By: Joseph Schell, Designed by Kat Tourtelot
This story is brought to you by the great people over at the Bold Italic. The Bold Italic is an online magazine, shop, and events hub in San Francisco. We celebrate the free-wheeling spirit of the city.
As one of the most densely populated places in the world, San Francisco is also home to some of the most crowded commercial spaces. Throughout the city you’ll find shops owned by collectors turned entrepreneurs who have made it their specialty to dig up rare treasures for their quirky patrons. I visited a small number of these curiosity shops and found a range of odds and ends, including obsolete cameras, bizarre taxidermy, mountains of kitchenware, and more African artwork than you can imagine.
Glass Key Photo
448 Haight St.
When I asked Matt Osborne about his inspiration for opening Glass Key Photo, he recalled his days working at Rooky Ricardo’s, the record store this little camera shop is located in. Vinyl collectors would come in with vintage cameras so often that he decided to start selling film. Matt now offers a vast array of cameras, paper, lenses, and darkroom supplies, and his customers include students, film novices, camera collectors, and equipment junkies from around the world.
339 Divisadero St.
Judith Kaminsky told me she started her three-decade-old shop, Cookin’, when she realized her personal collection of kitchen items from consignment shops and flea markets were a sought-after commodity. Currently on her wish list is a mechanical metal cutter from Holland that makes heart-shaped bread slices. Her regulars are a mix of food academics, dedicated culinary students, casual foodies, bloggers, and cookbook stylists.
The African Outlet
524 Octavia St.
I don’t consider myself a big person. But I could hardly move around in The African Outlet without ducking and weaving my way through masks, trinkets, and statues. Horgan Edet and Judah Dwyer moved the shop to its present Hayes Valley location in 1994, and they’re especially proud of their Wodaabe bead and embroidery work, Tuareg leather and silver pieces, amulets from all over Africa, and masks from Mali and Liberia.
Loved to Death
1681 Haight St.
Audra Kunkle’s shop, Loved To Death, was basically spawned from her “love of the macabre.” Her clientele runs the gamut from 7-year-old boys looking to stock their curiosity cabinets to “hardcore medical antiquity device collectors,” who apparently aren’t above stalking the shop. I spy a two-headed pigeon and am surprised to learn it isn’t the strangest item on the shelf. Wandering the store’s floors, I also stumble upon a rat preserved in a formaldehyde-filled jar, a baby’s coffin, and a necklace with a human molar as its centerpiece. The shop and staff are the stars of the Oddities San Francisco show on the Science Channel.
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