How SFist's Eve Batey Became an Outer Sunset Shop Owner
Welcome to Shop Talk, a series featuring the people bringing you San Francisco's coolest stores.
Like so many American teenagers, Avenues Dry Goods owner Eve Batey got her start in retail at the mall. And, like so many American teenagers, the gig was a wakeup call to the broader implications of Western consumption. "Retail always fascinated me, but—probably like a lot of people—I had a mall job that kind of soured me on the business when I really got the amount of waste it creates," she explains.
If you look at Batey's work background, those early shopgirl days hardly register as a blip. During her years in San Francisco, she's launched websites like SFist and the San Francisco Appeal, worked as a Deputy Managing Editor at the Chronicle, and written for 7x7, Curbed, and Racked. Yet more than 20 years after her first mall gig, Batey longed to return to the retail world as part of the cadre of retailers creating meaningful small business experiences. While she had supported local shops since arriving in San Francisco, she always assumed that starting her own shop was nothing more than a pipe dream. "I'd scout makers at shows like Renegade or West Coast Craft or the like, and scan Craigslist for available spots, but that was it for years."
That all changed when a space became available across the street from her Outer Sunset home. Now a year into business, Batey is proving that the Field of Dreams "if you build it, they will come" mantra is just as applicable to a store on Irving as it is to a baseball field.
Rockyt: How would you describe Avenues Dry Goods?
Eve: My rap when people come in is that our focus is on local artists and craftspeople, with a price point that's appropriate for the neighborhood.
Rockyt: When did you open?
Eve: Our first official sale was on Friday, October 28, 2016. We even took a photo!
Rockyt: Why did you decide to open a store?
Eve: My husband, Tim Ehhalt, and I started collaborating in t-shirts: coming up with design ideas together that he'd execute, (he's a proud Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts grad) and I'd print on a one-color Riley Hopkins press that my friend Laureano Faedi, (who does the Gangs of San Francisco t-shirts and now runs Paloma) lent me. We only print on US-made t-shirts and onesies from Royal Apparel, just FYI.
Not too long after we started doing that, the woman who owned the wash-and-fold across from my house retired. I'd sit there and look at it all papered over and starting to crumble. One day I mentioned it to Larry, and he said "Just call, see how much they're renting it for." So I pulled the property information for the address, called the building owner, and after some negotiations we made a deal.
Rockyt: What’s the best thing about owning your own business?
Eve: Hands down, all the amazing people we get to meet and talk to every day. I've lived on the same block as my store since 2004, but met more of my neighbors just while I was rehabbing the space than I'd ever met before! It's a great feeling to suddenly have all these new pals.
Rockyt: What’s the hardest part of doing business in San Francisco?
Eve: Of course I want to say all the bureaucracy— like all the hoops you have to jump through to, like, have a sign for your business. (We still don't have a sign.) But, every time I visit my family in Indiana, and I see all the incredibly ugly looking strip malls, big box stores, and gigantic signs that are all over where I grew up, I say a silent prayer of thanks for SF's restrictive planning rules. I do think that those restrictions are one of the reasons SF manages to retain any character. So I won't say [bureaucracy]. What I will say is that I think being in business anywhere is hard, but SF is the only place I'd want to do it.
Rockyt: Tell me about your day.
Eve: Well, I am also a writer at SFist, so I typically get up at around 6 and get straight to work on that part of my day, writing a couple pieces then knocking off at noon. If it's a day the shop is open, then I usually take a dog for a walk, grab a shower, and head over to the store, which stays open until 7 pm on weekdays. After that, Tim and I usually collapse into bed, watch some TV, and pass out.
Rockyt: There are lots of thought pieces right now about how shoppers are craving unique experiences. What makes ADG unique?
Eve: I'll let you in on a little secret that totally makes sense once you hear it! There's this unspoken honor between small stores and makers that means that if one store in the area carries a maker, the other(s) don't. So in the Outer Sunset, the makers you find at General Store (4035 Judah Street) won't be at Establish (3811 Noriega Street) or at ADG, or any of the other local boutiques. Our offerings are unique for the far west side, as are those at the other stores I just mentioned. We're also the only place you'll find our house goods: our shirts, our candles, our lip balms, our dyed textiles, and our Golden Gate Park bandana.
Rockyt: What’s one thing a customer can find at ADG that he/she is unlikely to find anywhere else in SF?
Eve: Other than the stuff I mentioned above, we're the only SF retailer for Sigil Scent, this delicious wildcrafted line of scents (and a room spray that can kill even my house's worst dog smells). We're also the only retailer in SF that carries all of That's Good Paper's wrapping papers, pins, and coloring books.
Rockyt: What do you do on your day off?
Eve: Like so many people who balance freelancing with owning their own business, I never really have a day off. But any time I can, I try to grab a class at Yoga Beach. (All their instructors are great.) If I know I can sleep in a bit the next day, I love to grab a margarita at Celia's. But mostly, I like to flop around with my husband, my dog, and my cat. You give me those three creatures, clean sheets, and a full DVR, and you'll have to get me out of the house with a bulldozer.
Rockyt: Show some love for fellow SF businesses. What are your three favorite shops in the city?
Eve: There's NO WAY I can pick just three! Anyone who can just name three has no business owning a shop! But I already told you about Paloma and Establish, which—between the two—is where I do most of my Christmas shopping. I also love Three Fish Studios. It's a great place to get original art. We're all adults now, it's time to put some art on the walls. (Get it framed at The Artisans of SF, which is one of the city's oldest and best frame shops!) I'm also really excited about a new shop called Yonder (701 11th Avenue), which is only new to SF. Ceramicist Linda Fahey has been operating Yonder in Pacifica for ages, but her new Inner Richmond space is something else. You'll never want to leave.
To shop all of Eve and Tim's unique wares, visit Avenues Dry Goods at 4120 Irving Street. ADG is open Thursday-Friday from 2pm–7pm and Saturday-Sunday from 12pm–6pm. The store is hosting a one-year anniversary party on Friday, October 27 from 6-9pm. Stop in to eat, drink, and spend your hard-earned dollars supporting hard-working local business folks.