Back in September, we let you know of 97 Cent Store owner Deborah Keese's decision to put the 10-year-old business up for sale, and last month, she liquidated her inventory. In the few weeks since the store's closure, seven-year neighborhood resident Gene Barnes saw the "For Lease" sign while walking his dog , decided to go into business with a friend, and got approval from the landlord to sign a lease.
In early March, Gene and Stephanie Madrinan will be opening Heart of Gold, a boutique and consignment shop with an emphasis on community engagement.
Stephanie is the former owner of 31 Rax, a boutique in the Mission that shuttered its doors in 2013. She's a stylist and a producer, putting on dance shows at ODC, a fire-themed fashion show at the Crucible, and designing the wardrobe for a Bindlestiff Studio's production of Hedda Gabler. She also curates and organizes the monthly open mic night at Paina, called "Soul'd Out."
Gene has a history of community service and mentorship. A former basketball coach, he spends much of his time tutoring youth, working with families in Marin, and engaging in the non-profit world.
Together, their myriad of experiences and decade of friendship has resulted in what they hope will be a fashion-forward and community-based addition to Divisadero Street.
First and foremost, Heart of Gold will be a resource for those looking for unique vintage pieces or clothes made by local designers. The aesthetic described by the pair will be timeless, classic, rustic, and reflecting the history of California and San Francisco. They plan on lining the walls with reclaimed wood, and cite American Rag as fashion inspiration.
Aside from being a boutique, Heart of Gold is also being set up as 501c3 non-profit. Stephanie and Gene have big plans for giving back to the neighborhood, and with this designation, people can make tax-deductible clothing donations and the store can collect funding to support community events.
Opening themselves up to any type of donation, what Heart of Gold can't sell it will give away to those in need. Organizations and families will be able to apply to receive furniture and clothing donations, and there are also plans to organize weekend breakfasts for kids in the neighborhood and to host fashion events, personal styling services, and youth mentorship. "Our business is their business," says Stephanie. "It'll be a hub for people to cultivate what they want."
As for the space itself, both Gene and Stephanie used the words "miraculous" and "serendipitous" to describe how they landed it. A hot location in a quickly-evolving corridor, they ended up with a lease on the space because the family who owns the space genuinely liked them. The 97-cent shop was the owners' first tenant, and finding someone who felt like a good fit was more important to them than an impeccable credit record.
"She said she wanted to give me a chance to make my father proud," stated Gene. He's planning on signing the lease on February 8th, his mother's birthday.
We'll keep you in the loop on when Heart of Gold plans to open its doors. In the meantime, Gene and Stephanie are looking for interns. If you love fashion and community-based activities, shoot them an email to info [at] heartofgoldsf [dot] com.