A Deal Fit for a King: A Royal Review of San Francisco's Commercial Nobility

San Francisco is both a city and a county, which often makes it the living incarnation of the old saw about government: Why buy one when you can buy two at twice the price?

While traversing this city-county, however, it soon becomes evident that it's not just a municipality but a patchwork of monarchies. To wit, San Francisco houses some 100 establishments professing to be the king of various and sundry realms, ranging from booze to gyros to "metals & plastics." In fact, it's quite possible to conduct one's daily business while patronizing only the kings of commerce.

For the bare necessities, it's King Liquor, King of Grocery, and, ahem, King Massage (not to be confused with King & King Sausage). For sustenance, it's King of Thai Noodles, King Foot Subs, King of Falafel, and a dynasty's worth of Burger Kings. You can bed down at King Of Furniture & Mattress until the guard from King Security Services boots you out. You can drop off your purchases from King of Fashions at New King's Laundry, then unload your vehicle at Cash for Car Kings ­— necessitating a call to King's Tours & Transportation or King Cab.

For a demonstration of the tonsorial arts, it's King of Kutz; to unload your worldly possessions, it's King Dynasty Antique; and after unloading said possessions and suffering a breakdown, it's time for a spin in a King-American Ambulance.

Finally, the woman who answered the phone at Birdnest King Distribute on Irving Street had no explanation regarding the curiously ungrammatical name of the store other than that it distributes birds' nests ­— and royally so.

For what it's worth, she spoke the King's English.

Per the latest census data, 49.1 percent of San Franciscans are female. Among storefront potentates, however, the ratio of kings to queens is more skewed. Fewer than a dozen area establishments purport to be queens of their field. And yet, what an eclectic field it is: There's the Mortgage Queen, Queen's Shoes, and the Smog Test Queen.

Perhaps fittingly for San Francisco, the city with the lowest percentage of children in all the nation, our kings and queens have not been very fecund. The Yellow Pages list only three San Francisco businesses christened "princess." There is not one "prince."

Perhaps, mirroring the monarchies of yore, regal businesses from neighboring cities will be installed upon San Francisco's vacant commercial thrones, to rule benevolently over falafels, gyros, or, indeed, birds' nests. For the kings of Oakland, Daly City, or San Mateo, their city-county coronation may yet come.

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