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Sweet Things

With the onslaught of rain and rabid holiday shoppers stepping all over your feet in the scramble for humdrum mass-produced goods at the department store, it's easy to feel blue. But before you start running for cover or retreating into rebellious hibernation, pop over to Candystore on Valencia at 16th. The distinctive delights, nostalgic treasures and cheery atmosphere are guaranteed to whisk your winter woes away.

Candystore sweetens things up for shoppers, designers and artists. Storeowner Jennifer Jones and business partner Jenny Klowden offer not only a dazzling assortment of items from a diverse range of time periods and styles including house wares, crafts, toys, clothing and accessories for men, women and babies but also a nurturing and collaborative environment for artists. They rent four private studios at the rear of the store for artists to use, and the shop floor serves as a showroom for them to test new designs.

"We all help each other out, and it creates a collaborative and inspirational environment," Jones said. Attesting to the benefits of this atmosphere, Pancake & Franks and Mabel Chong Jewelry were able to move to larger spaces riding on their successes at Candystore. In this way, the designer roster is constantly changing and offering new opportunities for artists. Jones and Klowden also offer perks in the form of free wireless access and printer/fax facilities to their artists "so designers can put their money toward growing their business and trying new things."

So what can you find here besides old-fashioned sweets that can't be found at your local drugstore? Let's start with clothing. Ladies' duds outnumber men's, but quality and freshness of flavor are abundant. For the guys, Brown Sound provides t-shirts with witty sayings and playful designs ($29) as well as woven button-ups in interesting plaids (not of the lumberjack variety).

Bonnie Heart Clyde is a Portland-based label and tops my list of designers here, employing the method of freehand-embroidered clothing on comfortable cottons. Men's offerings include embroidered pocket polos with designs like "Skull Flower", a sunflower with a skull center ($148). My favorite Bonnie Heart Clyde women's piece has to be "Peacock", a slim fit raglan black sweatshirt with a pair of peacocks embroidered in white thread ($136). According to the label's website, Candystore is currently the only San Francisco retailer to stock Bonnie Heart Clyde goods.

For the ladies: women's Wrangler jeans ($126) may be paired with raw-edged screen-printed t-shirts by She-Bible ($36). If you want to go fancy, MIDI makes beautiful feminine pieces like empire-waisted flutter-sleeve tops and satin camisoles in luxurious materials. Mona and Holly make gorgeous tops and dresses and Saja has among its designs a beautifully long tiered and pleated green silk skirt ($168). Smashing Grandpa puts a winning twist on the staple zip sweatshirt-up sweatshirt with puffed sleeves and screens of things like chandeliers and crowns $88.

Perhaps you like to spend less on your clothing and focus more on accessories. No problem! Talla makes shirts and accessories with brightly printed fabrics and original patterns inspired by nature and modern design. Canvas zipped pouches ($25) screened with flying birds fill one candy jar. Helen of Cookie and the Dude makes lovely headbands and belts from a variety of vintage and reproduction fabrics, as well as reversible satin d-ring polka dot belts, all $24. Fluffy Co. provides non-leather wrist bands ($12), iPod cases ($26) and luggage tags ($12) with penguins, deer, ghetto-blasters and cruiser bikes screen prints. Designer duct tape wallets have graduated from the basic grey; tina's bags offers duct tape wallets in splashy hues. The camo/pink combo rocks hard.

Liz Saintsing is another of my favorite designers. She finds vintage belts, clutches and handbags and makes them over with inticate screen prints. Vintage elastic with decorative clasps bore prints like birds, ants and various flora ($50). There was a black clutch with pink jellyfish and a gold clutch with a bird on one side, the other side a feather, all hand printed ($60). I wanted them both.

A variety of jewelry with a broad price range fits many budgets. AnnMarie Jewelry pieces are simply to die for. All her pieces use vintage charms and unique chains. Her wrap necklaces fly off the mannequins ($124) but the single charm necklaces are just as precious ($68). Vintage charm earrings run $78 -- think a horse on one and a star and horseshoe on the other. Key earrings come in two sizes -- small ($78) and large ($98), both sterling silver and cast from vintage keys. AnnMarie's strictly vintage line Good Coffee serves up awesome finds like leather driving gloves ($35).

Local artisan Anna Bario makes earrings with freshwater pearls, silk flowers and suede. Swan:Dive necklaces by Odessa Chen are also divine, with images like pirate ships, sparrows and swallows covered in resin ($54).

Another distinguishing feature of Candystore is its selection of vintage house wares and crafts. Here the very furniture used to display items is also for sale. A 1950s lemon yellow buffet in mint condition from London and a charming lamp featuring a porcelain base in the shape of a pony rearing on its hind legs were two standouts! Sets of drinking glasses and dishes are also yours for the taking.

Pillows and stuffed animals make fabulous furnishings and there's plenty of selection here. Salvor Fauna of Brooklyn offers hand printed broadcloth pillows ($36) in the shape of Boston terriers, gorillas, pigeons and more with matching kids' shirts constructed of organic cotton ($32). Wilbur Piggins' llimited edition plush pigs and bunnies run $60-68 depending on fabric. Sharon Margaret's burp cloths with vintage fabrics are a fashionable way to keep mommy and baby clean. For adults, San Francisco's Hybrid Home screen prints pop-culture influenced pillows ($75). Crafters can also find vintage sewing, knitting, crochet and embroidery patterns here.

Though Candystore is obviously a metaphor for all the eye candy offered, the shop draws its name from Jones' nostalgia for old school confections like B Bats, Sky Bars and Cherry Mash. Canisters of Hammond's old fashioned candy drops in flavors like Butterscotch Waffles and Lemon dance throughout the store. All ages will appreciate the offerings in candy jars behind the counter. So treat yourself and visit Candystore already. In December, don't miss Thursday night trunk shows and events! Dec. 8: resident designers' show, Dec. 15: jewelry and handbags! Dec. 22: local fashion designers. See event listings for details.

Holiday Hours:
M-F 12-7p
Sat 11a-9p
Sun 11a-7p

Thursday Nights at Candystore:

December 8th - Resident Designer's Show
Featuring, CMB Sweets, Duct Tape Designs, 8mm Cards, Pancake & Franks and Cookie & the Dude. Music, Good Food, Hot Apple Cider with SPIKE!, and beer.

December 15th - Jewelry, Jewelry, Jewelry and Handbags! Candystore hosts a few of San Francisco's best jewelry and accessory designers.
Featuring AnnMarie Lawson, Mabel Chong, Odessa Chen of Swandive, Cheri Wong of Yellow Cherry, Anna Bario, Cara Lyndon, and Liz Saintsing. Music, Cupcakes, Cocktails, Champagne, and Sorbet

December 22nd - Local Fashion Designers Rock
Featuring Talla, She Bible, Nooworks, and Sharon Spain . Live Music, Wine, and Gingerbread in every possible form. Plus PRIZES!!