Posted on November 17 2014
As anyone who owns a small business knows, finding time to get away can be a bit of a challenge. There is an infinite amount of items on your to-do list, which looks more like a copy of War and Peace by the day and it's freaking you out because, just like the book, you know you will never really finish it. But just like any profession taking a break, even just a small one, is essential. I guess I learned this the hard way over the years as someone who worked in the corporate design world and always worried incessantly about what would happen if I wasn't there - How will this deadline get finished? Who will answer the client's questions? Where the hell did you put that file? The possibilities of what could arise in my absence were endless - and endlessly tiring. Ok yes, I was raised Catholic (insert guilt here), but I have grown to value what time away brings, even if it is from something you love.
Since starting Hammer + Awl, Anthony and I have transitioned into taking mini vacations over the couple days that the shop is actually closed, these are not the typical weekend days which actually makes it nice for travel and for things like getting a seat for dinner at a place that may be impossible to get into on a Friday or Saturday. We usually combine it with a little work, like visiting a new vendor or picking up goods from an existing one. One of our favorite places to head to is San Francisco. On this last trip we hit several old favorites as well as some new ones.
Dragging ourselves to the airport for an earlybird flight, we fought the check-in lines and the other passengers for carry on stowage to awake a short few hours later to our own San Francisco treat - sun!
First stop COFFEE and TOAST! I know, you're thinking - toast, really? But TRUST, the toast at The Mill is the best $3.50 you will spend for a thick slice of glutenous magic topped with your choice of options they may have that day. Wash it down with an Americano via their Four Barrel coffee and you are set. The space is also pretty amazing - light, airy yet warm with pockets of seating I am realizing it's akin to sitting in a loaf of their amazing bread.
A few doors down we checked out The Perish Trust. We hadn't noticed this shop last time we were in the area, but it's definitely worth a visit. A modern day general store of sorts with lots for the eyes to get lost on.
Next up we hit the Mission District. Anthony was feeling a bit rough around the edges so we made a spontaneous drop-in on Fellow Barber. Feeling some oncoming remorse about cheating on his Seattle go-to, David at Squire Barber, he noticed their grooming/apothecary section was stocked with Ursa Major, Baxter and Juniper Ridge (some of our shop faves), so he knew he was in a good spot. Fellow Barber's deal is a hassle-free, yet high quality experience and they did not disappoint. Within minutes Anthony settled into their old school barber chair and the clippers got to work while I sat at and admired my surroundings. Fellow Barber “goes back to the idea of bringing different people together. It’s the idea of your fellow barber, your fellow worker, the other guy in the chair. This idea of community — talking and hanging out.” This is definitely a vision we can get behind. Anthony emerged in no time clean and perfectly cut and ready to take on the rest of the city.
We simply cannot be in the Mission without a pit stop at the true Four Barrel. There is so much good coffee in San Francisco - Sightglass, Ritual, Blue Bottle, but Four Barrel is definitely one that remains at the top of our list. What I love almost as much as their coffee is how they describe what the pursuit of coffee means to them, "For us, it means waking up next to our sweetheart every morning and being tongue tied at how lovely and charming she is. And for you, it means the best cup of coffee around—one that somehow tastes well-loved and worth dressing up for." Well said. I'd have no problem dressing up for a cup from these guys daily.
We of course hit some of our other favorites while in the neighborhood - Taylor Stitch (now carried at the shop!), Voyager, Aggregate Supply, Heath Ceramics, a snack at Tartine - no matter the line is always worth the wait.
Making our way to The Castro to check on Unionmade Goods where I could spend hours thumbing through manicured magazines I covet, yet likely will never buy. We missed Maas & Stacks as they were closed, but will definitely time it better on the next trip and check them out.
On to Hayes Valley we stopped by the Aether Shop, Acrimony, Welcome Stranger, and Rand + Statler.Wrapping up the evening, looking for a new joint to eat dinner we took a chance on a relative newcomer, Causwells, on Chestnut. This funky little bistro is in the former Bechelli's diner and is sort of a mash up of art deco, exposed concrete and heavy natural stone. The menu is as eclectic as the interior with a bevy of small plates with an Americana vibe.
Full and spent from a long day we called it a night retiring to our cozy hotel bed to crash out.
Day two brought a late morning meeting with Vaughn from Parker Dusseau at a cool gallery come coffee bar - 111 Minna Gallery. On show was an intriguing collection titled "Woods" by Romanowski, comprised of intricate wood compositions often fused with live plants.
Afterword it was on to North Beach for me and Anthony to an afternoon of meetings.
In North Beach I checked out Al's Attire, known for their bespoke clothing and footwear. Part store, part workshop this place is full of visuals. While everything here may not quite be my style, I love that Al has been selling handmade garments in San Francisco for over 30 years. You just don't find many places like this still around. Stepping in always feels like a bit of a throwback, yet somehow current, all at once.
A few doors down is Aria Antiques. A small storefront filled with European and Early American curiosities, this place always has that unidentifiable object that makes you go, what the f***?! The owner matches the shop's collections, a bit eccentric and I'm certain chock full of interesting tales regarding his curations.
A quick swing through AB Fits, Little Vine and a failed attempt to hit up Acre/SF...after I climbed up Telegraph Hill to get there. This sister store of Acrimony had closed for good. RIP Acre/SF. The day and our trip was coming to a close. Still so much more to see, but we will have to save it until next time.
What are your favorites spots in SF? Let us know about them in the comments section!
Cheers - H+A.