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Union Street Scoop

Trade Union? No way!

Raising the Marina’s profile

Ajam-packed, bursting-at-the-seams October has shifted into a more relaxed November. Not to say an election month is calm, but I just don’t think it will warrant roof parties, stuffed bars, and flamboyant outfits. Party games have a different meaning during voting season. I don’t think this particular election will elicit the lively roars of a Cal–Stanford football game. Then again, it is San Francisco, and anything can happen.

What has happened is that Union Street and the entire Marina area have seen more tourists than normal, and the trend seems to be continuing. Though this is one of the most visited cities in the world, attractions such as Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, Pier 39, and Chinatown tend to take the limelight, resulting in less traffic to our area. But this year we had the 75th anniversary of our iconic Golden Gate Bridge, followed by two America’s Cup events, Fleet Week, and several other Marina Green events that sent a ton of people our way. Consequently, it generated good revenue and excitement to our neighborhood for both tourists
and locals.

And the party continues. The momentum of our Bay Area football teams and our spectacular Giants has kept things buzzing. Sports bars and restaurants remain busy and the streets in general are full of activity. Speaking of the Giants, our local Brian “the Beard” Wilson has been sited everywhere in the neighborhood. I literally ran into our kind, local, cooler-than-cool relief pitcher as he mounted his scooter, turned on his music, and rode away. Oh how I’d love to shear off – OK, that might be a little harsh. Oh, how I’d like to trim your signature beard, Brian, if only to see your crystal blue eyes better.

Aside from all the sports activity, new merchants and businesses are also seeing some action. One of the freshest on the block is Itoya Topdrawer at 1840 Union Street. Well-known in Japan since 1904, this stationery and gift store chose Union Street as its first U.S. location. The top to bottom redo of the space creates a beautifully simple framework for the wide selection of traditional Japanese paper products, cards, and colorful arts and crafts. Photo albums, boxes, calligraphy accessories, and exceptional art supplies are just part of what makes Itoya so distinctive. The associates are kind and helpful with both product information and selection. Though brand new, it already feels like a good fit for the street, and we wish them well in their new home in San Francisco.

At the same time, we say farewell to Omni Chemists. As curious and excited as many of us were when it opened, poor customer service, overpriced items, and an overall bad attitude created a most user-unfriendly store. We so needed, and still need, a good old general store on the block, so it’s too bad Omni was such a Bombni. On a different note, we also say goodbye to the friendly bunch at Spuntino, a favorite stop for cheeses, wines, and grilled panini. Though it’s been hush hush as to what is going into the 1957 address, word has it that the who is Jim Howell who owns the successful Barrique wine bar in Jackson Square. I look forward
to what he has in store for us.

Also, big congratulations to our friends at Phil’s Electric, which was recently honored as one of the best small businesses in the city. With more than 70 years of great customer service and family values, it’s no wonder they ranked highly. C’mon, anyone who will fix a favorite electronic game or train and service your vacuum cleaner with equal parts kindness, professionalism and fair prices
has to celebrated.

And say it isn’t so – Thanksgiving is almost here! The holidays seem to come up faster each year. With that in mind, I thought I would pass along a short list of some of my current Union Street favorites for the early bird shoppers – you know who you are.

  • Going places? Grab a box of scrumptious Pacific Puff cream puffs for an impressive dessert.
  • Going somewhere cold? Tuck inside an oversized, comfy sweater from Workshop.
  • Going cuckoo? Check out the cool clocks at Atys.
  • Going for the gold? The simple gold nugget necklace at Union Street Goldsmith is timeless.
  • Going green? The organic baby blankets at Sprout make great gifts.
  • Going to the dogs? The selection of toys and collars at Cheengo are pawsitively fantastic.
  • Going my way? Grab a featherweight cashmere scarf at Jest Jewels.
  • Going nowhere? Just for a minute or two … take a deep breath …and rewind.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Leslie Drapkin is a co-owner of Jest Jewels on Union Street. E-mail: leslie@marinatimes.com