It’s been almost two months since San Francisco Mercantile opened its doors on the corner of Haight and Cole streets, gracing the Upper Haight with California-themed gifts designed by California-based artists. Checking in with owner Robert Emmons, it seems like things are going well so far for the new retailer on the block.
When asked how he’s enjoying his new neighborhood, Emmons responded, “I have loved it. Everyone has been great and supportive. We’ve received lots of nice feedback from neighbors welcoming us. I’m very grateful to the local community for the support.”
As we last reported, San Francisco Mercantile isn’t your typical gift shop with generic tchotchkes designed by companies with no Bay Area ties. Emmons has his own product line, all designed by local artists, and also stocks collections by other California designers, with an emphasis on Bay Area-focused merchandise. Taking his goods hyperlocal, Emmons carries products from Upper Haight designer Jamai Lowell of Animal Instincts.
The new store, which marks Emmons’s first-ever brick-and-mortar location (his product line has been featured in Bay Area and Santa Barbara gift shops since 2008), has seen some quality foot traffic since the opening. “A big portion of why I wanted the Haight was that it was important to find a location that had both locals and tourists,” said Emmons, who was originally targeting the Castro for this store.
Once he dug into the Upper Haight, though, he realized that the area lacked a store like his. “There is nothing in Upper Haight that is similar to what we wanted to do,” Emmons continues. “Our store doesn’t compete with any of our retailers, and we offer something new [to the neighborhood].”
With a clientele that he estimates at 50 percent tourists and 50 percent locals, Emmons sought to create a store “where locals could find local products that they’re proud of.”
Emmons wants to help locals in other ways, too. San Francisco Mercantile has previously partnered with a number of Bay Area organizations, including The Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, and currently supports the Creative Arts Charter School.
When asked if he will be seeking to assist any Upper Haight-specific nonprofits, Emmons said that at the moment, there is nothing solidified yet. But, “I think as we’re here and as we become more of a member of the neighborhood, there will be an opportunity for us to see where we can partner with other organizations.”
At this point, Emmons is still getting to know the Upper Haight. Lately, there have been increased residential concerns, specifically at the Haight and Cole Streets intersection, over growing encampments and drug deals. When asked about his interactions with the transient community, Emmons said everyone has been “very respectful.”
He also commented that police have been “incredibly supportive” of the new shop, “constantly walking through and checking in” with the employees.
So, is there another San Francisco Mercantile store opening in the future? “If [this store] puts me in the grave, no,” Emmons jokes. “We’ll see how this one goes. So far, it’s been really fun.”
Right now, Emmons is focusing on holiday retail preparations. “We’re pulling together displays showing gift set ideas and making the space more gift-friendly.”
He’ll also be adding new local items specifically for the holidays, such as Charles Chocolates.
Have you had a chance to visit San Francisco Mercantile yet? What do you think?