When TimeOut released its sixth annual list of the world’s coolest neighborhoods, it showered some love on one of San Francisco’s most incredible places: the Richmond District. Coming in at No. 27, just ahead of Prague’s Vinohrady, the Richmond was praised for its plentiful dim sum and for Green Apple Books.
But the thing is, the Richmond—cheek-by-jowl with Golden Gate Park, packed with incredible Asian restaurants and home to two plucky independent movie theaters—isn’t particularly touristy or even all that self-consciously trendy. It’s just—well, it’s just awesome, a haven for small businesses on the eve of Small Business Saturday.
And one reason why is Fleetwood, a Clement Street shop filled with local makers’ wares that also happens to be home to a thriving, full-service screen-printing business. Having relocated from its longtime digs on Larkin Street in the Tenderloin two years ago—owner Nicole Schwieterman said the team executed the move in 31 hours—Fleetwood somehow feels like it was always there. Maybe it’s all the Ocean Beach pullover hoodies.
Referring to its retail-plus-workshop layout, Schwieterman compared Fleetwood to a mullet: business up front, party in the back.
“There're so many cool local makers in the city, and we just wanted to showcase them,” she said. “A lot of people make really cool stuff and don't have an outlet other than Etsy or design fairs or markets.”
In the space that used to be Pinelli’s Flowerland—people still come in and point out where they bought wedding bouquets or prom corsages—Fleetwood sells things like Baggu fanny packs, flowery Gracie CT shirt that grew out of a collaboration with a local tattoo artist, and Heathered wallets made from bygone transit passes. Turns out that in 1987, it only cost $23 to ride both BART and Muni for an entire month.
Plus, you really can’t get more hyper-local than a sweatshirt that says “Clement” on it.
“The people who live in the Richmond are really excited to be in the Richmond,” Schwieterman said. “It's really fun to see them get excited to have their neighborhood on a shirt that looks good—and it's printed by us.”
At any given moment, the shop has items from 60 or 70 artisans and makers, mostly in muted colorways with sophisticated gradients. Overall, Fleetwood’s aesthetic could be described as approachable and playful, anti-corporate but chill—utterly Californian, in other words. Hot design motifs right now include poppies, sunsets, mushrooms and “anything woodland.”
A lot of the earrings came from Olivia Cunningham, who lives around the block and walked in one day hoping to do business. Schwieterman stocks her jewelry, Sunday Night Ritual, because the pieces are made well but also because she respects the hustle and the grind. It’s true for the team, too.
“Nobody ate today until like 4 p.m., because we redid the entire merch window,” Schwieterman said.
All of this comprises Fleetwood’s business half; there’s still the party end of that mullet, doing custom screen-printing jobs for places like Arguello Market or Simple Pleasures on Balboa Street, which bills itself as the oldest coffee house in the Richmond.
In business since 1978, it’s one of the O.G. reasons why the neighborhood is gaining international acclaim. Spots like that are the lifeblood of the Richmond, just as they are for any neighborhood that helps make its city a destination for visitors and a place worth living in.
This time of year, when even more gray Amazon vans than usual are double-parking around town, can be crucial for the bottom line of small businesses and creators alike. Just ahead of Small Business Saturday, the government-sanctioned day to shop local and shop small, where is Schwieterman on the one-to-10 scale of “Eff Jeff Bezos”?
“Thirty-one,” she said without hesitation. “He doesn’t need any more money.”