By Laura Camerlengo
“A ‘love street’ can be anywhere,” explained Graciela Ronconi, a 30-year-plus resident of the Richmond District and founder of the neighborhood newcomer, Love Street Vintage.
The vintage clothing store had been located on Haight Street for a decade. In the wake of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, Ronconi relocated the boutique to a cozy yet comfortable storefront on the corner of Balboa Street and 19th Avenue last June. She had rented the Balboa Street space for 13 years prior to her move, previously using it as a workspace and for storage.
“I originally chose ‘Love Street’ (for the store name) as a play on ‘love and Haight’ and the ‘summer of love,’” Ronconi said.
Love Street Vintage opened to the public at its new location on Dec. 20, 2020 and is Ronconi’s fourth vintage store. Longtime San Franciscans may remember her first vintage venture, Guys and Dolls, at 24th and Church streets, which featured retro styles from the 1940s and 1950s. Ronconi noted that her stores’ aesthetics have changed over the years. Love Street’s wares are, according to Ronconi, “very bohemian and California lifestyle focused.”
Upon entering the store, shoppers are greeted by racks of clothes from San Francisco brands and department stores, such as Levi’s and I. Magnin, troves of Native American turquoise and silver jewelry, dozens of thick leather motorcycle jackets, and rows of leather cowboy boots.
“Being located on Haight Street for the past decade definitely brought out the San Francisco/California lifestyle in me!” Ronconi said. “I try to bring an ease and bohemian feel to the shop. I carry all eras of clothing, from the 1920s through the 1980s.”
Ronconi first started buying vintage as a teenager for practical reasons.
“Growing up, we did not have a lot of money,” she said. “As a teenager, vintage clothing was a way to stand out and be unique – it was kind of rebellious! A lot of people did not wear vintage. To paraphrase Daymond John’s ‘The Power of Broke,’ when you cannot have things, when things are not accessible to you, you have to get creative.”
As Ronconi described, thrifting was her teacher.
“I learned eras, fabrics, trends by thrifting,” she said. “I would also watch old movies and draw inspiration from them. I watched fashion trends and thought about how I could interpret runway styles without spending a lot of money.”
Less than a year into her new location, Ronconi’s business is already thriving, thanks to her keen eye for vintage fashions and support from the Richmond neighborhood.
“I get to meet so many neighborhood people, so many of my neighbors,” Ronconi said. “There is a strong sense of community, and I feel like the neighborhood is supporting me.”
Along with neighborhood shoppers, long-standing “old customers” and tourists interested in owning a piece of San Francisco style are finding Love Street Vintage as well.
“Moving, period, is always tough,” Ronconi admitted. “Although I posted about the move on social media, it is difficult for people to find you after a move – like (singer) Florence Welch, who has been a customer for years. I hope she can find me on Balboa!” she joked.
Love Street Vintage is also supported by thriving online sales, which Ronconi cultivates through her own website, as well as on Etsy, Facebook and Instagram. With regard to her successful online business, Ronconi credited the desirability of San Francisco brands, such as Gunne Sax, North Beach Leather, and Levi’s, which, she said, are very popular right now. She also credited the increased focus on sustainability in fashion.
“Younger people are very educated on sustainability,” Ronconi explained. “When I was a teenager, vintage had a stigma. People looked down on it. Now, even older folks get it. It is a great thing, not just for me and the store, but for the world.”
Love Street Vintage is located at 1801 Balboa St., open Friday – Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, go to lovestreetsf.com.
Categories: Small Businesses