20 years ago, Fog City News opened as a newsstand, just a few blocks from the Embarcadero. These days, the 920-square-foot shop at 455 Market St. still carries an exceptional selection of international magazines and greeting cards, but the store is better known for its chocololate selection: The store currently carries a selection of six Bay-Area based chocolate producers and 450 different chocolate items, many of them from international small-batch makers.
"No way we would still be here if we would only be a newsstand," owner Adam Smith said. He compares the popularity of high-quality chocolate to the micro-brewery movement for beer.
Smith said his customers, who he often knows by name, like the atmosphere of the store, and that they get a detailed answer when any questions arise. He said it takes significant effort to train a knowledgeable workforce. "I warn my employees that they will attend chocolate university once they are hired," he said, laughing. He said it takes about six months to train new employees.
Smith, who moved to San Francisco in 1994 from the east coast, currently lives in Polk Gulch and drives to work with his Vespa. "My personality fits the store," he said.
He believes that Fog City News provides an escape from the busy Financial District. Some customers even call it an "oasis of sanity," Smith said.
When he found the space 20 years ago, it was most recently occupied by Fidelity Investments. Smith added custom furniture by San Francisco-based Duncan Woodwork, and later added shelving to allow for more chocolate and greeting cards. "I wanted the store to have an old-fashioned atmosphere," he said.
Smith tells Hoodline that he carries more than 1200 different magazines, with topics ranging across art and photography, business, crafting, food and beverage, and interior design and architecture. Additionally, the store carries more than 1000 different greeting cards, growing from a selection of just 120 in 1999. Smith explains that his "naughty birthday cards", "sassy wedding cards" or the selection of "sassy newborn cards" add some humor, and are quite popular.
Smith says most of his customers work in the Financial District, while some come from other parts of the Bay Area, and a small percentage are also tourists who just walked by. When asked how the neighborhood has changed, Smith says that the level of congestion on Market has increased since Uber and Lyft came. "Traffic didn't use to be this way,", adding that he believes a mostly car-free Market Street will be great.
Smith will host a 20-year anniversary celebration at the store this Friday and Saturday, with an in-store appearance by Michael Mischer of Michael Mischer Chocolates on Friday from 12:30 to 2 p.m. There will also be a drawing for various prizes, as well as anniversary shirts.
Fog City News is open from Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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