NoPa Nouveau: Brown Bear’s Guide to a Hip New ’Hood

Brown Bear
Photography by Iris Lin

Like most women in their 20s, best friends Hope Plescia and Akasha Rabut lead busy lives. But unlike most 20-something hipsters Plescia and Rabut are co-owners of hip new NoPa boutique Brown Bear, in addition to being full-time students at the Art Institute. Their spacious store, which sells handpicked vintage finds, independent designers and a great selection of jewelry, also doubles as an art gallery featuring local artists and photographers. Both Plescia and Rabut spent time working in vintage resale—Rabut’s mother owned a high-end vintage store for 15 years—and their experience definitely shows in the merchandise they carry, which varies from ’30s lingerie to funky boho-inspired pieces, ’80s party girl looks and a great selection of footwear and menswear.

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vintage finds inside Brown Bear

Housed right in the heart of NoPa, Brown Bear is a new destination that helps bring a new crowd of shoppers and young art lovers to the blossoming area. “The Brown Bear mission statement is to create community though local art and bring awareness to the Bay Area art and fashion scene,” explains Plescia, who recently took me on a tour of her ’hood. This notion of neighborhood unity through art is something that Plescia and Rabut have put into practice with well-attended monthly art exhibits and trunk shows. Very much like the neighborhood it’s situated in, Brown Bear has little pretense and a welcoming, all-inclusive vibe that’s not easy to find at other SF boutiques or galleries. Here are a few of Plescia’s favorite NoPa neighborhood spots where you too can feel like a local.

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Plescia lounging; some jeweled offerings at Brown Bear

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Art by Mary Joy at Brown Bear

Brown Bear
289 Divisadero St., 415-626-5779

1. KK Café 252 Divisadero St., 415-626-6188
This no-fuss café is famous for its delicious peanut milk, which claims to cure all ills. The friendly owners know most customers by name and treat even first-timers like regulars.

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Plescia with owners of the KK Cafe and their famous peanut milk

2. The Little Chihuahua 292 Divisadero St., 415-255-8225
Come to this little Mexican joint across the street from Brown Bear where, according to Plescia a former San Diego resident, the burritos rival her favorites down south.

3. Comix Experience 305 Divisadero St., 415-836-9258
For Plescia, a self-confessed comics junkie and who missed the Comic-Con convention for the first time when her store opened this past year, Comix Experience is what she needs to get her fix.

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Plescia and myself bonding over chips and salsa at The Little Chihuahua

4. The Other Shop 327 Divisadero St., 415-621-5424
Whether you’re looking for unique antiques or mid-century furniture, come to this NoPa shop where the prices are right and the selection is vast.

5. The Page 298 Divisadero St., 415-255-6101
This neighborhood watering hole has pool tables a-plenty, a solid jukebox and a friendly bar staff who might not know your name, but will treat you like they do.

Plescia doing some serious reading at Comix Experience

6. Backspace-Queen of the Meadow 351 Divisadero St., 415-355-1051
With a quirky name and women’s clothing that varies from high-end designer to obscure labels, this boutique is a great alternative to the generic chain stores popping up all over SF.

7. Bean Bag Coffee House 601 Divisadero St., 415-563-3634
Known for its ridiculously cheap beer ($1.29 for a pint) and vegetarian fare, the Bean Bag is a neighborhood mainstay for Plescia and friends, who frequent this eatery daily.
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