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The Other Shop
Vintage Finds of Every Kind
by Jialin Luh on Dec 02, 2004
Stepping into The Other Shop transports you to a classy kitschy retro wonderland filled with designer furniture and vintage housewares. With the motto "Where you can still afford to collect", this 15-member collective offers a sensually stunning selection of coveted objects ranging from original Eames chairs to vintage art deco-inspired chandeliers to eight-track players, bright Pyrex kitchenware in every color imaginable and just about anything in between from 1950 to pre-Watergate.
The Other Shop collective started out at 112 Gough Street in 1991 as the brainchild of Gwen Webster, inheriting its name from the antique store that previously occupied the space. Dealers in the collective each pay a percentage of the total rent to keep his or her portion of the floor stocked with goodies. Thus, a second location opened in 1998 on Divisadero amidst the boom to accommodate the growing number of dealers clamoring to join the collective. According to Webster, the smaller store on Gough peddled more funky wares but was not as popular with shoppers. With its closure, the collective decided to funnel all their energy into the larger, sunnier Divisadero space.
Dealers scour estate sales and auctions for wares to occupy their portion of the sales floor. In addition, people who have heard about The Other Shop bring vintage collectibles to sell. Says Webster: "We have some of the best modern dealers in San Francisco."
What is so remarkable about these dealers, you might ask? -- Passion "You need people who have real passion for [what we sell] so they don't lose interest." Most dealers bring a wide variety of collectibles to sell rather than focusing on a specific product category, though one has a penchant for funky glassware -- bringing an eye-boggling array of wine glasses, vases, decanters and the like -- and another is an "expert clock repairer". Rest assured that the timepiece you pick out will function as fabulously as it looks on display, even if it is over forty years old.
Whether you are searching for furniture, house décor, lighting, ashtrays, dining sets, kitchenware or old retro gadgets and toys, The Other Shop has got you covered. There are so many choices you may find yourself doing the eenie-meanie-minie-moe dance. Webster and store manager Chris Silva are particularly proud of the collective's wide and unique selection of furniture and lighting. Shoppers in search of teak furniture will be hard-pressed to complain about the variety and prices of the pieces offered, which include tables, chairs, cabinets and much more. Lighting devices also come in all shapes and sizes, from floor lamps to hanging chandeliers and table lamps. A pair of hand painted Asian figure lamps from the 1940s stands regally on a glass shelf in a pair -- appearing to be an emperor and empress. A 70s chrome lamp rises in slender columns from a circular base and terminating in drooping half globes resembling a beautiful fungal growth with glowing spores.
An art deco blue velvet sofa is economically priced at $575, as compared to a $3000 mass-produced sofa sold in generic chain stores. Some of Webster's favorite items have been rare, hard-to-find "designer furniture" -- original Eames, Bertoia, Dansk, Danish Modern and Peter Max pieces are popular among shoppers.
Pop culture fans and media and toy collectors will not be disappointed. Take your pick from vintage playboy magazines and rock and roll or jazz records from the 60s and 70s, many of which are on sale for 50% off. Old board games gain new novelty -- a “space chess set” from the 80s composed of pieces in the form of silver and pink spaceships and aliens as well as a 1967 game from Barbie manufacturer Mattel called “Tight Squeeze -- The Snuggle-Struggle Game” are only two of the drool-worthy games I spied. Textiles and paintings abound as do old-fashioned rotary telephones with friendly curves in many colors and there are even vintage typewriters and Browning Kodak cameras from the 1930s/40s.
As San Franciscans are well aware, rent in our beloved city does not come cheap. As a result, Silva pointed out, larger, higher-end stores are replacing the smaller funky stores. While the higher-end shops might be intimidating and pretentious, service at The Other Shop is friendly and “down-home”. The collective is open seven days a week to cater to your every whimsy and Technicolor fantasy. If you need to have an item shipped to you, The Other Shop takes care of that as well. Be sure to add yourself to the mailing list to be informed about storewide 20% off sales that take place in March and August. Whether you enter The Other Shop with an item in mind or are just passing through, chances are you will find some piece from a bygone era that you can’t live without.
by Jialin Luh on Dec 02, 2004
Photo by Mark Jordan