by Carolyn
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Our next Shop Stop is at Mystery Mister, one of my favorite vintage stores here in San Francisco. Owned by two San Francisco gals, Rochelle & Graciela, Mystery Mister carries well-selected and good quality fashion from past decades. Entering the door you will see that Mystery Mister is not your average vintage shop with messy racks and strange displays. Your eye will be caught by pretty styled window displays, an old dresser with glitter jewelry and a credenza filled with old and new curiosities. The ladies opened the store three years ago and while Graciela is in quest of vintage clothing pieces and maintaining their Etsy store, Rochelle seeks some antique home decor and takes care of their social media. Their individual style taste makes Mystery Mister so unique and visit-worth. Have a peek inside Mystery Mister and enjoy the interview with two girls who speak and breath vintage.

What led you to open a vintage store?
Rochelle: After managing many small boutiques including La Rosa Vintage for 8 yrs. I felt I had a specific vision I wanted to share.
Graciela: Growing up in San Francisco in the 70’s and 80’s I found myself greatly admiring the hipsters of the day, such as Cholos, Punk Rockers, Hippies, and musicians who wore vintage. Those early influences led me to study fashion design and merchandising. Eventually bringing me to where I am today here at Mystery Mister.

How do you guys met?
Rochelle: We met when Graciela owned Guys and Dolls in Noe Valley and I managed La Rosa Vintage on Haight St.. Everyone in the vintage industry seems to know one another.
Graciela: It was a Christmas miracle. Rochelle and I traveled in the same circles but always with one degree of separation. Then one Christmas one of my old employees Claire invited me to her Christmas party. To my surprise the cool red hair girl with great vintage style (Rochelle) was Clair’s roommate. After a few eggnog’s and festive spirits Rochelle and I have been friends ever since.

Why Mystery Mister?
Rochelle: As a concept it began when we were both in a shared space in the now closed “Neda’s Flowers”. We liked each others style and shared the same work ethic. Graciela mainly focuses on the clothing in M.M. and I (Rochelle) changed my focus to antiques and objects d’ art. Everything in the shop is hand picked by us. With two buyers you never know what new goodies are coming in. I often find myself buying things that have been brought in on my days off!
Graciela: It would no longer be a mystery if I told you.

What do you love most about your job? What’s not so great?
Rochelle: What I love is working in the shop and getting to know so many people with a shared love of old and well made items. I love knowing that pieces I think are special are going to a home where they will be treasured and continued on with their life.
I don’t really hate it, but I’ve definitely had to alter my lifestyle in order to get up early and go find the goods!
Graciela: I love being a clothing archeologist. There is always something new and sometimes even historical to learn from vintage clothing.
Dislikes – Long hours. Working for yourself, you sometimes forget to flick the “off” switch.

Your day at the …morning…. noon….evening?
-Morning: coffee drinking, exercising, social networking, face-booking, answering emails, placing orders, catching up on blogs.
-Afternoon: Buying appointments. Going to local sources seeing if they have anything new in. I try to go thrifting, mainly for relaxation. I’ve been doing it since the early 80’s.
-Evening: Differs. Dinner with friends, a band, or a avant guard performance. I’d really like to go to more art openings, but it seems I’m so busy I always forget!
Graciela: No two days are ever the same. If I’m not at the shop I’m out making house calls, hunting for merchandise locally or through out the states, but most of my days are spent in my work space restoring merchandise and posting items in our Etsy shop.
No matter what my day is like it always starts with a good cup of coffee and ends with big pile up of snuggles with my husband and kitties at night

The pieces in your store are very good quality. How do you find them?
Rochelle: Speaking for the antique portion. I go to flea markets mainly. I’ve developed relationships with some wonderful sellers who know what I want and will come to the shop when they run across something. We also get invited to special estate sales that aren’t always open to the public. Those for me are the most fun as you get to be a fly on the wall into someone else’s life. Its okay because you’ve been invited!
Graciela: Faded glamour is probably the best way to describe “found” vintage clothing.
More often than not, these pieces of clothing have been sitting for years/decades in a dark attic or damp basement and are begging for some attention. By the time these items hit our store racks they have been through a process of restoration and cleaning. Making everything in the store ready to wear!

Describe the idea of your store? What is so unique about it?
Rochelle: We both wanted the shop to have a bohemian feel to it, as if you stumbled upon a well preserved attic in a old southern plantation. There would be clothing with sequins and feathers, top hats, flapper headbands, antiques that may be a little tarnished and photos of people that your not really sure if your related to or not. Everything has a magic to it and when you put it on you are transformed to that time.
Graciela: I’d like to think everything….but the fact that framed insects and bats are sold alongside vintage clothing is pretty unique. Rochelle and I often joke, ” we are not Anthropolie, we are Entomology”.

Any advice when buying vintage clothes?
Rochelle: I believe that every body type has a era that suits it. People are naturally drawn to what looks good on them. Trust your instinct and always find a good tailor to alter the little things.
Graciela: Don’t stereotype a garment. For example if you are considering an item form the 60’s , don’t think that you have to style it head to toe from that era. Look at a piece for it quality and uniqueness and see how it’s going to incorporate into your lifestyle.

Shop owner’s dream?
Rochelle: To find a estate that has been sealed up since the 1920’s, and I’m the first person to enter. Swoon.
Graciela: To have a gathering of tiny mice and a flock of song birds to do all my sewing and mending for me.

Favorite piece right now?
Rochelle: Clothing: A pair of 1990’s Jean Paul Gaultier silk palazzo pants that G. brought in. So not my style, but so on trend right now. (sold!, since the interview)
Antique piece: A dated, 1917 children’s magic kit, complete with all its contents the graphics are amazing!
Graciela: A Pierre Balmain 1960’s gown. To see the workmanship of french couturiers is always a treat.

Top 3 destinations?
Rochelle: Istanbul for the markets, Argentina for the markets, and France because I’ve never been.
Graciela: Fiji, Torola (a small town in El Salvador), and Elsa Schiapparellis closet.

Addicted to…?
Rochelle: Thrifting.
Graciela: Fashion reality shows and Friday nights at the De Young Museum

Night owl or early bird?
Rochelle: Early Bird. I love being up before the world!
Graciela: Night owl. My husband works night and our cats are nocturnal so our family together time is usually when most people are sleeping.

(As we were shooting, Graciela was on vacation. Lucky her! This is the lovely Rochelle. )

City love and why?
Rochelle: I love The City because after living here for 17yrs. I’m still discovering new things and places.
Graciela: In my 40 + years in the city I have never been bored.
Styles come and go, but I am always influenced by everything around me.

Always in your bag…
Rochelle: M.A.C. lipstick, newest favorite is “Lady Danger”, tape measure, because you never know what you’ll come across (vintage curtains, chair, or fabulous couch) a snack because I’m always on the road and need something to push me through traffic.
Graciela: A picture of my Great Grandmother with a baby burro.

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