The Mason Jar, Union Street, San Francisco (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

A century before independent retailers moved in, San Francisco’s Union Street began as an unpaved path cutting across the young city when dairy cows were the main inhabitants. Post-Gold Rush 19th century elegance is seen in this Cow Hollow enclave of distinctive Victorian architecture. Reflect on days gone by as you rest shopping-weary feet at a sidewalk table at the 44-year-old Perry’s. Or, go for a drink and dinner at the latest, a tropical-themed Palm House, newly opened in a 1854 dairy farm house; you can’t miss the giant palm tree out front. Here we take a look at independent Union Street shops: what’s born of a vision, what’s recycled, what’s organic, what’s handmade and even what’s sexy.

The Mason Jar
2149 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 638-6964

“Good things inside,” says the inscription on the front window of this irresistible shop filled with light, the aroma of scented candles and eclectic home décor. A curated collection of home-sweet-home bits and pieces chosen by Hope and Pete Collling include items they’ve made themselves. Hope’s Wildflower Collection of Bengali kantha quilted pillows, plus painted picture frames, tea cups and a vintage typewriter, are displayed on beautiful salvaged wood bookshelves custom crafted by Pete for Colling Design + Build. Within months of opening, the shop was named by stylists of Better Homes and Gardens as one of their San Francisco inspirations. Ask about the next DIY workshops.

Marmalade (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

1843 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 400-4027

Hope Schaffer-Colling’s vision for doing home interiors at The Mason Jar came when customers at this pretty dress shop started buying the owners’ own display accessories and furniture along with the fashion. Expect trendy, friendly and affordable all in one at this freshly scented, warm yellow space. Summery sun dresses, weekend wear, cute tops, casual work clothes, versatile cardigans and one-of-a-kind finds are stylishly displayed. Exceptionally reasonable price tags, often under $100, are attached to items that are hand-picked and sourced by owner/buyer/stylist Hope during her travels. Lots of Marmaladies consider this the best women’s boutique in town and love getting invitations to the creative DIY sessions.

Simply Chic (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

Simply Chic
3038 Fillmore St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 775-2888

Chanel everything, anybody? The pink awning just off Union Street is an absolute magnet for lovers of consignment collectibles from top designers, especially luxury handbags, from Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Dior and other big names. Only the price tags at a fraction of the items’ original cost give the pre-owned fact secret away. Because the apparel, shoes, jewelry and accessories are in tip-top condition and so stylishly displayed, owner May Warren and her staff are accustomed to hearing the number one question from those stepping into the shop for the first time: “Is this a consignment store?” Shop an outstanding collection of vintage designer sunglasses and Hermés scarves, too.

Owner Serene Martinez, Pink Bunny (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

Pink Bunny
1772 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 441-7399

Owner Serene Martinez spent a decade in the industry before venturing into her own business, determined to bring happy and healthy, chemical-free, quality intimate products to her clients. In a pretty, well-presented shop, she sells quality lines of lingerie, too. Find Cosabella as well as a rainbow of $12 house fannies that look sexy but can withstand machine washing and drying. Martinez proudly displays two consecutive ‘Best of the Bay’ awards from Bay Guardian, since readers clearly agree that her lingerie is “beautiful, unique and just a bit irreverent.” Plus, the warm, welcoming customer service is both confidential and impeccable.

Co-owner Dean Ramadan, BeGood Clothing (credit: Laurie Jo Miller Farr)

BeGood Clothing
2127 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 829-2289

You can certainly relax about looking good in an organic Powell tee or Fillmore blouse while keeping your carbon footprint to a minimum. Shop here for sustainably made men’s and women’s apparel named after San Francisco streets. Or, shop 60 other brands that co-owner Dean Ramadan describes as, “eco-friendly, yet fashionable.” Taking that local message global, every sale means a contribution to Dispensers for Safe Water in Kenya and Uganda through BeGood’s partnership with Evidence Action. The spacious and attractive store interiors are constructed from repurposed materials and you’re assured of a planet-friendly production cycle that won’t cost you extra. It’s a clear win-win.

Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she’s writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on