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Park Life

Out of the Park

  • Park Life
    220 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118 (Map)
    (415) 386-7275

Posters. Prints. Paperweights. Paperbacks. Piggy banks. Postcards. Pillboxes. The Petit Pattern book. It's only appropriate that the store housing such miscellany be named Park Life (emphasis on the first consonant). Opened in 2006 on Clement near 3rd Ave. in the Inner Richmond, Park Life provides a fresh take on art and design, creating a space where affordable goods meet adventurous designs.

The store is divided in two: the front room hosts a peculiar array of retail items and the back is a tall-walled gallery space. Park Life is bright, well-laid-out and warm, and store-goers move slowly through the store, considering art books and magazines. An orange wall separates the rooms.

One side of the retail room holds a rainbow selection of screen-printed shirts from brands like Farm Tactics ($32), Animal Sleep ($29), Free Gold Watch ($34) and designs by UK artist David Shrigley ($24). Witty Shrigley post cards are just $4.50. Limited edition Shrigley salt and pepper shakers (labeled "Heroin" and "Cocaine") cost $195.

Shrigley's hand drawn, man-child style aptly represents Park Life. His work often asks simple, even rhetorical questions. The innocent quality of the drawings collide with adult humor and that alchemy draws double takes. In one "greeting card" a cow asks the woman milking it, "What the hell are you doing?" It might not work for everyone, but it's unique.

Another store favorite is Andrew Shoultz who has limited edition prints available (for $250) and the Western Edition Deck Set, five skateboard decks used as a strange canvas for Shoultz's curvy, apocalyptic style. Park Life owners Jamie Alexander and Derek Wong also run Paper Museum Press, a book publisher. The premier PMP release was Ulysses: Departures, Journeys, & Returns, a 180-page assemblage of Shoultz's work.

In the middle of the store stands a thick table, covered in art books, design guides, comics, graphic novels and a few records. Issues of McSweeney's mingle with books from artists like Marcel Dzama and Chris Johansen.

The back gallery hosts three to five works on any given wall. Park Life's dedicated aesthetic is defined in the gallery and then made available (and affordable) in the books, prints, posters and shirts available in the main room. Like the shirts and books, the gallery shows monthly works from new artists and group shows, the most recent of which brought 30 artists together to celebrate Park Life's first anniversary and raise money for the SF Coalition on Homelessness.

The entire block of Clement St. was once owned by Busvan Furniture Store, a low end furniture retailer. Alexander recently gained permission to repaint the enormous, L-shaped sign pointing at his business. Shoultz and the artist Jason Jagel will share the job of re-imagining the sign.

Alexander never worried about the location. In fact, he preferred the diverse expectations of the Inner Richmond neighborhood where Park Life settled. Alexander didn't want to end up in a "shopping corridor" like the Fillmore or Hayes Valley.

"I didn't want to piggyback on other businesses," he said. "I want to create a destination." And that is what's happening. Joining the venerable Green Apple Books and a pan-continental selection of fine dining (namely Burma Superstar, which Alexander recommends,) Park Life is proving more than the new-kid-on-the-block. It's helping define the area.