By Janice Bressler
What began as a surf film back in 2001 has grown into an award-winning company, a catalyst for collaborations and a destination hang-out for both locals and visitors to the City. The San Franpsycho success story was born on the waves of Ocean Beach among a tight-knit community of surfers and has grown into what is now a thriving Sunset-based business, a clothing shop and lifestyle brand and a hub of community energy with good vibes.
The story behind San Franpsycho’s origins and success is as singular and authentically San Franciscan as the brand itself.
“Every business is unique, but I think that we’ve developed very organically, by following what’s interesting and by listening to our community. All along the way, we’ve worked with and we’ve worked for the community,” said San Franpsycho owner and CEO, Christian Routzen.
In 2001, while Routzen was finishing up his studies as a film student at San Francisco State University, he was part of a crew of dedicated Ocean Beach surfers, many of whom “spent more time in the water than out of it,” he said.
Routzen combined his passions for surfing and filmmaking into a film about the local surf scene for his senior thesis. Once it was done, the film needed a name.
“A lot of ideas were tossed around, but San Franpsycho seemed to really fit and it stuck. People loved the film and they loved the name,” Routzen said.
Soon friends and fans of the film were asking for a San Franpsycho T-shirt.
“In some ways,” Routzen reflected, “we had the brand first. And the ideas for what we would do with it followed and sort of grew.”
Routzen and a partner, who has since left the company, learned the process of silk screening under the mentorship of Rick Nyhagen, a local artist who remains a collaborator.
“In the early days we used cheap wooden screens and a hand dryer to print T-shirts at bars and parties and festivals,” remembered Routzen.
As they refined their craft, they built a following and were able to upgrade their printing equipment. After operating out of a van for a while, San Franpsycho established its first brick and mortar shop on Divisadero Street. In 2016, Routzen moved its flagship store to its current location, 1248 Ninth Ave., between Lincoln Way and Irving Street.
“Since day one, we’ve always collaborated with local artists, featuring their designs and work. We’re always looking to find ways to forge partnerships with other local businesses,” Routzen said.
The collaborative spirit that drives Routzen comes out in almost everything that San Franpsycho does, from the clothing it sells to the way it uses its retail space and the events it sponsors. The designs that appear on the brand’s T-shirts, hats, backpacks and other apparel are the work of local artists. All of the printing of those designs is done in the Ninth Avenue store. The workshop and printing equipment sits in an open space behind the register. Anyone interested in seeing exactly how a San Franpsycho creation is printed just needs to ask and a viewing can be arranged.
The newest addition to the main San Franpsycho store is a savory pie counter tucked into the front corner of the shop. It is run by Pye, a local company owned and operated by two brothers, Caleb and Cody MacCready. Each pie is a freshly baked, hand-held meal, with fillings that range from traditional ground beef to Indian-spiced chicken to vegetarian, all made with organic, locally sourced ingredients.
As he served a piping-hot pie to a customer, Pye co-owner Caleb MacCready explained how Pye had come to the Inner Sunset.
“I met Christian at a music festival last year where Pye had a booth. He tasted one of our pies and came up to me and said ‘These are incredible. How’d you like to sell them in my store?’ And here we are. That’s really, really Christian, he’s very community-minded. He was like . . . ‘Come on in!’”
The shop also serves regularly as an event space for local musicians and performers.
“We want to showcase local talent in any way that we can,” Routzen said.
On a recent sunny Saturday a lively crowd packed the open garden area behind the Ninth Avenue store for a gathering billed as “Comedy Psychos,” an afternoon of live music and stand-up comedy.
The drinks offered to Comedy Psycho event goers included a San Franpsycho IPA – a specialty beer brewed by Anchor Brewing Company and bearing the San Franpsycho logo on the label. The result of yet another San Franpsycho collaboration, the IPA was introduced last spring and was so popular that it is making a comeback this season.
“Anchor shares a lot of the same values as San Franpsycho in the way they create and craft. We support common communities and we’re both established in this fine city and that means everything to us,” Routzen said.
San Franpsycho’s newest retail expansion is a pop-up store in the San Francisco International Airport. Although it is a relatively new project, the location has already gained national attention by being named one of the 10 best airport shops for local merchandise in the country by USA Today in its 2019 Readers’ Choice travel award contest.
“Our little SFO store is fairly new in relation to the others that were in the competition, so it’s a huge honor to be recognized,” Routzen said.
The next Comedy Psycho live music/comedy event at the Ninth Avenue San Franpsycho store is scheduled to kick-off, rain or shine, on Saturday, May 4, at 2 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.sanfranpsycho.com.