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Behind The Counter With Mixed Nuts

Behind The Counter With Mixed Nuts
Saroyan Humphrey for Hayeswire
By Anna Mantzaris - Published on February 17, 2014.
From portraits from the mid-1800s to a hand-painted "Cold Beer" sign to a 1969 Astronaut Snoopy doll, the second San Francisco outpost of Mixed Nuts (227 Fell, between Gough and Franklin) is chock full of vintage finds.

The inventory is carefully selected by co-owners Brandon Clark, Jon Rolston and Anthony Williamson -- who together, with their design degrees and hauling business background, have the ultimate chops for urban object foraging. The tiny, quirky Hayes Valley space opened in December, and the ever-changing, carefully selected items almost always come with a tale of origin, and an outpouring of enthusiasm. The trio loves nothing more than to see that precious-something saved, and its history passed on to a new owner. Hayeswire: How did Mixed Nuts get started? Brandon: I was working at a café and I met Jon, as a customer. I started doing hauling jobs on the side with him and we began collecting our goods and keeping the ones we thought were the coolest and selling them at flea markets. We did hauling for about a year together and then it just made sense to have a shop and we decided to do it in the neighborhood that we lived in, which was the Outer Richmond (3243 Balboa Street). I started curating the shop [in March 2012] and Jon continued hauling and together we filled the shop. About a year into it, Anthony came and moved here. H: How do you guys find your items? Anthony: We all have our own separate way of finding things. Whenever we have free time, wherever we're at, we're picking stuff up -- whether it's going to yard sales on the weekends by chance or just meeting with random customers who invite us to their house. We get to basically look through people's houses, look in their garages, pretty much buy anything that we know is going to be a good fit for the shop. The more obscure of a place we can find it, the better. H: What's the criteria for items? Do you each specialize in different things? Brandon: My criteria is trying to buy stuff that I'll be okay with keeping the rest of my life and stuff that I don't want to sell to the public. That's when I know it's good. If I find it and think, "I have to have this." If I don't want to sell it, that means I should. H: So it's hard to let go of some items? Brandon: It was at first because then it was pretty much our actual belongings -- it was stuff that Jon and I were finding in houses and saving. We had been collecting from all these hauls -- some of it's hand-built and you can see the time that went into it and it still has the human spirit attached to it and you're thinking, "I know that guy." And some of it's more designed-based and some things are kind of timeless and don't deserve to be at the dump. It wasn't even a green thing, it was saving money to not pay to dump it as well as not being able to let go of it or see it in a graveyard. When I'm collecting these objects I'm interested in the stories, and that's what we get to keep. So I think the people that I meet around these objects are what gives me the satisfaction to sell them. You get to sell the object but it's like story hoarding. It doesn't take up any space, which you learn after collecting a lot of stuff that it can be overwhelming to keep things. H: What's the most unusual find you've had? Jon: I got a nice stump. It looks like an elephant's foot. I don't know what kind of wood it is but the bark is really smooth. It looks like desiccated skin, yellow. It came from a garage in the Bayview. H: How often do you guys change the merchandise? Brandon: Every time we're in here we're bringing new stuff. We're always looking for it, so there's no shortage of objects. Jon has a warehouse in Brisbane and we all have garage spaces that are overflowing. H: Anything else people should know about Mixed Nuts? Anthony: We have the largest collection of designer chairs from the 50s and 60s, all originals. We have really cool items as far as rental purposes go. Brandon: And, we're just really nice, hard-working men. Mixed Nuts is located at 227 Fell, between between Gough and Franklin. Keep an eye out for "Free Beer Fridays" and other events at the shop in the weeks ahead.