Bernalese is the latest addition to the family of shops on Cortland Avenue. It combines stylish, craftsman antique with contemporary kitchenware. Longtime Bernal residents and now proud shop owners, Matt Evans and Sean Minnig are bringing a vibrant aesthetic and good humor to the neighborhood. In return, the neighborhood has been showing support since the opening of the store (a few weeks prior to this post) and both Matt and Sean see it as a second life adventure together.
Sean: We’re starting a new adventure and in the next phase of our lives.
Opening an antique shop was part of our twenty-year plan when we started thinking about retiring from our careers. I’ve been working in the Silicon Valley for twenty-five years and Matt has been at Cal State University for over thirty years.
We’ve also been antique collectors for about twenty-five years. We have a warehouse on sixteenth and Harrison where we stash away merchandise we’ve bought over the years. In our free time, we loved going to auctions all over the country and figuring out what our style of antiques are. It began with choosing pieces we’d want in our home.
We’ve lived in Bernal for ten years and love the community here. So we both wanted to be shopkeepers in our own neighborhood. It always feels like you can leave behind the hustle and bustle of the city and come home to this village on the hill.
Sean: We used the name Bernalese because we love Bernal. And if you’ve lived in the neighborhood long enough you know we have our own language up here. It’s a common word people use to talk about the community.
With our merchandise, I think we combine vintage antiques with practical contemporary kitchenware. When we started to refine the concept we decided we wanted it to reflect what we feel home is. So the blending of beautiful antiques with functional and practical housewares seemed essential.
We’re creating a welcoming, fun place. The music is always on and neighbors pop in and hang out because there’s a lot to look at.
We even have small drawers filled with free knick-knacks for kids to take while Mom or Dad are shopping. There’s bubbles, mini rubber ducks and hacky sacks. Slowly the kids are getting to know they can come in here for a free toy.
Sean: We’ve definitely seen an influx of new neighbors, especially young families. Which makes sense given how it’s such a great place for kids. There are great parks, like Precita Park and Holly Park. We’ve seen more children and more LGBTQ families in the past few years. We enjoy that mix in the neighborhood. It gives Bernal its own vibe.
More places to eat have opened up in the last few years. You walk out the door and there are twelve places to eat and drink on Cortland and ten places to shop. To me, that is the makings of a nice community. We have a nice hometown, main commercial strip. And Cortland is main street in many ways. Not only geographically, but it’s also the main spirit of the hood.
Having that many places you can stroll to makes it feel like a real neighborhood.
Sean: A great example is Black Lockett Florals that just opened up on Cortland. Nicole does really unique arrangements. So now there’s a group of us who have contracted her to deliver weekly arrangements to our shops.
We’re all trying to support her business getting off the ground. We realize people will see the arrangements and ask us about them.
That’s what I mean by spirit.
I had a friend come to visit the shop for the first time and she said, “This looks like a place where you actually know your neighbors and they watch out for you.” It’s totally true. Neighbors will pick up packages left out on the stoop and keep it safe for you.
Another funny story is on our block, there are four houses in a row. All with connecting backyards separated by fences. We’ve actually cut out strips in the fences so we can drink like fish at each other houses and stumble home through our backyards.
To me, that says a lot about the spirit of the neighborhood.
Sean: On the antique and vintage side you’re getting what we think is wonderful. It’s our aesthetic. Beautiful pottery that can be used as vases. Glassware sets you can use to entertain. On the housewares side, I decided it needed to be really utilitarian.
I cook all the time and decided that useful kitchenwares was the focus. If you need something at the last minute, you shouldn’t have to get in your car and leave the neighborhood. Whether it’s a pepper grinder or replacing wine glasses, there’s a place to come pick it up locally.
We’ve had a lot of people comment on that. Some of the biggest items we’ve sold are things like the garlic press, cherry pitter, stemware and rolling pins. Things people need in a pinch.
You can take the dog out for a walk and get a new set of whisks. Or if you’re going to get a cup of coffee, come pick up a colander. We want to make it easy for people.
Sean: For now, getting this off the ground has been the first phase of our retirement plan. It’s like a practice run for us.
Surprisingly, we’ve only been open for seven weeks and the store is doing better than we anticipated. I think it’s because the neighborhood has been so supportive.
We’re really looking forward to the holidays. A lot of our vintage stuff is very gift driven. And on the kitchenwares side, we have a variety of utilitarian things we can put together in gift boxes.
I hope more people in San Francisco come to enjoy Cortland Avenue for the day. You can spend a fun day in the neighborhood. Have lunch, do some shopping and then take a long walk up Bernal Hill. I’m hoping we can encourage more people to explore Bernal while we’re here.
Address: 307 Cortland Avenue
Tuesday – Friday: 11am -6pm
Sunday: 11am – 5pm