A Visit to March

Design Store(y) heads to the West Coast this week, landing in San Francisco’s Laurel Heights neighborhood to tour March. Proprietor Sam Hamilton, who worked at Ralph Lauren before opening the shop back in 2002, recently relaunched her business, with a whole new twist. Focusing on the kitchen, pantry, and table, Hamilton presents hand hewn items with a modern sensibility, in addition to solid classics like AGA and cast iron cookware. Hamilton derives her inspiration from the slow food movement and San Francisco food culture. It’s a fresh concept for a decor boutique, and impeccably executed.

Are you a San Francisco native?

I’m from New York City; I moved here for love.

Where did you get the name for the store?

My given name is Margaret and my collaborator from the early days is Mark, my last name is Hamilton and his is Cunningham and my wife’s last name is Chaiken so it’s kind of a combo of all these elements. Confusing? I also like the way it looks and sounds.

You recently re-thought the store’s concept. When did Match first open? How has it changed?

For nine years, we sold large-scale contemporary and antique furniture imported from Europe. It was mostly to the trade, though we were a retail store too with some smaller home furnishings. Last summer, I was thinking it would be nice to give a nod to both the San Francisco food culture and the retail environment on Sacramento Street. We reopened in our new incarnation at the end of August last year. Now we are focused on open plan living and kitchens. There’s a similar sensibility — it’s still me — but there’s a lot more to take away with you than a $30,000 sofa. It’s lively now; people are so interested in talking about food.

Is that a kitchen in the middle of the store?

It’s not a proper kitchen, but there is an AGA on the wall covered in subway tile. We sell AGA cookers, so help customers get used to them since the nature of cooking on one is unusual. We also use it for cooking demonstrations.

Do you have a food background?

I’ve always been a foodie. Before we moved here, I took a cooking class at Peter Kump’s in New York City. When we got to San Francisco, I did an internship at Alice Waters’ restaurant, Chez Panisse. San Francisco food culture was sparked by Chez Panisse, which created the slow food movement, and the idea of locally sourced, organic food. Many San Francisco chefs have gone through Chez Panisse and then opened restaurants. The great thing about San Francisco is that you can eat unbelievably well for medium-prices.

It looks like the store extends beyond the main space?

We have a lot of indoor and outdoor space. I have a potter’s sink in the alleyway, there’s a protected courtyard, and a carriage house in the back. Because we display in a minimal way, merchandise extends into the back. Our office is there too, but we welcome everybody to go back there. Eventually, I would like it to become all commercial selling space.

What’s been a consistent best seller?

We cannot keep in stock the carbon steel blade knives handmade in Oregon by Michael Hemmer. They are like art pieces, all slightly different. They’re fantastic looking, and cut beautifully. The glasses we get from Dosa, we also can’t keep in stock. They’re the perfect rosé glass, short, easy, and just $7.50. The Shaker-inspired benches and stools from Upstate New York studio, Sawkille, sell really well too. We’ve been on a good roll.

Do you have anything from the store in your own home?

I have the butcher block cutting boards, the Hemmer knives, the Dosa glasses. Over the years I’ve kept a lot of the antiques I imported from Europe. We have an old house in west Texas, built in 1911; the antiques have been folded in there mostly. I carry a fantastic leather line by Rene Holguin. I have a lot of his bags in my closet. His store, RTH, on North Cienega in LA is worth checking out.

What’s your favorite item in the store right now?

I have a massive mortar and pestle I won’t sell. There’s a line of clothing we just started carrying by a craftsperson, Llane Alexis, who makes braided bags in the tradition of braided rugs. There is a lovely one made from selvedge scraps of unbleached denim. It’s long, the perfect size for baguettes. I covet that, but it is not going home with me; it will stay for some lucky person.

Does the store have its own line?

Yes, I work with local purveyors, like Lulu’s Garden, on jams, olive oil, and almond butter. We also get spices from Le Santuaire and bottle them in a deep indigo glass bottles, which help them hold their essence a lot longer. Plus, we have a line of gorgeous tomatoes from Happy Girl Farms; fresh heirloom and dry farmed tomatoes that taste good and look beautiful. We eat a lot of those.

It looks like you also carry artwork. Do you stage special installations?

There’s a show up right now, called “Maker’s Mark.” It features three artists who use time-honored craft techniques: wood carving, hand-built ceramics, and basket weaving, in thoroughly modern formats. The first is Josh Vogel of Blackcreek Mercantile, who makes one-of-a-kind wooden spoons that are beautiful, but also a go-to spoon for the kitchen. They’re items you would love to own and also make amazing gifts. When I visited his studio in Upstate New York, I saw a wooden scoop hanging on the wall that I loved. I asked him to create an art installation and that’s what he came up with. There are 26 scoops on our walls. The second is Jonathan Kline, a basket maker who makes Adirondack black ash pieces influenced by the Native Americans who once lived in the area. We have his baskets and wood pieces up. Third is ceramicist Marie Moyer, who makes jewelry and objects out of stoneware and porcelain.

March is such a great space, I understand you rent it out?

People can rent out the space for a meal with up to 26 people, using our staff. That is something we haven’t done yet, but we have a couple coming up, one for eight and one for 26. We hosted a Cinco de Mayo party as a donation to our twins’ school. We also held a benefit for Chez Panisse’s 40th anniversary. The store feels like a giant kitchen, so there’s a warm quality here, and nice things happen.

Do you hold special events open to the public?

We’re trying to establish events on a more regular cycle, like every six weeks. A lot of people have been requesting cooking demos and classes; maybe in fall we’ll get them on the schedule.

Interior photos by Angie Silvy; product photos by Drew Altizer.

Visit March at 3075 Sacramento Street  San Francisco, CA 94115.

Marni Elyse Katz is a Contributing Editor at Design Milk. She lives in Boston where she contributes regularly to local publications and writes her own interior design blog, StyleCarrot.