Business

The Last Straw Still Going Strong at 44

By Paolo Bicchieri

In a city infamous for soaring rent prices and sometimes problematic infrastructure, one business owner has found complete peace. Her name is Marjorie “Marge” Heard, and she found that stillness in the Outer Sunset. The Last Straw, her tiny gift shop on Irving Street, so far out it is nearly on the sand, doubles as her home.

“I’ve got a very kind landlady,” Heard said. 

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Marge Heard stands outside of her business, The Last Straw, which has been serving customers for 44 years. Heard, who has been living in the Outer Sunset for 50 years, laments the changes she has seen in San Francisco over the decades, but says there is nowhere else she would rather be. Photo by Paolo Bicchieri.

Heard has a humble, generous presence. Whether she has lots of customers or nobody in the store, she is thoughtful, like a favorite teacher or the best librarian. She does not want the spotlight on her and is not one to celebrate her hard-won success of keeping a business afloat in San Francisco for decades. The satisfaction of regulars, many of whom return year after year to buy something sweet for their partner, is enough. 

Prior to entrepreneurism, Heard spent six years working at American Savings Bank before deciding she wanted to open a basket shop in 1975. She has lived in the Outer Sunset for 50 years.

“I was tired of it,” she said about the corporate grind and long commute. “And I’ve always loved baskets. I was also tired of going all the way downtown.”

There were no other businesses in the Outer Sunset when The Last Straw opened for business, she said. Now there are lots of young people in the neighborhood. When they are done having a drink at Hook Fish Co., the beachgoers of the neighborhood stream into her literal cottage business. On a busy day, the crowd is as thick as any farmer’s market in her two-room shop.

But it is not all sunshine for Heard. She says it is horrible the way the City has grown and that even the Sunset feels packed.

“I don’t see anything making (San Francisco) more comfortable,” she says. “It seems like it’s getting harder and more hectic.”

Neither policy nor politician brings Heard much hope. She says she is lucky to live on the same property as The Last Straw. That comfort brings her peace. 

The Last Straw Screen Shot 2

Baskets, folk art, jewelry and watches are some of the wares sold by Marge Heard in her Outer Sunset shop, The Last Straw. Photo by Paolo Bicchieri.

At the end of the day, she sees the Sunset as the best place for her to be. There is nowhere else she would like to go, no other thing she wants to do. She likes eating at Celia’s by The Beach and Outerlands, and gets her hair done at Ads Hair and Skin Care on 45th Avenue.

“Lots of surfers, boyfriends and girlfriends. Mostly young fellows in my shop,” Heard said. “I like the people around me.”

For those readers who have never stumbled on the cottage gem that is The Last Straw, it is still waiting for you. 

“It’s alright here for me,” Heard said, with an easy smile on her face.

The Last Straw is located at 4540 Irving St. For more information, call (415) 566-4692.

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