Posts Tagged ‘826’

826 Valencia’s Pirate Supply Store

August 16th, 2021
Pirate Supply Store


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.


Pirate Supply Store Pirate Supply Store


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.


Pirate Supply Store


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.


Pirate Supply Store


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.

Chicago wrap up and stray observations

April 20th, 2019

Chicago Theater sign

Last night I arrived in Omaha for the weekend, but before delving into that here’s a few parts of the Chicago trip that didn’t fit anywhere else.

Yes, the Chicago Theater sign above is a landmark, and no I wasn’t the only person taking photos of it. The best place to get a clear shot of the sign is unfortunately from a narrow staircase leading up to the State and Lake “L” stop.

Expansion joint in street

The biggest criticism I’ve heard of Chicago style pizza is that it’s more of a casserole than a pizza. It’s fitting then that the entire downtown area in Chicago is built like a casserole: on the bottom there’s a solid layer to insulate from the marsh the city’s built on; on the layer over that you have train and pedestrian subways and basements; next you have street level, and then finally you have buildings and the elevated “L” lines on top.

All of this is pretty obvious from certain locations along the Chicago river, but you also see expansion joints like in the photo above on what otherwise appear to be ground level streets. It seems odd until you realize you’re actually on a well hidden bridge.

No guns sign

In a lot of places in the world you’ll see “no smoking” signs on buildings; in Chicago, you see “no guns” signs instead.

I was especially surprised to see one of these signs on a Whole Foods. Who the hell brings a gun to a Whole Foods? Are they afraid of getting attacked by a bag of organic potatoes?

Unusual Metra entrance

For the most part Chicago’s Metra stations appear unremarkable, but there’s exactly one station entrance that seems… out of place? In fact it was a gift from one of Chicago’s sister cities: Paris. It’s a careful reproduction of the classic Paris Metro station entrances.

Secret Agent Supply Co.

I completely blew my cover by visiting the Secret Agent Supply Co. store. This is run by 826, the youth writing workshop founded by Dave Eggers, which is also behind the Pirate Store in San Francisco and the Time Travel Mart in Los Angeles.

They sell a variety of disguises and books, including books on writing and books from new Chicago authors. It’s a little out of the way and a very low key operation.


Parts of the Chicago River have a pedestrian walkway known as the Riverwalk. There’s a few restaurants and bars down there, and it’s a nice place to walk without ever having to encounter automobile traffic.

The Riverwalk isn’t complete yet though, some parts don’t connect and others are still under construction. It should be a lovely spot to take a walk or jog when it’s done but even the currently open segments are worth checking out.

The 606

The 606 is a pedestrian and bike path that’s partially elevated, built on a defunct rail line. I discovered this one completely by accident. It’s by far the most bicycle-friendly part of Chicago.

There is an irony of the 606 though: the defunct rail line used to serve the Schwinn Bicycle Company back when they still made bikes in Chicago.

Intelligentsia Coffee

Before heading to Union Station on my last day in Chicago I knew I had to try the espresso at Intelligentsia Coffee. I kept putting it off because the lines were intimidatingly long, but I’m happy to report it was worth the wait.

That’s it for Chicago! Next time I’ll have a post or two about my 48 hours in Omaha.

The Echo Park Time Travel Mart

February 19th, 2018

The Echo Park Time Travel Mart
The Echo Park Time Travel Mart The Echo Park Time Travel Mart The Echo Park Time Travel Mart The Echo Park Time Travel Mart

After spending the morning gorging myself on a food tour, I plopped my bloated ass down on a bus seat for a ride to the Echo Park neighborhood so I could visit a store aimed at time travelers.

The Echo Park Time Travel Mart sells items for a variety of time traveling use cases, such as a Viking odorant (the opposite of deodorant), a device for disabling evil robots (a magnet), soap from the Soviet Union, a gel that prevents cloning (the shopkeeper explained it must work because he uses it and there’s only one of him), as well as robot milk which is inexplicably some type of powder.

Now, obviously there’s an ulterior motive at work here. The store is a front for a local branch of children’s writing workshop 826, also known as the people who run the pirate store in San Francisco at 826 Valencia Street.

In exchange for a purchase and small donation, I was allowed to spin The Wheel of Fortunes. Apparently a lot of candy will be coming my way tomorrow!

Before leaving for the Blue Bottle next door, I was encouraged to step into the garden in the storefront, which was built for its photogenic properties.