Souvenir Shopping (Self Guided), San Francisco

It would be a pity to leave San Francisco without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to San Francisco, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.
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Souvenir Shopping Map

Guide Name: Souvenir Shopping
Guide Location: USA » San Francisco (See other walking tours in San Francisco)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.4 Km or 4 Miles
Author: Daniel
1
San Francisco Rock Posters & Collectibles

1) San Francisco Rock Posters & Collectibles

What to buy here: The Jimi Hendrix Experience Poster ($40-275). Between 1965 and 1971, hundreds of posters were pounded out in ink and steel to promote concerts around San Francisco. Content was secondary to psychedelic design. Text and images collided. Commerce was art, and color and wavy lines trumped all in the spirit of free love, wailing guitar solos, and experimental typesetting. The effect was to be hallucinatory, electric, and illegible. Two of the most influential promoters of the era – Bill Graham (also responsible for transforming the Fillmore Auditorium at the intersection of Fillmore and Geary into a fully-functional concert venue) and Chet Helms (founder of Janis Joplin’s Big Brother and the Holding Company and partially responsible for San Francisco’s 1967 Summer of Love) – contracted over 500 of these advertisements. Graham would also convert an ice rink at Post and Steiner to a music venue named the Winterland Ballroom where, in October of 1968, Jimi Hendrix performed six shows over the course of three days. By decree of the San Francisco City Supervisors, September 13, 2011, was declared Jimi Hendrix Winterland Day in honor of a CD release based on the six shows.

The store: A relatively non-descript storefront save for the large winged eyeball above the window, here is the source for all things rock and roll art related. South of the city, an archival framing outlet serves the San Francisco store which is located in North Beach, just off the main Columbus Avenue thoroughfare.

Operation hours: Monday-Saturday: 10:00-18:00
2
Levi Strauss & Company

2) Levi Strauss & Company

What to buy here: Vintage Levi’s, 1944 501 Jean ($250). Levi’s owns a large warehouse in an undisclosed location south of San Francisco where it stores its pre-1900-era jeans along with reliquary documents, photographs, fliers, and handbills. Through Levi’s Vintage Clothing, special limited edition items are created to replicate old vintage jeans found in mine shafts and in the Nevada desert, among other sources – lumberjack-looking flannel shirts, hunting coats, and shooting vests. Replication is exact. For example, belt loops have been removed from jeans of the 1922 and earlier age when men would wear suspenders. The 1944 version lacks rivets on certain sections as well as stitching on the pockets as a result of a request from the War Department to ration fabric, thread, and metal. Levi Strauss worked as a dry goods merchant in San Francisco and made most certainly a greater profit outfitting prospectors than many of the miners did themselves. The oldest 501 in the world dates to around 1879 and is called the “Double X”, meaning “extra strong” or “double extra heavy” for the denim used. No one seems to know why the lot number “501” was chosen.

Located at the lower level of the Union Square flagship store next to the Tailor Shop, Levi’s Vintage Clothing carries 501s from the late 1800s to the mid 20th century. A wall display shows the evolution of the 501 over time.

Operation hours: Monday-Saturday: 9:00-21:00; Sunday: 10:00-20:00.
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440 Brannon

3) 440 Brannon

What to buy here: Muni Squiggle Shirt ($20). The Muni t-shirt company has based itself on the squiggled-line logo of San Francisco’s Muni transit system – the collection of buses, trolleys, subways lines, and cable cars that circle the city. The shirts pay tribute to a public transportation system that might be described, in general, as limited and slow. Various iterations on a theme exist in the form of Muni line shirts with route numbers, line names, and a list of the main stops. They are made by Walter Koning who calls the shirts “intentionally simple.” A previous Muni-based t-shirt line by another San Francisco resident was pulled from stores due to claims of copyright infringement, although the action may have had more to do with their implied critiques. The L line became “L-ate,” the J line “J-acked,” and the T – “T-ardy.” Koning has never had any problems with the Muni department.

Located in SoMa, 440 Brannon showcases local designers and limited edition lines in a gallery-style setting that gives way to a sewing and fabrication workshop for local artists and apprentices. Once the city’s fashion district, South of Market is now a collection of warehouses, low-rise commercial buildings, and low-budget hotels, along with the Museum of Modern Art, the Giants Stadium, Moscone Convention Center, and the Yerba Buena Gardens and Center for the Arts.

Operation hours: Monday-Saturday: 11:00-19:00
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The Giants Dugout

4) The Giants Dugout

What to buy here: Giants Black & Orange Ballcap ($18-37).

Originally founded in 1883 as the New York City Gothams, the San Francisco Giants is one of the oldest teams in Major League Baseball and its stadium the first privately-financed ballpark since Dodger Stadium (at $357 million). Supposedly, a New York manager declared them “my giants” after a win, and the name stuck around for the next century and counting. The New York Giants logo consisted of an overlapping N and Y, similar to the current S-F layout, in characteristic orange and black. The original rivalry between the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers moved west as well in the form of a San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers division. Well-known retired numbers include Willie Mays (24) and Jackie Robinson (42), and a nine-foot statue of Willie Mays stands at the entrance to the stadium. The official mascot – Lou the Seal (Lucille), for the seals that swim just outside the stadium walls.

Operation hours: Monday-Sunday: 10:00-17:00
5
Stonehouse California Olive Oil

5) Stonehouse California Olive Oil

What to buy here: Extra Virgin House Blend ($14). The past decade has seen a resurgence in California oil production which first began when 16th-century Spanish missionaries introduced what is now known as the Mission olive to the New World and which lapsed into horticultural neglect for the several centuries that followed. In 2008, the University of California at Davis established the Olive Center – the first olive research and education facility in North America and a division of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. Its purpose: to help vault California olives to high rankings and to a league on par with its Mediterranean competitors. Stonehouse’s Silver Ridge grove harvests Mission olives along with Manzanillo (the most common variety of Spanish olive) and Barouni olives (a tree developed in Tunisia). Olive oil has been called one of the healthiest cooking oils due to its antioxidative properties and high levels of monounsaturated fats (which lower cholesterol and improve overall heart health).

The Stonehouse farm is located east of Chico in north-central California at the edge of the volcanic Table Mountain plateau and on an 80-plus-year-old organic olive grove called Silver Ridge. Its store is in the Ferry Building Marketplace.

Operation hours: Monday-Friday: 9:00-19:00; Saturday: 8:00-18:00; Sunday: 11:00-17:00.
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Recchiuti Confections

6) Recchiuti Confections

What to buy here: Chocolate: The Black Box: The original 16 handmade chocolates. ($44). Gourmet Magazine once called Michael Recchiuti, co-founder of Recchiuti Chocolates, “the Picasso of San Francisco Chocolatiers.” His is a combination of taste and packaging: modern minimalist design elements and obscure flavorings like Ceylon tea, tarragon, grapefruit, lemon, and cardamom. The chocolate itself is usually some sort of unexpected blend as well – sweet and unsweet, extra bitter and Venezuelan, or dark and milk, among others. Many of the more unlikely ingredients have been inspired by Recchiuti’s previous experiences working for restaurants, hotels, and catering companies. As a child in Philadelphia, he helped his grandmother bake Italian wedding cakes and later studied sugar and chocolate with Alain Tricou, a top French chef. A flying skillet from the days of working with Tricou left a permanent scar on Recchiuti’s forehead. Other local chocolate manufacturers include Ghiradelli, Scharffen Berger, TCHO, XOX, and Michael Mischer. Recchiuti’s factory is located in the Dogpatch – a mixed-used industrial-residential zone east of Potrero Hill.

Store: The Ferry Building dates to the first San Francisco ferries which, during the mid 1800s, connected the city with Sacramento. At one point during the 1930s, it was the second busiest transportation terminal in the world, and in 2003, after several decades of declining use, the building was renovated for office spaces, restaurants, and gourmet specialty stores. A farmer’s market is held there on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. M-F 10AM-7PM, Sat. 8AM-6PM, Sun. 10AM-5PM.
7
Far West Fungi

7) Far West Fungi

What to buy here: Dried Mushrooms ($5-20). At the edge of the Pacific Ocean, more than 40 wild and cultivated varieties of mushrooms are grown on the Far West farm. A blend of straw, rice bran, and red oak sawdust is treated with high-pressure steam before being seeded in sterile chambers. Depending on the species, growth cycles can last from four to eight weeks. Shitake, tree oyster, king trumpet, bear’s head, and maitake are some of their top producers. Porcini – one of the more difficult varieties to cultivate due to the symbiotic relationship it forms with other plants in the area, has become one of the top selling gourmet mushrooms. Wood ear leads the food chain in terms of vegetable fiber and contains three times as much iron as liver and two times as much calcium as milk. There are chicken-like varieties – chicken of the woods, and peppery ones like yellowfoot; large, red parasitic lobster mushrooms and two-pound chanterelles. Once harvested, they are sold in the San Francisco store and at farmer’s markets around the Bay Area.

The Far West Ferry Building store services a family farm in Moss Landing, a commercial fishing town on the Monterey Bay. Mushrooms are grown there in petri dish cultures and cultivated in blocks of treated sawdust. Ian Garrone manages the store and helps run the farm along with his farther, stepmother, and brother.

Operation hours: Monday-Friday: 10:00-18:00; Saturday: 8:00-18:00; Sunday: 11:00-17:00.

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