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The streets of San Francisco were once playground to the revolutionary poets and literati of the Beat Generation, including Allen Ginsberg who occupied the west coast city in the 1950s. Now with a booming Financial District and the infamous Silicon Valley, San Fran is no longer the purely artsy city by the bay of yesteryear, save for a few hippies that still roam some corner blocks. It’s an interesting city whose constant growth can be seen in some parts that are now becoming increasingly gentrified.

One such part is Hayes Valley, one of SF’s better shopping districts that still remains more local than commercial. Among quaintly posh restaurants and small shops are new high-end apartments and stores of more recognizable brands, notably Ernest Alexander and Warby Parker; and on the same block as these two now sits Garrett Leight California Optical.

“I fell in love with the street. I felt like it was the perfect place — it just seemed more like our pace,” Garrett Leight told us during our shop tour last week. The small but visually refreshing interior is lined with white walls and natural wood fixtures that reflect the design of GLCO’s existing store in La Brea, Los Angeles. Stacked wooden planks and modular boxes — which were inspired by a museum in Zurich — call to mind Feit’s West Village store that also opened recently. A corner built-in leather couch seating area has room to enjoy some succulents and the brand’s seasonal journal, Spectacle.

Leight celebrated the new store with a special eyewear style designed with Allen Ginsberg in mind, a limited-edition run of just 50 frames made entirely in San Francisco (shown in the slideshow above). Also available at the new location are GLCO’s recent collaborations with Mark McNairy and Thierry Lasry, alongside a selection of reading classes by SEE.

Customers can also stop in for services on non-GLCO eyewear. “We would install lenses if people have other frames like Ray-Bans,” says Leight. “We have custom one-of-a-kind lenses, so we’re down to put them in other brands’ [frames].” The kind and stylish opticians at Garrett Leight will even help you matte them, gloss them, polish them… “We pretty much don’t like to say no. We’ll go for it.”

393 Hayes Street

Words by Elaine YJ Lee