Russian Hill Bookstore
2234 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
There's nothing quite like visiting a bookstore that has been on my bucket list for several years. (See previous post.) Likewise, there's nothing quite like discovering a charming bookstore completely new to me. After my tour of San Francisco's City Lights, I still had plenty of sunny afternoon left for exploration and, according to Google, plenty of possibilities. I settled on one that judging by the map looked to be an easy walk, and off I went to Russian Hill Bookstore. I was enjoying a pleasant stroll through a section of Chinatown . . . and then . . . suddenly before me loomed the all-too-obvious inspiration for the name, Russian Hill. To call this a steep slope would be rather like calling War and Peace just a book. San Francisco natives, I'm sure, would chuckle, but bear in mind that I am from Michigan. We have beautiful sand dunes and maybe some ski hills with such a severe pitch, but not sidewalks. With no end in sight!! Nevertheless, I pressed on in the firm belief that the cross street I needed was just a couple of blocks away. Five blocks later, I encountered an even steeper portion of this “hill,” so steep in fact that the sidewalk became a stair case. That's right. A sidewalk of steps! Ready to meet the challenge, I continued on, thinking that this bookstore had better be worth such bodily aggravation.
Fortunately, after a couple blocks of sidewalk steps, the terrain leveled out and the walk was smooth sailing from there. Fortunately also, I am happy to report that Russian Hill Bookstore was indeed worth the walk. A rack of greeting cards on the sidewalk in front of the establishment beckoned me inside with the suggestion that this store would be considerably different from the one I had just left.
Different indeed! Russian Hill boasts new and used books of all types as well as greeting cards, gifts, and a large selection of board games. Then there are the book bags, cool socks, candles, scarves, tea towels, stationery items, and even old sheet music, not to mention the stuffed animals and toys accenting the overflowing children's room. Leaving no bookshelf unadorned, this shop is loaded with fun from floor to ceiling.
|Store owner, Carol Spenser|
Owner and lover of books since childhood, Carol Spencer readily filled me in on the history of this delightful shop. In the bookstore business since 1974, Carol opened this particular store in 1993 in a space that once was a flower shop. A year later the business expanded into a former travel agency next door when Russian Hill's card and gift area was added.
With so many unique and unusual items, I found this store to be a browser's paradise. I unearthed an abundance of gifts for friends and family members, and kept finding more and more things I had to have. I finally had to stop myself when the grim reality of overloading my luggage to get my purchases back home dawned on me.
Russian Hill Bookstore is heralded for its wonderful selection of cards for all occasions, and the timing of my visit could not have been better. A few days later, my husband and I would be celebrating our 28th anniversary, and I found the perfect card to give him (along with two quirky pairs of socks and a unique beer glass). So much fun stuff, so little room in the suitcase.
It would be easy to spend several hours talking to Carol and perusing the books and things in this remarkable store. Easy that is if I hadn't had such an arduous journey getting here in the first place, a journey I peacefully reflected upon while enjoying an Uber ride back to my hotel after a demanding walk, well worth the effort.