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It was O. Henry, caliph of phrases, who called San Francisco the Bagdad of the West. In doing so he must have had in mind its profusion of shops which stretch through the city like an endless bazaar.
Midweek shopping crowds in San Francisco are comparable to Saturday afternoon crowds in other American cities. This fact has been commented upon frequently by merchandising specialists, and it has significance.
Street population spells buying power, and San Francisco has larger shopping crowds every day of the year than any other city west of New York. Every day but Sunday is a shopping day.
Constant shopping by San Francisco women gives stimulus to the city's retailers to comb world markets for the newest and most attractive offerings. Buyers are sent by the larger establishments not only to Paris and other style centers, but to all of the larger international trade fairs. Stocks in the shops reflect the enterprise of the retailers, who not only display the latest modes, but frequently create them.
The downtown shopping district spreads from Market to all the streets that radiate from it, from Kearny westward, well above Powell. Market street itself is a continuous stretch of display windows. Grant avenue, Stockton, Powell, O'Farrell, Geary, Post and Sutter streets are lined with department stores and intimate shops.
The Richmond, Mission, Sunset and other out lying districts have their own sub-centers, each crowded six days in the week with shoppers. Otherwise the downtown streets would be congested.
Flower stands splash the street corners with color in the downtown shopping district, and the wares glow in the show windows like exotic blooms under glass.
San Francisco shows a market as complete and original in styles as any city in the country. The excessive seasonal changes demanded in the East are not needed here. San Francisco is essentially an out-of-door city, with three hundred odd days of clement weather, made for the display of light raiment, whether it be organdie dresses, sports togs or afternoon frocks. Women of the city insist on being modish, however, so they wear furs with the airiest of apparel on the warmest days, contradictory but vivacious apparitions. Even the Chinese girls ape their Western sisters and appear in brocaded mandarins with fur neck pieces.
The dash of San Francisco women on the street, as well as in the hotels and cafes, is not a legend. You may read about it in Hergesheimer's iridescent detail, but seeing is believing.
The art shops and the book shops of San Francisco evoke the admiration of every visitor. The art shops, on Post, Sutter and adjacent streets, close to Union Square, with their own galleries of paintings, bronzes and marbles, have showrooms that are more like museums than commercial establishments. The book shops are in this same neighborhood. They are well worth visiting, several of the dealers being publishers of the works of California authors.
Downtown Shopping District
Its crowds are as colorful as its streches of display windows