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Rare Device

Good Stuffs

Rather than writing disdainfully about Halloween’s descent into the masses’ sorry excuse for getting away with as much skank as possible in public, I’ve opted to write about something much more pleasurable: the opening of San Francisco’s very own Rare Device. Blossoming in the space formerly known as National Product on Market Street, Rare Device is Rena Tom’s West Coast treat of a shop that originated in Brooklyn.

You may have missed Rare Device’s opening and gallery reception, but with the holidays coming (oh, consumerism!) don’t waste anymore time in getting yourself down to the spot to check out a sweet collection of handpicked design-conscious goods sure to meet any recipient’s (or your own) discerning tastes. Rena -- a former jewelry and graphic designer -- who grew up in Sacramento, spent the last few years in New York. There she met so many inspiring designers she decided she had to share her discoveries, and the Rare Device store was born in Brooklyn in October 2005.

Shortly thereafter Rena opened the Rare Device webshop and started blogging about her discoveries and thoughts on design. In the process she met San Francisco Lisa Congdon who she invited to exhibit artwork in the Brooklyn storefront earlier this year. The two grew to be close friends and the universe aligned to bring us the incarnation of our very own version of Rare Device, made possible by this partnership. I say “version”, because though the stores bear the same name, you will find marked differences between the coastal branches.

A prime example of distinguishing taste among West versus East Coast can be seen in colors and bags. East Coast dwellers go for more “sophisticated palettes”, according to Rena. “They love their blacks, grays and metallics, she says. “They’re more trendy. Out here, people do well with lots of bright colors year-round and don’t care about trends as much.”

Regarding bag size: “California people want more flexible bags,” Rena says. “In New York, they’re either about trend or size. People in New York carry their whole lives with them since they know they’re going to be out all day long; the size of their bags is a bit overwhelming.” If you’re here and want a larger bag, you can always check out the Rare Device web shop. Still unsatisfied? Stop by and consult Rena or Lisa; you may be pleasantly surprised.

In addition to a fine selection of hand-, laptop- and tote-bags, Rare Device amply supplies unique house wares, home décor, clothing and accessories for men and women. As most of us are aware, San Francisco is a haven for vintage clothing and furniture. Part of the goal for opening the Brooklyn shop was to bring West Coast designers to Brooklyn. Inversely, in the San Francisco shop Rena and Lisa bring Brooklyn designers into the fold so shoppers can find something fresh and different. “We’re trying to offer a lot of new items that we haven’t seen anywhere in SF before,” Rena says. “Even if it’s not your taste you can find something and mix it in with what you already have." As a case in point, Rena tastefully mixes “new” pieces among the older and is sure to have some good advice should you need it.

Another reason to visit: the Brooklyn store is only a quarter of the San Francisco space, which means the SF space accommodates delightful lighting and furniture that the Brooklyn store can’t.

In the retail trend-driven world, it’s evident in speaking with Rena that much more heart goes into the selection of inventory at Rare Device. She’s particularly excited about a line of ceramics named White Bike from Williamsburg-based kindergarten teacher Lauren Adams. Lauren’s pieces are very “minimalist, handmade porcelain that you wouldn’t look at and go, ‘oh yeah, kindergarten teacher',” Rena says. “You can tell they’re each made one at a time.” With holiday season approaching, most manufacturers are ramping up production. Lauren, on the other hand, is going on holiday in Ecuador. “I like that she’s doing her own thing and feel lucky that we got her work since this is going to be it until next year,” says Rena.

As for the gallery, Rena and Lisa plan to have an art opening monthly. This month’s features intricate works by LA artist and CCA graduate Kelly Lynn Jones, who Rena met during her jewelry-maker life in Oakland. It was at a Bay Area craft show that Rena first laid eyes on and was wowed by Kelly’s works (then screenprints).

“I’m very excited to open here in what I consider to be my hometown now and I’m really happy to have Lisa as a business partner,” Rena says. And you? Stop on by to formulate your own opinion. Also be sure to check out the Rare Device blog for insights on design.