Until the early ’90s, Hayes Valley was a seedy neighborhood, best known for prostitutes, drug deals and the elevated freeway that once bisected its main drag. The freeway has since been replaced by a Parisian-style boulevard and village green, and the neighborhood is thriving, its tree-lined streets and alleys peppered with restaurants, bars and — thanks to a 2003 local ban on chain stores — some of the city’s most original shops.
1. Honey Ryder: Like its namesake Bond girl, this new boutique knows what’s sexy — you’ll find draped silk jersey dresses by Jessup, reversible wool jackets and psychedelic-print tunics by Smoke and Mirrors, and rock-star-worthy gold-plated cuffs and lariats by the celebrity favorite Kimberly Faith. 564 Hayes Street; (415) 255-6858.
2. Miette Confiserie: At this picture-perfect candy store, shopgirls scoop saltwater taffy, Dutch licorice and jelly beans from apothecary jars. The pistachio macaroons and gingerbread cupcakes are irresistible; wash them down with a latte from Blue Bottle Coffee Company, in a nearby alley (315 Linden Street). 449 Octavia Boulevard; (415) 626-6221; www.miettecakes.com.
3. Lemon Twist/Peace Industry/R.A.G.: These three neighbors highlight homegrown designers: Lemon Twist sells ’60s-inspired clothes (537 Octavia Street; 415-558-9699; www.lemontwist.net); Peace Industry has Iranian felt rugs in modern designs (535 Octavia Street; 415-255-9940; www.peaceindustry.com); and the cooperative R.A.G. stocks cool clothes and accessories (541 Octavia Street; 415-621-7718; www.ragsf.com).
4. Timbuk2: Timbuk2′s ”indestructible” messenger bags grace the bony shoulders of legions of local hipsters. Unlike its online shop, the company’s sole retail location emphasizes one-of-a-kind and custom bags. Choose from around 100 fabrics to create your own or pick one of the hand-painted Artist Originals. 506 Hayes Street; (415) 252-9860; www.timbuk2.com.
5. True Sake: America’s first sake store is also its best, featuring around 200 bottles from Japanese breweries only, including rare sparkling sakes and special seasonal releases (unpasteurized nama in the spring, single-pasteurized hiyaoroshi in the fall). Time your visit to coincide with one of the owner Beau Timken’s monthly tastings. 560 Hayes Street; (415) 355-9555; www.truesake.com.
6. Alabaster: The neighborhood pioneer Nelson Bloncourt opened Alabaster a decade ago. It’s still the destination for exquisite housewares: stingray-wrapped furniture, Murano glass chandeliers, neo-Classical antiques and contemporary photography by local artists. 597 Hayes Street; (415) 558-0482; www.alabastersf.com.
7. Azalea: Hayes Valley’s trendiest shop for men and women has doubled in size — that means more covetable APC coats and sweaters, organic cotton T-shirts, James Perse basics and cult jeans (they carry about 20 brands). There’s also a nail salon in the back. 411 Hayes Street; (415) 861-9888; www.azaleasf.com.
8. M.A.C. (Modern Appealing Clothing): ”We love the Belgians,” says Chris Ospital, whose gallerylike shop displays pieces by Martin Margiela and Dries Van Noten alongside up-and-coming designers from Japan and Paris. Everything here has a story, from Josh Podoll’s coats, inspired by the art of Olafur Eliasson, to Tsumori Chisato’s embroidered silk dresses, designed for an imaginary female Mongolian warrior. 387 Grove Street; (415) 863-3011.