Last year you waited until you heard Santa’s sleigh bells ringing overhead before you started your Christmas shopping. You ended up at the corner store purchasing smokes and PBR for your friends and loved ones. You felt about as festive as warm champagne in a can.
The fact that you’re a procrastinator doesn’t mean you can’t round up some rockin’ gifts in time to scoot them under the tree. We made the rounds and found some easily accessible shops for you to hit up. Follow our lead for 11th-hour shopping, and you’ll have gifts galore without the headaches. Most of these places are open extra hours this week and are definitely open on Christmas Eve. For you real snowflakes, a few will be open even on Christmas. Careful though: some places close when the flow of shopping traffic peters out.
This recently opened, perfect postespresso stop is in the heart of North Beach. Buy a beret for your bongo-playing poet friend or a “Fuck Hate” Charles Bukowski poster for your dearest misanthrope. And where else are you going to find limited edition signed posters by the Grateful Dead and Fillmore poster artist Stanley Mouse?
540 Broadway, SF. Wed.–Sat., 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Christmas, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. (415) 399-9626, www.kerouac.com
BUENA VISTA GIFT SHOP
Make your cable car destination the Buena Vista, a bar and grill by the bay. Here you can sip the famous Irish coffees, then head into the gift shop, which sells Irish coffee–<\d>scented candles. Toss in a bottle of Buena Vista whiskey for a more intoxicating package.
2765 Hyde, SF. Wed.–Sat., 9 a.m.–8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 474-5044, www.thebuenavista.com/giftshop
The Castro’s hardware store isn’t just a place to buy nuts and bolts. At Cliff’s you can get everything from quality cookware and napkin rings to board games and mittens. But if someone in your life is really hankering for a power drill, you’ll find a good one here.
479 Castro, SF. Wed.–Sat., 9:30 a.m.–8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 431-5365; www.cliffsvariety.com
Also known as “the gourmet pharmacy,” Elephant has fancy items you won’t find at Walgreens. For the powder room denizen, grab a spa kit filled with naturally scented candles, soap bars, and body butter in blood orange or Tahitian gardenia fragrances. Your ecoconscious associates will appreciate sustainably grown kitchen products such as the bamboo cutting boards and salad bowls. Creative teens will be wowed by the pinhole camera kit.
1607 Shattuck, Berk. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 8:30 a.m.–<\d>11 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 9 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m.; Christmas, 8:30 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m. (510) 549-9200, www.elephantpharmacy.com
Probably the coolest shop in the Mission District, Fabric8 specializes in unusual gifts made and designed by local artists. Jenn Porreca has stick-on iPod skins and small, reasonably priced paintings for sale. C. Lee Sobieski designed a washable matching dog collar and owner wrist cuff with a cute skull-and-heart motif. And DJ Romanowski’s wall of knickknacks has something for everyone.
3318 22nd St., SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 11 a.m.–<\d>11 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Christmas, 11 a.m.–<\d>2 p.m. (415) 647-5888, www.fabric8.com
Embracing the moderne can be quite an expensive proposition at this posh Hayes Valley housewares shop, but you can most likely afford to buy your mate some good cheer in the form of the “The Good Book,” which is actually just a hollow cover for a flask.
401 Hayes, SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 11 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Christmas Eve, noon–<\d>5 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 552-1717, www.friend-sf.com
You’ll find just about anything under the exposed beams of this Bernal Heights store: picture frames, stationery, organic cotton baby jumpers, candles, and something we would all like to wipe our asses with — toilet paper printed with George W. Bush’s face and quotable remarks.
436 Cortland, SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 10 a.m.–<\d>10 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>5 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 648-1380, www.heartfeltsf.com
You’ll have an easier time getting gifts for kids at this well-stocked downtown toy store than fighting the crowds at the not-so-near big box. Stimulate the developing brains of youth by getting Lego sets and human anatomy puzzles here. The tarot jigsaw provides some alternative spiritual guidance to Christianity, and the porcelain unicorns are just plain cute.
685 Market, SF. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 9 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m. (or earlier, depending on business); Christmas, 10 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m. (415) 243-8697
You’ll please collectors big and small with limited edition toys from this hipster enclave in the Haight. Little anime items such as Munny zipper pulls, a paperweight-size pile of poo known as Superduex Shikito Brown, and figurines of the band Gorillaz will all be worth a fortune some day.
1512 Haight, SF. Wed.–<\d>Fri., 11 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 11 a.m.–<\d>3 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 487-9000, www.kidrobot.com
NATHAN AND CO.
This petite and stylish shop on Piedmont Avenue has gifts for the ankle biter in your life, whether it be a friend’s dog or your sister’s teething toddler. You can also find gifts for grown-ups, such as the Hostess Twinkie Cookbook and sets of self-adhesive mustaches. The handmade bike-messenger bags made with vinylized pages of the New York and Los Angeles Times are a real find.
3820 Piedmont, Oakl. Wed.–<\d>Sat., 10:30 a.m.–<\d>8 or 9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10:30 a.m.–<\d>8 or 9 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (510) 428-9638
You can’t beat the hours at this emporium of gifts in Chinatown. Many of the store’s bagatelles come in beautiful silks: totes and wallets, lanterns and pillows, kimonos for him and her. It also specializes in iron tea sets and houses a large jewelry section.
826-832 Grant, SF. Open Wed.–<\d>Mon., 10 a.m.–<\d>10 p.m. (415) 982-9847, www.pekingbazaar.com
Keep the people you’re closest to smelling good. This West Portal store has one of the best soap and bath product selections in town.
44 W. Portal, SF. Wed.–<\d>Thurs., 9 a.m.–<\d>8 or 9 p.m.; Fri.–<\d>Sat., 9 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 9 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 759-7487 www.plainjanesgifts.com
After visiting the sea lions and taking a spin on the carousel, you can get a gift that doesn’t say “I Went to Pier 39 on Christmas Eve and All I Got You Was This Lousy Alcatraz T-shirt.” Poster Source has movie posters, scenic shots, fine art and photography prints, and sports cars pics to accommodate everyone’s decorative tastes.
Pier 39, SF. Wed.–<\d>Thurs., 10 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Fri.–<\d>Sat., 10 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>6 p.m.; Christmas, call for hours. (415) 433-1995
The Mission District retailer has cozy sweaters, handsome leather-band watches, and purses in a variety of shapes, sizes, and prices. For that special headbanger in your life, pick up the Metallica book Nothing Else Matters: The Stories behind the Songs.
541 Valencia, SF. Wed.–<\d>Thurs., 11 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Fri.–<\d>Sat., 10 a.m.–<\d>10:30 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>9:30 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 861-6213
One way to really take the edge off Christmas shopping is to have a drink first. Enjoy a pour at the Ferry Building’s Wine Merchant, then point yourself directly toward the “Great Wines for under $20” section. You’ll find everything from fussy California pinot noirs to fruity Belgian and German whites. Spending more than $150 entitles you to free delivery.
Ferry Bldg., stall 23, Embarcadero and Market, SF. Wed., 10 a.m.–<\d>8 p.m.; Thurs.–<\d>Fri., 10 a.m.–<\d>9 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.–<\d> 9 p.m.; Christmas Eve, 10 a.m.–<\d>7 p.m.; Christmas, closed. (415) 391-9460, www.fpwm.com<\!s>
Hayley Elisabeth Kaufman and Laura McCaul did research for this story.