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Union Square: San Francisco's Downtown Shopping District

by Beverly Dubrin

When San Franciscans say they are going shopping "downtown," they mean that they are going to the shops on and near Union Square. Although most San Francisco neighborhoods have their own shopping districts, some of them quite extensive, there is nothing like shopping "downtown."

Officially, Union Square is a square-block palm-tree-lined park bordered by Post, Stockton, Geary, and Powell Streets. The Square dates back to the 1860s when it was the site of pro-Union Civil War demonstrations. The granite column in the center of the Square commemorates Admiral Dewey's Spanish-American War victory at Manila Bay. A bit of local history is seen in the face of the bronze Victory statue atop this column; it was modeled after Mrs. Adolph de Bretteville Spreckels, a San Francisco benefactress.

Beneath Union Square is a four-level parking garage, the first underground garage in the United States. It was designed by Timothy Pfleuger (also the architect of the Macy's building at Geary and Stockton) and built in 1942.

Before the 1906 earthquake and fire, Maiden Lane, an elegant two-block pedestrian street east of Stockton Street, was called Morton Street and was lined with bordellos. Today, it is lined with fine shops, including Christofle and Chanel. The Circle Gallery at 140 Maiden Lane is San Francisco's only Frank Lloyd Wright building.

Union Square is colorful. Fresh flower stands dot the sidewalks. Cable Cars run by along Powell Street. Crafts people sell their wares curbside on Stockton Street between Post and Sutter. Shop windows tempt passers-by with their colorful displays.

Catch a bird's eye view of Union Square from the open elevator in the St. Francis Hotel on Powell Street or head one block north to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel at Stockton and Sutter for a cocktail with a view at Harry Denton's Starlight Room.

Take your chance on last-minute theater tickets at STBS inside the Stockton Street garage where same-day tickets are sold at half price; most San Francisco theaters are just a block or two away.

The Union Square shopping district spreads out a few blocks in all directions from the park. The big anchor stores on Union Square are Macy's, Neiman-Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue. A few blocks to the South is the San Francisco Centre which is anchored by Nordstrom and houses close to 100 smaller stores. Newcomers to the Square include the Disney Store, Borders Books, and Virgin Megastore.

Beverly Dubrin's Favorite Union Square Shops

Argonaut Book Shop
786 Sutter Street
(415) 474-9067

Rare and out-of-print books, prints, maps, and manuscripts, especially pertaining to early California.

The Brick Row Book Shop
278 Post Street, Room 303
(415) 398-0414

Antiquarian and rare books with an emphasis on first-edition eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English and American literature.

Borders Books and Music
Powell & Post Streets
(415) 399-1633

A book megastore that also features recorded music, videos, and computer software.

Cafe de la Presse
352 Grant Avenue

European newspapers, magazines, and guidebooks and a typical French cafe.

Harold's International Newsstand
454 Geary Street
(415) 441-2665

The City's best selection of out-of-town newspapers.

Virgin Megastore
Corner of Sutter and Market Streets
(415) 397-4521

A music megastore with a delightful cafe on the third floor, overlooking Market Street.

The Candy Jar
210 Grant Avenue
(415) 391-5508

Chocolate truffles are the specialty. Scoop your own selection of wrapped candies.

Ghiradelli Chocolate
44 Stockton Street
(415) 397-3651

Made-in-San-Francisco chocolates, a tradition since 1852.

Stockton & O'Farrell Streets
(415) 397-3333

The biggest store on Union Square, with entrances on Geary, Stockton, and O'Farrell Streets. Very complete clothing, home, and electronic selections. The Cellar, a food emporium with informal restaurants, prepared food to take out, bake shops (Tom's Cookies, Boudin Bakery, and Noah's Bagels), and chocolatiers (Godiva, Joseph Schmidt, and Neuhaus) occupies much of the basement.

Saks Fifth Avenue
384 Post Street
(415) 986-4300

The only Northern California branch of this upscale New York store.

150 Stockton Street
(415) 362-3900

San Francisco's version of the famous Texas store.

San Francisco Centre, 865 Market Street
(415) 243-8500

Clothing, accessories, and gifts for men, women, and children. The only major store with a full-service spa.

Diana Slavin Womenswear
3 Claude Lane
(415) 677-9939

The showplace and retail outlet for this San Francisco designer.

200 Stockton Street
(415) 392-2808

The place to stock up on Gucci-logoed clothing and accessories.

212 Stockton Street
(415) 391- 7200

The famous Hermes silk scarves and other classic accessories.

400 Sutter Street
(415) 434-3888

Status clothing for skiing, tennis, and golf plus upscale sportswear for men and women.

Joan Vass
359 Sutter Street
(415) 433-7913

Distinctive color-coordinated knit separates for women.

Arthur Beren Shoes
222 Stockton Street
(415) 397-8900

Shoes: Ferragamo, Arche, Mephisto and more for women and men.

Betsey Johnson's Clothing
160 Geary Street
(415) 398-2516

Women's clothing with the spirit of the 1960s.

Eddie Bauer
San Francisco Center
845 Market St 311
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 343-0146
Clothing and equipment for the outdoors person.

Botegga Veneta
120 Geary Street
(415) 981-1700

Beautiful, and expensive, Italian leather luggage, accessories, and shoes.

Chanel Boutique
155 Maiden Lane
(415) 981-1550

Stylish classic women's clothes and shoes from France.

Brooks Brothers
201 Post Street
(415) 397-4500

The Ivy League look lives on in this clothing for men and women.

Burberry's Limited
225 Post Street
(415) 392-2200

Burberry trench coats, umbrellas, scarves, and more.

California Gentleman
450 Post Street
(415) 781-8989

Custom shirts for men and women.

Emporio Armani
1 Grant Avenue
(415) 677-9400

Mini-boutiques within a boutique, each devoted to a different collection from the Giorgio Armani line of clothing.

222 Sutter Street
(415) 982-3215

First-quality designer clothing for women at discount prices. This is Loehmann's first locations in a downtown area.

5 Claude Lane (men's), (415) 837-0615
812 Post (women's), (415) 775-2515

MAC is an acronym for "Modern Appealing Clothing." Both shops feature trendy, unique designs.

North Beach Leather
190 Geary Street
(415) 362-8300

High-style leather coats, jackets, dresses, pants, and boots.

794 Sutter Street
(415) 775-2882

Art as clothing. More than 100 designers and milliners are represented.

Wilkes Bashford
375 Sutter Street
(415) 986-4380

Clothing for the fashionable man or woman. Many European labels.

146 Geary Street
(415) 392-2910

The ultimate fabric store with fabric stacked floor to ceiling. Also, every notion imaginable.

The Disney Store
Post & Powell Streets
(415) 391-6168

A lively store with everything Disney...mugs, plates, videos, hats, clothes.

135 Post Street
(415) 982-1616

A San Francisco tradition for special gifts, now in a new location with Buddha reigning over the first floor.

Pierre Deux
120 Maiden Lane
(415) 296-9940

A French country store specializing in Provencal prints.

Tiffany & Co.
350 Post Street
(415) 781-7000

Gifts and jewelry, extravagant or modest, all wrapped in the signature pale blue box tied with a white ribbon.

Crate & Barrel
125 Grant Avenue
(415) 986-4000

Moderately-priced contemporary basics for the home.

Pavilion Christofle
140 Grant Avenue at Maiden Lane
(415) 399 -1931

From France, silver flatware, jewelry, and decorative pieces.

340 Post Street
(415) 362-6904

The store behind the popular kitchenware catalog. Everything for the kitchen and the table.

231 Post Street
(415) 397-3180

Jewelry and watches from Paris.

Lang Antiques and Estate Jewelry
323 Sutter Street
(415) 982-2213

"San Francisco's largest collection."

La Parisienne
460 Post Street
(415) 788-2255

Costume jewelry and gifts from Paris in a delightful French shop.

Write With Style
865 Market Street
(415) 977-0759
Brand name pens, corporate gifts, leather goods, etc.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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