Small, idiosyncratic, brilliantly curated shops are reshaping the city’s shopping scene. Here, the best places to get a design fix or buy the knife of your dreams.

By Rachel Levin
Updated April 08, 2015

In this Article:



Three decades after launching their first boutique, the family behind Modern Appealing Clothing (MAC) have opened a second location in the up- and-coming Dogpatch neighborhood.

On The Shelves

In addition to edgy Japanese and European fashions, the store sells items by local artisans, like canvas aprons and ceramics, plus sea salts from the city’s Boulettes Larder.

Great Neighbors

MAC shares a 19th-century building with Dig, a wine shop specializing in Italy and France (, and an artisanal pasta and pizza spot, Piccino ( A Piccino diner recently popped into MAC to pick up a dress by Belgian designer Sofie D’Hoore while waiting for dessert. 1003 Minnesota St.;



Owner Sam Hamilton once interned in the kitchen at Chez Panisse, which helps explain the new focus of her nine-year-old Pacific Heights shop: hyper-local provisions and pared-down housewares. The subway-tiled space feels clean, bright and elegant.

On the Shelves

The store’s own line of vinegars, oils, spices and preserves, sourced from top Bay Area producers like Albert Katz and Le Sanctuaire and packaged in dark-glass jars to preserve freshness. Also in stock are pots from Brooklyn Copper Cookware; Boxwood Linen’s monochromatic napkins and aprons; goblets by Billy Cotton; an incredible variety of ceramics by artisans like England’s Brickett Davda, including taupe dinnerware that starts at $52 per plate; stoneware bowls from Italy’s Christiane Perrochon (starting at $195); and heirloom tableware like a set of bowls and plates by the late California artist-potter Beatrice Wood ($6,800). “Nobody’s eating off those!” Hamilton says.

Mixing BowlsHandmade stoneware by Eric Bonnin (from $65).Photo © Drew Altizer.

Tasty JamsLoulou’s Garden preserves ($12 for 8 oz).Photo © Drew Altizer.

Water PitcherDinosaur Designs resin jug, sold in many colors ($115).Photo © Drew Altizer.

Pride & Joy

The staff uses the store’s $22,000 AGA stove to cook for supper clubs and events, like a party to celebrate Chez Panisse’s 40th anniversary last year. 3075 Sacramento St.;; 415-931-7433.


Voyager, a San Francisco travel destination for shoppers.Photo © Mimi Giboin for


Local surfer-restaurateur Robert Patterson turned a 2,000-square-foot gallery space on upper Valencia Street into what he calls a “hybrid boutique.” Partially built from salvaged wood, Voyager encompasses four different shops: Spartan (home goods), Revolver (durable-chic clothing), Michael Rosenthal Art Gallery (contemporary art) and Needles & Pens (handmade crafts and zines).

On the Shelves

Spartan owner Currie Person says she sells hundreds of featherweight Spanish wineglasses ($6 each): “Who cares if a wild gesticulator knocks one over at your dinner party?” Fabric scissors ($18-$21), family-made in India for generations, are “a-mazing,” she says. “I abuse my pair.” Manual coffee grinders ($70) and pepper mills ($65) are handmade in Missouri by Red Rooster Trading Company.

Cheese KnivesWood-handled pieces made in Chicago ($14 for set of 3).Photo © Antonis Achilleos.

Basic GlassesMexican tumbler (left) and Spanish wineglass ($6 each).Photo © Antonis Achilleos.

Mini BowlsMarble salt and pepper cellars ($68 for 2 sets).Photo © Antonis Achilleos.

Where to Eat Nearby

Voyager’s staff subsists on espresso from Four Barrel (375 Valencia St.) and spicy miso soup from Ken Ken Ramen (3378 18th St.). 365 Valencia St.;; 415-800-3527.

Town Cutler

Galen Garretson of Town Cutler, a San Francisco travel pick.Photo © Patrick Postle.


Galen Garretson used to work 16-hour shifts as a sous chef at Quince; now he sits hunched over a whetstone honing knives for six-hour stretches at his Nob Hill shop. Since opening last year, the self-taught cutler has attracted a cult following of chefs and home cooks. “Sometimes I feel like a drug dealer,” he says of the deliveries he makes by Vespa. “Regulars come in with their knives, demanding, ‘Sharper! Sharper!’ ”

On the Shelves

The global knife selection includes Japanese (Zanmai, Masamoto), German (F. Dick) and northern California-made knives, which all hang on a magnetic strip behind a glass shield. Says Garretson, “I didn’t want customers just grabbing knives off the wall.”

Knife Splurge The Random Damascus knife is a store exclusive ($1,900).Photo © Patrick Postle.

Knife Advice

Garretson steers beginning cooks toward the $50 Wüsthofs, “the Toyota of knives,” he says approvingly. For big spenders, there’s “the Bentley,” Wilburn Forge’s 220-layer, $1,900 Random Damascus, with an antique walrus-ivory handle. 1005 Bush St.;; 415-359-1519.