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An Outpost of Local Talent

Lower Haight attracts neither the tourists nor the traffic that Upper Haight draws. In fact, Lower Haight is exactly that — low-key. Here, east of Divisadero Street, residents and visitors roll out in a later time zone for brunch, beer, records, and now the latest, Merch.

Merch juts onto the sidewalk among Victorians with two-window displays that draw pedestrians in for a peek. On my visit, I came across a clothesline adorned with baby clothing featuring a wrinkled turtle. It’s refreshing to see that babies can wear something other than baby ducks and baby frogs.

Puzzled to see baby clothing in Lower Haight, I stopped in my tracks and made an abrupt turn into an open studio with hardwood floors. Merch — retail speak for “merchandise” — is like a mini-department store that carries simple, practical and stylish items for just about anyone, but sans the army of perfume sprayers that make entry some kind of tactical mission.

A shelf lined with dishware and a wall hung with women’s knitwear competed for my attention. I started for the nifty dishware by Danica Studio. Bowls and salad plates ($8) in green and grey patterns set a nice backdrop to leafy greens. Tealights shaped into waxy flowers bloomed fittingly next to the plate settings.

I loved FluffyCo’s artistic wall-mounted bottle opener fixtures ($34). A Californian company that designs apparel and home accessories, FluffyCo makes missing bottle openers a thing of the past. Choose the California grizzly or an aviary design to serve as practical artwork in a drab kitchen.

On the opposite wall were beautiful knit dresses by Quyen Nguyen. There are many styles and cuts to choose from. The chevron pattern ($100) is a stylish number that works especially for San Francisco’s weather. Ms. Nguyen lives locally and showcases her collection thus far exclusively at Merch. Be the first to preview her limited edition color block tanks ($80) and knit dresses.

Merch owner Yong Cho left corporate Gap and decided to start her own boutique, much like Gap’s beginning in San Francisco over 40 years ago. However, unlike Gap’s beginnings, Cho is inspired to offer a department-store feel to local talent.

There’s Elizabeth W bath products from Russian Hill where Yong drives her car to pack up the goods for her store. Start with their bath salts ($24) as an elixir for a rough day. Or pick up blotting papers in stylish packaging by Tatcha. They are essential for excess facial glow. And then there’s wonderful artwork by local artists such as Spencer Gray. In fact, Merch serves as a central outpost for many local artists and designs.

Although Lower Haight is not marked as a shopping destination, Merch caters to visitors and residents alike since there is a little bit of everything that you can purchase on the spot without having to make a special trip.

Next time you drop in the 94117 for a drink or wake up to have brunch, make sure you also stop at Merch. It’s a great place to support the creative talent that makes San Francisco so vibrant and unique.