The Union Charm

The thing I loved and still love about Union Street is that it is not homogenized. It is not a sprawl of generic stores that reeks of monotony or a conglomeration of superplumped megachains that are swollen with expansion but empty of personality. On the contrary. What Union Street, and thankfully many of the districts here in San Francisco have, is character. I can stand at any corner in our neighborhood and know where I am. Sure, we have a Starbucks, and yes, sometimes I want a Walgreens for basic needs, but on the whole, the individuality of our stores, services and restaurants (both old and new) remains intact. In fact, it is more than just intact. “It is the future of retailing,” as many reporters and politicians have recently commented, though if you ask anyone here, locally owned businesses have always been the “trend.” Still, if the future of retailing means a warm, friendly place where longtime customers and neighbors support their community and know one another’s name, then I’m in. If the future of retailing means that tourists and new customers can experience the diversity of businesses and flavors in a well-maintained, charming neighborhood of the real variety (as opposed to the Stepford pop-up kind), then great. I’ll take it, and anything else that validates the importance of small business and keeping our dollars circulating within our neighborhood.

A perfect example of this is one of the newest stores on the street at 1750 Union called Moulin Pooch. It is in the original Bella and Daisy’s location, with a redo that is adorable and inviting for all. A “dog boutique and villa,” Moulin Pooch features a variety of services and products for our VIP furry pals. The cute and spotless areas for doggy daycare are open, friendly and sure to become the talked – or barked – about hotspots in town. Aside from offering daycare that includes playtime, naptime and long walks, Moulin Pooch offers full-service grooming, a wide selection of food and treats, along with a variety of everything else dog related. From collars to carriers, from fashionable outfits to practical necessities, Moulin Pooch is the soup to nuts (or rather, the bone to chews) of the dog world. Add to that the wonderful and welcoming customer service of the human kind and we have a great new addition to our street.

Another new addition is recently opened Chloe Rose, a contemporary women’s clothing boutique at 1824 Union. A well-edited and beautiful selection of designers and individual pieces make this particular store a standout. First, the design of the store itself is alluring, with great lighting and color tones throughout, nicely finished wood floors and fixtures, and a boudoir-style dressing room area that tempts many try-ons. It’s a warm and easy place to shop, thanks to owner Marissa Olsen’s vision. A graduate of FIDM, her years of retail and understanding customer service will help make Chloe Rose a success. Her genuine kindness and helpfulness with customers along with über-nice sister Blythe’s help will especially help them become a visible and long-lasting part of Union.

As a merchant and neighbor on the street for these last 24 years, I attach great value to both new and old businesses and to our community. So much more than just a work environment, it is the sense of place and loyalty that is special and helps give Union Street its distinctiveness. And though it is true that the face of retail has changed with the advent of the Internet and social media, it is also true that there is nothing better than seeing Ellie or Sam at the corner market, or checking in with Dennis to see how he’s doing, or going for a drink with a longtime customer who has become a lifelong friend. For this, I am most grateful, and I will no doubt be recognizing my good fortune this Thanksgiving.

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