Take a detour off busy Market Street, at the nexus of Mid-Market, Hayes Valley and SoMa, and you'll find the whimsical never-never land of Bell'Occhio boutique.
The exterior of Bell'Occhio.
Owner Claudia Schwartz describes the shop, located at 10 Brady St., as a "European general store," carrying a potpourri of gifts, crafts, toys, jewelry, vintage items and more.
"My grandfather was a coppersmith in Oakland," she told us. "I guess I’ve always been interested in handmade things, and things that are refined and beautifully made.”
Bell'occhio means "beautiful eye" in Italian (it's the opposite of malocchio, the evil eye). It's an apt name for Schwartz's collection of tasteful, sometimes waggish delights. Her finds include handmade, imported embroidery scissors; vintage hand-painted ribbon stock; light-as-air powder puffs made from goose down; stationery; animal figurines; menthol domes; and boxes in the shape of chef's toques.
A signature item is Schwartz's wooden cake stands, made in the workshop next door. She also sells jewelry from her husband, Tom Schwartz, whose business is called Percent.
A menthol dome.
Jewelry by Percent.
Bell'Occhio has been on Brady Street since 1988. It was originally housed in the space that's now the workshop, but it moved next door about 15 years ago. Martha Stewart has raved about Bell'Occhio, which she called "a perfect little shop." It was also featured in a video by Shopikon, which shows Schwartz doing one of her much-admired wrapping jobs.
Chef's toque boxes.
"We’re known for nice wrapping," Schwartz says. "Someone once asked us if we could wrap an airplane. They wanted a giant bow going around the airplane, and they wanted it on short notice." She couldn't oblige the request, but did do bows for a California Lottery commercial.
Schwartz opens a door to "pigs seeking truffles."
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Schwartz has lived in the Bay Area since age three, and is now a Pacific Heights resident. "I was always interested in shops and commerce from an early age," she says. She and her father, a civil engineer, loved to make boxes and "all sorts of things from paper” when she was a child, and they also made and sold doll furniture—"chairs, tables, beds, chests of drawers, armoires, cribs, all sized for eight-inch dolls." She studied art in college, and was interested in drawing, painting and architecture.
Goats and ribbons.
To find items for her shop, Schwartz said she used to buy telephone books from France, and call or fax places to ship to her. These days, she uses the Internet, but still manages to root out unusual finds, such as handmade straw lace from the late 18th century that sells for $225 a yard.
Many of Bell'Occhio's treasures are affordable: Scissors in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, rabbits or owls go for $14–16, and pine flavored bonbons are $5 a box. For those who want to bring their gift-wrapping game up to Schwartz's level, gift tags are $2 apiece, and silk ribbons run $1.50 a yard. The shop's prices are beautifully lettered on signs by local calligrapher Wendy Cook, whom Schwartz enlisted after noticing her writing on a check.
Schwartz says her customers are varied: they come in from a dance studio down the way, or they work in the neighborhood, or are fans of Zuni Café just across Market Street. "A lot of people who appreciate the store have traveled a lot and have been a lot of places," she said.
Bell'Occhio (10 Brady St.) is open 11am–5pm, Tuesday–Saturday.
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