Best of 2019: Shopping & Services


Good Vibrations

1620 Polk St.,

It’s possible that no retail experience carries more implicit discomfort and unease than shopping for a sex toy. Unless you’ve done your homework, looking at the displays at an “adult” shop can be downright intimidating. Thankfully, the staff at Good Vibrations are the perfect blend of patient, informative, casual, and considerate. Being hounded with advice by an employee while comparing anal beads sounds like an axed Mr. Show sketch, but the folks behind the counter at Good Vibrations seem to be blessed with an innate sense of intuition. Not ones to hover, they’ll gladly offer insights and suggestions when approached, creating a respectful yet educational experience for all who enter. Given we’ve already lauded Good Vibrations in the past, this is simply your latest reminder that your tools of arousal are best purchased locally.


Laurel Maha

Pizza Perfect Nails,

Laurel Maha is a cuticle Chagall. Operating out of Snail Art Studio on 16th Street, Pizza Perfect Nails is where to go when inventive, masterfully executed nail design is required. Maha’s services may not come cheap, but the results are truly stunning. Working with each client to realize their vision — be it an intergalactic spacescape, an ode to cats, or whatever wonderfully bizarre idea you may hold in your heart — there’s Pizza Perfect Nails, and then there’s everyone else. The added bonus of supporting an independent artist means that every visit to Maha is money well-spent.

Pizza Perfect Nails



Hand Job Nails and Spa

565 Castro St.,

The competition is, um, stiff in a neighborhood that already has a Sausage Factory and a Moby Dick. But the two Castro Hand Job locations are beacons not only for those seeking spa and skin scrub services, but also people who just want to take hilarious selfies next to the huge “Hand Job” signs. And these mani-pedi spas also offer highly suggestive service options like the Million Dollar Hand Job, the Raging Hormones Facial, and the Foot Fetish Fix. You might run into those near-naked exhibitionist guys on your way to the Muni station.


Crossroads Trading

1901 Fillmore St.,

Thrifting isn’t all that much of a bargain in San Francisco, or at least as much as it should be. (We’re looking at you, Wasteland on Haight Street.) But in a city filling up with the wealthy and booting out the poor, “trickle-down economics” might actually be a solid theory in used clothing stores like Crossroads Trading and Buffalo Exchange. No location embodies this better than the Crossroads on Fillmore Street, where high-end clothes from leggings to dresses are found in like-new conditions at Forever 21 pricing. Spotless leather Sperrys for $30? Check. North Face jacket with tags still on? Head a mile north to blend into the Marina.


Cliff’s Variety Store

479 Castro St.,

Is there anywhere else in the city (don’t say Target) where you can buy a handful of tiny plastic dinosaurs, a le Creuset butter dish, and hinges for your kitchen cabinets? It’s nearly impossible to walk into Cliff’s Variety on Castro and not walk out with something you desperately needed but forgot until you saw it, like a dimmer-switch knob or some cheesecloth for your kombucha scoby. In a city packed with specialty stores there’s something immensely refreshing about walking into a one-stop-shop with helpful staff and a bowl of dog treats on the counter.


The Sword and Rose

85 Carl St.,

Palo santo, sage, and crystals are very in right now, but if you want to bypass the helpful sales girls at your local boutique and get to the nitty-gritty of the spiritual world, there’s no better place than The Sword and Rose. It’s set slightly back from the street, requiring visitors to walk through an overgrown courtyard before ducking their heads to enter a small, dark room filled with rocks, books, and candles. The owners are happy to concoct a customized jar of incense, or guide you on your journey to the metaphysical. Tarot card readings can be done on a walk-in basis, but appointments can’t hurt, either — there’s often a line.


The Animal House

157 Fillmore St.,

From CBD tincture to cat trees to bumblebee Halloween costumes — The Animal House in Lower Haight has it all. The little store on the corner of Fillmore and Waller streets is truly a community hub — the employees know most dogs by name and treat preference, and are more than happy to help fit a lifejacket on your poodle or recommend a grain-free diet for your corgi. It’s hard to find a spot where staff are more enthusiastic about what they do, and once you’ve visited once or twice chances are your dog will tow you toward their doorway each and every time you walk within a block radius.


Daiso’s Closet Dehumidifier

San Francisco has fog, you say? Karl sure gives its denizens something to bond over but it can also be a health hazard if mold runs rampant in your house. Those living in in-law apartments or cave-like dwellings with little light may be all too familiar with DampRid, which prevents a sudden green mold from growing on clothes or shoes. Those run from roughly $4 to $12, depending on if it’s a tub or hanging bag, but this is where the magic of Daiso comes in. Its $1.50 closet dehumidifier, which also uses pellets to absorb the moisture, is just as effective. Head to one of its three San Francisco spots, stock up, and stick them under the sink or other enclosed areas — especially when the rainy season traps even more moisture.


Street Sheet

If journalists aren’t careful, they can miss hearing from a critical perspective on a story — if not the story altogether. And while advocacy groups have their own publications to fill the gap, Street Sheet is something special. Produced by the Coalition on Homelessness, it’s written by people who are experiencing or once experienced homelessness and who the general public often silences despite it being the dominant topic in contemporary San Francisco. Not only does Street Sheet contain informative stories with sourced data, it’s also has poems and first-person stories by sex workers, individuals living in an SRO or in an RV — which many San Franciscans want to ban from parking — and so much more. Plus, it’s sold by people living on the street who keep all of the proceeds.


Rani Threads Magic

2435 Mission St., @ranithreadsmagic

Dear Rani launched her threading service in the backroom of her husband’s clothing store on Mission and brought in most of the foot traffic by charging just five dollars for eyebrows. That sounds like a recipe for some…quirky eyebrow expressions but she knows exactly what to do for each strand of hair and executes it in just a few minutes, usually with a group of women waiting in a circle around her. Inevitably, the clothing shop closed and Rani relocated to a suite at 2435 Mission St., now charging $10. But the mom-and-pop feel remains and the end result is likely on par with the posh threaders one street away on Valencia Street.


Ver Unica

526 Hayes St.,

If you don’t already have such an item, get yourself to Ver Unica on Hayes Street, ASAP. The small vintage and used clothing store specializes in high-quality brands like Gucci or Givenchy, but at accessible prices. There are Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses on racks next to vintage Levis and stacks of church-worthy hats — but the real goodies are tucked under see-through plastic near the counter. Carefully collected hand-beaded gowns, couture suits, and fur jackets provide a stark reminder of bygone days when clothes were made to last and be passed down for generations. Owner Cindy Spade is a stellar personal stylist with a keen eye for collecting styles that fly out the door, so if you see something you love, you’d better grab it fast.


Firebird Yarns

1322 Haight St.,

The 1300 block of Haight Street has sat remarkably unchanged over the past three years, occupied mostly by head shops, a nail salon, and Ritual Coffee. But last September, a colorful new yarn store quietly opened its doors, filling an unmet need for the neighborhood. Firebird a luxury crafters’ dream: All yarns are high quality natural fibers, laid out along the wall in a candy-colored display. The staff are more than willing to help you find the right supplies for a pattern, and if you get stuck, will sit down with you on the sofa in the back to unravel your issue. They recently launched classes — My First Sweater with Kelly White, Cabled Mitts with Clare — making it not just a retail store but a place to learn new things.

Courtesy of Perish Trust


The Perish Trust

728 Divisadero St.,

A deep indigo mural with geometric shapes graces the facade of Divisadero’s Perish Trust. The dark cozy boutique next to The Mill is filled with a thousand precious and thoroughly unnecessary items. The front half is dedicated to gorgeous hardbound books on flowers or maps, and edged by shelves carrying $45 porcelain mugs painted to look like a minimalist desert scene. There is incense and turquoise jewelry and buttery, handmade leather hats. A small apothecarium of hygiene products in the back, featuring everything from Pinon-scented beard oil made in New Mexico to $12 bars of exfoliating soap. To walk through the Perish Trust is to surrender yourself to a life of frivolity; everything is beautiful, nothing is necessary — yet chances are you’ll leave with something, anyway.


Kate’s Cat and Dog Salon

1333 Fulton St.,

There’s a certain bravery in being handed a shivering chihuahua who needs his nails trimmed and smiling confidently at its owner as they warn you he might bite or pee all over the counter once they pull out the clippers. The staff at Kate’s — including, of course, Kate herself — never let a tricky pet ruin their day. Walk by their windows on any afternoon, and you’ll no doubt see a massive standard poodle getting a trim, or bathing a terrified-looking Persian cat. The quality of work is high, the groomers cheerful — but best of all is the shop dog, who hops up on the counter when it’s time to pay, grabs a $20 from a customer, and brings it to Kate, tail wagging.

Photo by Dave Stephens


San Francisco Fire Credit Union

3201 California St. and 12 Mint Plaza,

Why working people still bank with Wells Fargo or Bank of America is anyone’s guess — particularly when one of our local credit unions offers such superb customer service and benefits. It’s rare to see anyone get particularly excited about their bank, but watch two people pull matching red S.F. Fire Credit Union cards out to pay the bill at a restaurant, and there’s sure to be that “Oh my god, aren’t they great?” moment. ATM fees are refunded, the phone tree to reach a customer service agent is short, the staff are kind, and they even offer small loans for customers to buy bicycles. Plus, there’s the fact that they invest in the local community, not in destroying native lands or mistakenly foreclosing on homes.


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