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Top Shops of 2009

Rags, Bags and More

From locally made messenger bags to architecture-inspired knitting studios to designer vinyl toys and eco boutiques, San Francisco offers much flavor for discerning shoppers. Now more than ever, independently owned local businesses need our support. Here is a list of some of the best, but there are so many more!

Best Educational Toys: Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids
Just a block over from the well-known and well-loved Paxton Gate lies Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids — a veritable treasure trove of delights for the young and the young at heart. From creatively cut shadow puppets to exciting books and vintage and classic toys, this is the place to find toys that are irrefutably fun yet educational.

Best Amalgamation of Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Toys, Records etc.: Neon Monster
Whether you’re a fan of vinyl figures, cheeky plush toys, record-collecting, art, comics or graphic novels, Neon Monster has a well-curated taste of everything. Apparel for the whole family from brands like Mishka mesh well with all the other goodies here. Records include genres ranging from electronic to hip-hop to punk — a nice vacation from the top 40.

Best Reason to Go to Union Square: Shotwell
The combination of chain/luxury boutiques coupled with hordes of tourists is really not my cup of tea, and Shotwell is one of the only things that will get me near Union Square. With the right mix of international and local designers in a wide price range, fans flock to Shotwell for the quality and service, fantastic selection of clothing and accessories.

Best Reason #2 to Go to Union Square: Harputs Union
Previously located on Fillmore in Pacific Heights, Harput’s Market relocated not so long ago to Union Square. Along with an impressive in-house designer collection many like to call “avant-garde” (HarputsOwn), you’ll also find clothing from brands like Y-3 by Yohji Yamamoto, Pleasure Princile and Comme des Garcons. Though not the most economical place to shop, in the end investing in quality pieces you wear more often pays off more than disposable clothing that unravels with a few wears.

Best Resource for Discerning Knitters: Urban Knitting Studio
This modern knitting studio was created by a former architect, and it shows, from the immaculate layout of the store to the organization of yarns by color. You won’t find the cheap scratchy by-the-pound stuff here, but you will find friendly customer service and inspiration for your next project. Check out the variety of workshops as well.

Mandatory Stop For Traveling in Style: Flight 001
While their selection of suitcases and garment bags are quite nice, I find the little things here the most compelling: all manners of stylish organizational solutions for everything you travel with, including gorgeous dopp kits, comforting eye masks to block out any unpleasant visuals and aid your beauty rest, travel adapters for your gadgets, mini laundry aids and more. No matter what you require to travel, you’ll likely find it here and look damn good.

Best Record Shop To Explore: Aquarius Records
Yes, it’s small, but Aquarius has a lot to offer. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable about the indie/underground scene with little attitude. They cover an impressive amount of ground for having such a small footprint, and mail order is big here.

Masseuses Best Kept Secret: San Francisco Massage Supply Co.
Sure, practicing masseuses sing high praises of San Francisco Massage Supply Co., but it’s also a haven for those who enjoy giving (or receiving!) massages for leisure or who enjoy making their own soaps and bath bombs. In addition to all the supplies one would expect, economical essential oils, candles and soothing media galore await.

Best New Skate Shop: DWNTWN
If you’re familiar with Johnny Roughneck of Roughneck Hardware, you know it’s “a name you can trust.” Well, the skate hardware company expanded into a small artsy space in the ’Loin where you can get your skate supplies as well as cop your Benny Gold goods.

Best Place to Feed Your Accessory/Costume Frenzy: Piedmont Boutique
Before American Apparel started their 80s revival stuff with neon, hot pants, spandex and lamé, Piedmont had it on lockdown. This is by far the best place to cheer yourself up with something vibrant, sassy, or just downright gaudy. Even if you pass on the wigs, neon g-strings or metallic knickers, the wall of earrings is worth the visit itself.

Best “Green” Boutique: Eco Citizen
Oh, how I hate the “Green” and “eco” labels, but Eco Citizen seems to adhere closely to its mission “to support the planet and its people while encouraging and implementing fair trade practices, sweatshop-free merchandise, and organic fashion products.” Just because products are eco-conscious doesn’t mean they have to follow the hippie aesthetic, and Eco Citizen exemplifies this in its array of apparel, jewelry, handbags and artwork.

Best Places for SF Messenger Bags: Chrome, Timbuk2, Rickshaw Bagworks
There are now nearly enough local bag shops to have one in every neighborhood: Chrome in SOMA, Timbuk2 in Hayes Valley and the newest, Rickshaw Bagworks in the Dog Patch. Each are conscientiously constructed and have their own charm depending where your preferences lie.