Years ago, when we were buying a house, the realtor showed us one in Forest Knolls. In pointing out its advantages, she was careful to show us West Portal Village, the little shopping street only 2 miles away. It is indeed quite delightful, and here are some of the shops I visit. (I haven’t included restaurants, even though it’s one of my favorite places to eat out. But that’s a story in itself, and I’ll tackle it another day.)
This is the first installment on West Portal… there will be more. Meanwhile, a public service announcement on behalf of the merchants there: They’re suffering a 20% drop in business because of the SF MTA work going on at St Francis Circle. If you have the need and inclination, remember they’re open. (And parking is less of a problem.)
So for now:
This space, maybe because it’s so attractive, seems always to have interesting stores in it. Years ago, there was a toy-store that seemed a little magical and always had unusual things in addition to balls and dolls and bears. (There are still toy stores in West Portal, just not here. I’ll post about them in the next installment.) Then there was a cool home-furnishings place. And now, there’s a pleasant independent book store that pulls at me like a magnet… nice display, friendly staff, and a nice range of author events and readings make this a winner.
Papenhausen Hardware is cool, even more than the big-box stores down the peninsula. It’s got an easily accessible range of products, and you don’t have to track down a staffer to get questions answered… anyone at the counter will happily help you. In summer, they have pretty displays of plants outside, and in winter, really clever, often funny window displays.
It’s a little bit of Europe in West Portal. Foreign newspapers and magazines. Candy from England (less special after Cadbury got acquired, but still… ) Cool stuff in general. I’m rooting for this store to find its audience and regular fans; it’s quite new.
Despite the competition from the big new multiplex just over the border in Daly City, this theater is hanging on. I love having a place where I can make impulse decisions to watch a movie, just because I’m in West Portal and I have a couple of hours to spare…
I don’t go into Simi’s very often, but I window-shop the well-displayed bling in there each time I’m in West Portal. Everything looks unusual and different, and just a little bit over the top. In a good way.
Years ago, we used to call this store Eezy Freezy Somewhat Sleazy. It sold cheap liquor, lottery tickets, and the kind of thing you buy at gas stations. (And It’s Its, which made up for everything.) Anyway, with different management and a makeover, it’s a nice well-lit store with organic products and foreign newspapers, and a good range of groceries as well as some unusual products.
This is a convenient grocery store, for when you don’t need enough stuff to justify a trip to Cosco or Safeway or Lucky. It’s so much easier to shop here or at Eezy Freezy. They’re both open pretty late, past 10 p.m.
Edited to Add:
And how could I forget: Goodwill. It’s not just a Goodwill, it’s a Goodwill Boutique. It sometimes carries new clothes, sent in by retailers at the end of the season, or interesting glass-ware including cut-crystal, or brand-name porcelain (I saw Lenox candlesticks), or weathered real-leather bags… visiting it is always a treasure hunt.
If you’d like to share which your favorites are, and why, leave a comment. Or email me at email@example.com