy, teas, and homeopathy – or just to brighten a home with flower essences and natural beauty products, this women-run business is a serious go-to. Although bulk herbs are a staple, Scarlet Sage stocks seeds and seedlings during the springs and summer, for the benefit of green-thumb gardeners looking to grow their own solutions. Feminine-leaning and sometimes far-out, Scarlet Sage is also a place for education – beyond the knowledgeable staff, there is an impressive selection of books on using the power of herbs to promote health and wellness.
Sun Fat Seafood Company is so stripped-down and no-nonsense that upon walking in, your nostrils will be as empty as the walls. Vigilantly clean and spare, this old-school fish monger prides itself on having about two dozen varieties of the cheapest oysters the Pacific can offer, along with other shelled swimmers
flown in from around the world. Front-window posters of Arctic and Southern fish and crustaceans are the only nod towards décor. The rest is fluorescent lighting, ceiling fans, walls of tanks full of three-pound lobsters and row upon row of fish on beds of granulated ice. The staff knows sushi-grade seafood from its imitators, and provides some of the best fish the sea has to offer.