The other day I was walking down the 800 block of Valencia Street and something clicked — while on vacation I’d written on this very blog about the Time Travel Mart in Los Angeles and the Secret Agent Supply Co. in Chicago, but I’d never written anything about this nonprofit group’s original location: 826 Valencia here in San Francisco.
The quick version of the story behind why there’s a store for pirates at 826 Valencia Street is this: author Dave Eggers opened a youth writing workshop in the space, but to comply with zoning regulations they were required to have a retail storefront. So a very small part of the footprint of the building is dedicated to a whimsical gift shop.
While all of 826’s other writing workshops follow this same model, they all have different themes for the storefronts. But I think it’s safe to say the original has the most work put into the theme.
The Pirate Supply store sells everything a pirate could need: wooden legs, eye patches, even treasure! And something called “Unicorn Horn Polish.” Of course you’ll also find books, this is a writing workshop after all.
There’s no sales pressure whatsoever and I doubt they make many sales. But then again they’re very open about the fact that this store is a front for something else.
The store’s theme doesn’t end with the merchandise. One example is a wall with cabinets and drawers you can open up. Many of them have cryptic labels like “repairs” on them, and inside you’ll find it’s items to repair clothing like buttons and buckles.
Unfortunately some of the drawers are stuck. Pirates have better things to do than repairing furniture.
Various information is framed on the walls, including the above and one labeled “USES FOR LARD (partial list).” My only question here is what kind of pirate has access to a printing press?
The dry sense of humor on display both here and in some of the mini-books sold in the store should seem familiar to readers of McSweeney’s, which is edited by Eggers.
In one corner of the store there’s a periscope, which is strange because I don’t recall going below deck…
The Pirate Supply Store at 826 Valencia is only open on weekends. If you’re interested in visiting, here are some questions I’ll leave you with:
- What do you see when you look into that periscope?
- There’s a place in the store where you can dig for treasure. What can you find?
- Next to the cash register there’s a curtain with some theater seats behind it. What’s playing on the screen?
If you do visit the Pirate Supply Store I’d also recommend checking out their next door neighbor, upscale curiosity shop Paxton Gate for all your crystal, succulent, and taxidermy needs.