A San Francisco Snapshot: Exploring Retail by the Bay

By June 16, 2017Postcard
San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

Home to some of the world’s best technology startups, the famous Fisherman’s Wharf, Painted Ladies, Cable Cars and the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco has something for just about everyone—not to mention some of the industry’s hottest emerging brands and established retailers.

On our recent travels through the city we had an opportunity to explore Union Square, Fillmore Street, Hayes Valley, and the Mission District; each neighborhood uniquely distinct.


Located in downtown San Francisco this space is notorious for some of retail’s best big name brands with some seriously impressive flagship stores. Known as a transportation hub, this area is legendary for making it easy for anyone to get around.


Apple definitely lived up to its reputation with its San Francisco flagship. Debuted mid last year, the space represents the brand’s latest model of innovative store design. An indoor/outdoor feel on the second floor compliments the overall open floor aesthetic. 42 square feet of sliding glass doors spanning two floors lets in natural light to shine down upon the live green trees stretching towards the sky. A 6K ultra high definition video wall on the second floor anchors the gathering space, and creates a place for community educators, teachers, musicians, and more.


Nike is well known for its impressive store design, but this 50,000 sq. ft. store was especially well considered. A two-story installation comprised of more than 600 reclaimed bleachers juts out over the escalator creating a dramatic entry point for the store experience. Each of the 6-floors has a well-defined aesthetic incorporating the elements of the sports that they represent, like gymnasium flooring in the basketball area and a painted football wall feature in the NFL area. Most impressive might be the oversized marionette-like Michael Jordan hanging overhead. Comprised of single Nike brand elements, its only when you’re looking straight on that you see the pieces seamlessly come together.


In the heart of San Francisco, Fillmore Street is known for its cultural and ethnic diversity, complete with charming one-of-kind shops.


Named after the rotational speed of a classic 7-inch vinyl record, Japanese clothing and accessories brand 45R brings a bit of unassuming craftsmanship to Fillmore Street. The 1,200 sq. ft. boutique was filled with artisanal productions of garments all dyed, woven, or spun by hand. Heavy wood elements complimented simplicity of the delicate designs, while an overhead skylight created a naturally soft energy.

Rebecca Minkoff

With smart mirrors and self-checkout, the women’s luxury handbag and apparel brand Rebecca Minkoff has certainly caused a stir in the retail industry in terms of innovation, and one of the first brands to the forefront of futuristic store design.

The fitting room mirror technology (powered by eBay) is probably the most notable element of the design. RFID tags recognize each item brought into the dressing room, where shoppers can then pull up product information like size and color, as well as see the item styled much like you would online.

Ministry of Supply

Founded by four MIT students in 2012 and funded by a Kickstarter campaign, this boutique-clothing brand is known for its use of innovative materials and thoughtful construction. A mannequin donning a space suit prominently positioned at the entry cues customers as to the advanced materials and high-tech fashion the brand represents.


With somewhat undefined boundaries, Hayes Valley is found between the historical districts of Webster and Franklin, where shoppers will find mostly independent shops with a few big brands in between. The redeveloped area is a haven for haute couture.


High-end outerwear brand Aether launched its first brick and mortar shop in Hayes Valley, where they were one of the first brands to employ shipping containers in store design. The three-story vertically advanced space utilizes a conveyor like system to access product and create a connection point between customers and associates and separate floors.

Warby Parker

Eyewear brand Warby Parker is practically at home in Silicon Valley. The 2,000 plus sq. ft. space was sought out after the brand’s month long “Class Trip” tour through the area seemed like an ideal market. With color-blocked props, the space evokes the brand’s signature literary design theme with library-like bookcases, books, periodicals, and seating designated for reading. The service area for try-ons and product pickups is even referred to as the “Reference Desk.”

Will Leather Goods

Oregon based Will Leather Goods brings out the craftsmanship behind the brand in this 2,000 square foot retail experience. Live edge wood shelving and tables, vintage props, canoe lighting elements, wool floor rugs, and a leather wrapped cash wrap all create a rustic, Native American inspired character for the space. An espresso bar and outdoor patio encourages shoppers to hang out for a bit and relax.


Known for a rich food, art, and music scene, Mission is home to some uber indie shops with a slightly younger crowd.


Unconventional and quirky is how most might describe clothing retailer Betabrand, so by no surprise the store was a little bizarre as well. While products were being ideated and manufactured in the back of the space, shoppers could step up to the green screen machine and get their photo taken with the prop of the week. Definitely an unorthodox retail environment, but definitely memorable.


This store is all about the dressing room. Customers can set up their dressing room using touch screens to look through the product offer or select garments on the floor and then tell a sales associate their size. The idea is that you never have to carry around your items. Once you find your way to the dressing room you open up the wardrobe and all of the items are there! While you’re trying on, if you want a different size you use the touchscreen in the room close the wardrobe and the next time you open it, your item will magically appear!


Made to order is a commonality in the fast food world, but not as much when it comes to ice cream. With a high-tech mixer and liquid nitrogen, Smitten has mastered the art of single batch ice cream made to order with seasonal and local fresh ingredients, all in just 90 seconds. The little 320 square foot space churns out its fair share of ice cream serving nearly 20,000 mouths during summer months.


Greek fast casual restaurant brand Soulva is slowly building an empire in the Bay Area. Established in iconic areas of the city, the aesthetic feels welcoming to the neighborhood with high ceilings, natural light, wood flooring, neutral pallet and copper accents. Simple greenery and black and white photography evoke a friendly feel while deliberate intention.

Want to see more hidden gems and exclusive finds in some of our favorite cities? Check out our Taste of Nashville or explore Atlanta’s mixed-use mecca Ponce City Market.