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Treasure Trove at Night

Every time I return to our beautiful city from a jaunt in The Big Apple I find myself wishing there were more unique concept stores and non-chains open in the later evening hours. Enter Guruguru, open seven days a week from 4pmish to 10:30pmish for the night owls, early lushes and appreciators of aesthetically pleasing objects.

Situated in the Tendernob, the space now known as Guruguru was previously a Thai import store, where Hong Kong native Gabriel Yung rented a few shelves worth of space to sell imported items. After Christmas last year, Gabriel took the store over, remodeled it, and opened the space as Guruguru in January. “What kind of store is Guruguru?” you might be asking. This is actually the most common question Gabriel encounters from store visitors, and he will unabashedly tell you that Guruguru carries random stuff and defies categorization.

After being asked countless times what kind of store Guruguru is, Gabriel has settled on it being a gift store, which is quite appropriate -- this is one of the best spots to shop for gifts for yourself (and other people) where you will find both novelty and timeless, classy house wares, décor and knick knacks, all priced very reasonably. The overarching concept and aim of Guruguru is to bring something different, which is evident in many of the store offerings.

Buyers for Guruguru are friends of Gabriel who after graduating from school returned to Hong Kong, his homeland. They find items from all over Asia to stock Guruguru and bring delight to the store’s visitors. By now you are probably curious as to what you might find on a visit to the store. Clocks comprise a large portion of the inventory, but these are not your drab everyday ordinary time-tellers. If you’re looking for one of the run-of-the mill round-faced analog or mass-produced digital deals, look elsewhere. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a retro flip-clock or novelty timepiece with color and additional lighting and information options, you’re in luck.

Ten dollars will buy you a cube clock with rounded edges that gives different information (temperature, timer and more) when you flip the cube on a different side; it’s even more versatile than the new iPod Nano that flips to horizontal orientation when turned on its side. $17 buys you a cat whose information is displayed in its eyes, design reminiscent of something you might find at Giant Robot. Push its head gently downward, and you can program colored but unobtrusive lighting blue, green and red. You can even program it to change the glow hue each hour. Being battery or AC-powered, this is probably one of the most stylish and functional timepieces you will find anywhere for under $20. Another cool novelty piece is the talking apple digital display clock that comes in a variety of colors to match your whimsy.

Rather than scouring and bidding on eBay (although there is a Guruguru eBay store), those of you on the market for a retro autoflip clock (where the numbers are printed on individual sheets that flip) can score one at Guruguru for $22. Simultaneously retro and techy, these timepieces can add that extra oomph you’ve been looking for, at affordable prices. If you would feel better spending in the $100 price range for something not available at every other chain home furnishings store, you can also find the elusive piece here. I could not resist the wooden clock -- a polished rectangular block of wood (in two finishes) whose digital display shows magically through the smooth wood surface in red, blue, or green ($50). I’ve seen these wooden LED clocks offered elsewhere for over $100.

Looking to jazz up your workspace or find something that will make sitting in your office or cube more appetizing? Guruguru has plenty to offer in this department. I’m typing on a silicone blue keyboard purchase there, that rolls up and travels with you wherever you might feel like doing some typing, simply plugged into any available USB port connected to your computer. Being silicone, the keyboard is easily washable (no more crumbs and dust stuck in impossible-to-reach crevices!), comes in blue, orange, green, pink, purple, white and black, and will set you back a whopping $15. Other computer accessories include fun mice and USB hubs under $20. Fun desk accessories include DIY customizable picture frames and calendars reminiscent of Legos.

For other areas of the house there are coin banks, water dispensers in the form of a peeing chubbified stick figure, candles shaped like fruits and flowers and lamps that look like they were plucked out of Mario Brothers -- toad stools with caps in green, blue, red, yellow and pink. With their subtle glow these provide a cheerful bedside lighting solution for $12. A variety of ashtrays range in price from $10-15, and if you want to feel like you’re living in luxury, splurge on the automatic soap dispenser that neatly deposits the perfect amount of soap in your paw without needing any physical contact with the pump ($20). Know someone who likes stuffed animals? Pick up a plush speaker that plugs into MP3 players, computers (and any device with a headphone input, really) in the form of a friendly bear, frog, or pig ($25.95). The magnetic target board (a magnetic dart board in the form of a person) offers the perfect solution for those looking to work out aggression issues without damaging their rented walls.

For those of you who get nauseous at the mere thought of entering the vicinity of a department store’s fragrance counter, Guruguru offers something truly special: a perfume bar with an impressive offering of fragrances that you can purchase on their own or combine for your own signature elixir. Choose a nail-polished size bottle and fill ’er up for a mere $10. With fragrances bearing names such as “Cool La La”, “Star Road”, “Pretty”, “Temptation” and my favorites “Forget Love” and “Poison”, this is a department begging for exploration.

Guruguru is located on the block of Geary at Leavenworth, which according to Gabriel, come to life at night, which explains the unconventional store hours. If you happen to dine at Thai restaurant Osha on the same block, bring your receipt to Guruguru for a hugging set of salt and pepper shakers ($9.99 with meal receipt) that sell elsewhere for upwards of $20.

In a nutshell, Guruguru is an amazing find for anyone on the prowl for unique home furnishing or gifts and is open at hours to accommodate those of us who can’t get away from our 9-to-5 cells for a breath of fresh air. Gabriel recommends calling the store ahead to make sure he’s there to assist you in your treasure hunting. Happy hunting!