Leave those mass-produced clothes on the rack and up your style game with a unique gem from Vacation, North Beach’s newest vintage clothing store. Well, new to North Beach, that is. Before opening here in late February, the meticulously curated boutique was called the Tenderloin House.
According to owner Kristin Klein, Vacation’s move to North Beach was not planned. Instead, it was the result of a happy coincidence. Last year, she was walking through the neighborhood with her out-of-town parents and came across a vacant storefront on the corner of Grant and Union.
“We were in the Tenderloin for 10 years and we were really defending the neighborhood,” says Klein, who has a background in costume design. “But I couldn’t turn down a prime North Beach location for the same price as pre-pandemic Tenderloin.”
Photo by Dorothy O’Donnell/Hoodline
She chose the name Vacation for her store because it’s a word associated with purely positive vibes. This optimistic energy shines through in the colorful and playful decor of the store. Klein and his team painted the floor with folk art-style phrases and illustrations. They include images of gay couples and iconic San Francisco landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge; a red-lipped sun with an affectionate smile; and old-school cartoon characters like Felix the Cat and Mr. Peanut, the Plantars mascot.
Vacation clothes are just as fun. The store offers a wide selection of beloved jeans, retro dresses, Mexican tops, authentic kimonos, designer pieces and collectible t-shirts. You’ll also find vintage shoes, sunglasses, and accessories like Hermès silk scarves and alligator handbags. But you won’t find anything in polyester.
“We pay a lot of attention to detail,” says Klein. “We don’t do costumed vintage. We make wearables from natural fabrics. It’s cool to offer affordable designer clothes to people and show them clothes from the 1910s or 1920s.”
Holiday prices vary, but many pieces start at around $28.00. Rarer items, such as couture creations or collectible t-shirts, command higher prices.
“The market for vintage band t-shirts is crazy right now,” says Klein. “We always tell people they can buy a reproduction for $30. But these are pieces of wearable history. A lot of people are buying this stuff back from their youth.
If you’re a serious Dead Head, for example, you can score a coveted shirt from the band’s third San Francisco gig – if you’re willing to part with a few hundred bucks.
“As this is their third show, it’s probably the first where they had product to sell,” Klein notes.
She buys most of Vacation’s inventory from trusted dealers or estate sales. Klein also buys from individuals, but asks people to check out the store’s shopping guidelines on Instagram (@vacationsf) before contacting her.
She particularly likes the 1930s clothing that was handmade by poor people and workers during the Depression. She likes that you can tell that these clothes were sewn by one person, worn and repaired by her, then passed on to someone else. And that nearly 100 years later, they’re still wearable.
Photo by Dorothy O’Donnell/Hoodline
After struggling to turn a profit in the Tenderloin, Klein is thrilled with the response Vacation has received since opening in North Beach.
“It’s been wild and really empowering,” she says. “Every day things that I think are cool for other people just fly away. So that’s pretty awesome. I feel like with vintage, we’re saving things from forever disappearing. It’s always cool for us to see something find a new home.
Vacation is located at 1499 Grant Avenue and open daily from noon to 7 p.m.