Holiday Shopping: Miracle on Polk Street
San Francisco rarely teems with the Christmas spirit. There are no big parades, those city-sponsored snowflakes hardly dent the bustle and grime on Market Street, and the rain doesn't exactly scream winter wonderland -- no one dreams about a wet Christmas.
This lack of merrymaking was evident over the weekend. A stroll up Market Street past Old Navy and the Cable Car turnaround revealed precious few Santa hats, and the street vendors largely carried the same knick-knacks found in August. The expansive craft fair SF Bazaar (formerly Bazaar Bizarre) didn't have a single holiday-themed booth. Sweaters and scarves don't count -- in San Francisco, they're not even seasonal.
It was beginning to look a lot like unemployment for a writer tasked with finding holiday-themed shopping tips. Terrasol Boutique's Christmas Shoppe saved the day. It was like finding a steamy cup of hot chocolate in an otherwise bland refrigerator.
It's a role the owners are happy to fill.
"For me, it's like a two month Christmas party, and the thing is, in here, we don't get any grumpsters," said Stephen Trimble, who co-owns Terrasol with his husband, Alberto Rojas.
The couple have owned the store for 10 years, and live in San Francisco near Union Square. Terrasol operates as a seasonal boutique, so they go all out for holidays. There is a Halloween boutique and a Valentine's Day version in addition to the Christmas Shoppe. The store first opened on Larkin St. and moved to its current location on Polk five years ago.
Trimble confirmed that San Francisco's Christmas spirit isn't quite what it used to be, but he thinks it's making a comeback.
"When I first moved here, Saks Fifth Avenue and everybody decorated their windows, and now it's just merchandise," he said. But this year, "As soon as Halloween went down people were asking about Christmas."
If any of those people come back for the Christmas Shoppe, they won't be disappointed. The store is decorated marvelously, compact without feeling crowded. It features a wide assortment of Santas, stockings, candles, decorative trees, soaps, shampoos, Christmas cards and tree ornaments. The ornament choices alone could fill an article: there are snowmen, wagons, elves, dogs, fire hydrants, robots, aliens, and a Santa Claus dressed as Superman, among others.
The gifts range widely in price, but there is something appropriate for all income levels. Ornament prices start as low as $3.
"Santa requires that," Trimble said.
Terrasol also strives to stock gifts that are unique and hard to find. Several of the offerings are made by local artists. These include table-top pieces by Bethany Lowe, and illuminated houses from designer Cody Foster. But because of the handcrafted and seasonal nature of the items, they don't order more than necessary. Trimble warned that by Christmas Eve, there wouldn't be much left, and said they were already running low on penguins.
So don't expect a Walgreens-style post Christmas blowout.
"At seven o' clock on Christmas Eve we close, and when we reopen, we'll be Valentine's Day," Trimble said. "In January, we'll be vacuuming the glitter off the floor."