Smack in the middle of the Haight, Mendel's is a true San Francisco experience. The store, wacky and colorful and fun, seems to embody the best aspects of the neighborhood that surrounds it. And for those of us always up for a creative DIY project for the home, Mendel's is a mecca of treasures and supplies.
The store's been around since 1952, owned by three generations of the same family, and it certainly has the feel of a place that's managed lovingly and with flair. Chain fabric and craft stores like Joann's and Michael's always leave me feeling both overwhelmed and a little depressed, but Mendel's, though it's certainly packed full of merchandise, feels somehow encouraging, like no project is out of reach.
The front of the store looks a bit like a standard art supply, but as you press on into the back, where the fabric spools are kept, you'll begin to realize there's nothing standard about this place. The selection of strange and unexpected fabrics is staggering. Mendel's carries a particularly vast selection of oilcloths, from the usual bright florals to more sophisticated prints like faux bois.
Adventurous DIY-ers will absolutely find something to dive into here. There's an entire room stocked with different colors and textures of tile for mosaics. Racks and racks of ribbon inspire thoughts of trimming everything in sight, from Roman shades to table skirts.
It's true that sometimes the inventory at Mendel's seems a bit chaotic and disorganized, but the staff are helpful, and there always seem to be lots of them around. And the chaos is part of the charm of the place. They've got a website, too, where you can shop if you're from farther afield, but it's worth a visit whenever you're in town.
(Images: Susie Nadler)
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