The Hawkeye

San Francisco Trends

By Victor Liu

 

The iconic three-story Painted Ladies of San Francisco stand almost untouched in their original grandiosity, lining the streets the same way they did over half a century ago. From the second floor up, they represent a city still stuck in the carefree, pre-technology era of the 20th century, refusing to be replaced by well-to-do high-rises.

On the first floor, what were once family-owned corner stores are turning into tech startups and vape shops.

While San Francisco has been reluctant to follow the technology craze of its affluent neighbors, the city’s Haight Street is still cemented in a craze of a different era: the hippie movement of the 60s. The cacophony of bells chiming and the Gretsch guitars playing no longer reverberates along the Haight, replaced by the muffled voices of tourists and the hum of cars.

Amoeba Music is one of those bohemian stores. It’s rare to see a brick and mortar music shop, but it is by no means a failing business.

Allen Lewites, a 62-year-old manager, has been with Amoeba since its earliest days. Having a wise face with crow’s feet and smile lines, Lewites looks out of place at the grungy music shop. His amiability contrasts with the heavy-rock instrumental in the background.

“I’m a New York liberal Jew who moved from New York to California to live in a similar environment, [both] politically and the way people think,” Lewites said. One of his main reasons for moving from the East to West coast was simple: better weather.

Although an immigrant to San Francisco in the 70s, Lewites has embraced the carefree, independent and go-with-the-flow type of mentality reminiscent of the 60s. In fact, his political ideas also played a part in his decision to move from his native Brooklyn to the Bay Area.

“It’s just a natural segway from New York to the Bay Area for me,” he said. Although having left the Big Apple in 1978, Lewites has not lost touch with his Brooklyn side—evidenced by his swaggering “WhatcanIdoforya?” as he picks up the phone.

According to Lewites, the recent revival of vinyl and vintage merchandise has brought new customers to Amoeba, and the elderly majority has seen younger consumers becoming regulars.

“Well the demographics have changed with the advent of iTunes and downloading all that stuff. People don’t like physical product as much especially you guys you younger guys and that’s a generalization” Lewites said. “But vinyl has become popular again. And young kids are buying records and buying turntables and getting into that whole thing.”

The competitiveness among the stores of the Haight create an artificial natural selection where only the fittest can survive. Widespread use of the Internet at the turn of the century has not helped physical stores in most industries.

“What’s the future of brick-and-mortar stores? It’s harder and harder to survive. You have to find a niche, you have to find an angle, we’ve tried to do that here [Amoeba Music] inviolably over 25 years,” Lewites said.


Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 10.19.15 AMVictor Liu is a sophomore at Saratoga High School during the 2016-17 school year and is a reporter on his school’s newspaper, The Falcon, next year. In his leisure time, he occasionally sleeps and tries to keep his laptop charger clean.

San Francisco Trends