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Thursday focus: Shopping life

Thu., Feb. 19, 2009

Counterculture tourists hoping to catch a whiff of Flower Power still make their way to the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets, where the spirits of Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead rock on in stores offering T-shirts, posters and pot-smoking paraphernalia.

While other businesses in the cradle of hippie culture are folding, head shops dealing in roach clips, rolling papers and hand-blown glass water pipes have proliferated on Haight Street – so much so that a San Francisco politician has proposed a law to prevent any more from opening in the neighborhood.

Ross Mirkarimi, a member of the city Board of Supervisors who represents the Haight, has asked his colleagues to adopt a three-year moratorium on new joints that sell smoking equipment.

With at least a dozen such shops already operating in a six-block area, Haight Street has too many places where tourists can go to feed their heads, and too few where locals can buy groceries or rent DVDs, Mirkarimi said.

“The Haight has always been seen as a bit of a mecca. It’s been iconic since the Summer of Love,” he said. “Generationally, each new era discovers the Haight. That’s fine, but we still have to manage it.”

William Birdwood, 59, an artist who was selling copies of a locally produced literary journal on Haight Street one recent morning, said incense, psychedelic art and glass bongs evoke a spirit of protest that should be preserved. Curbing stores that sell them “is un-American, to say the least,” he said.

Everything’s on sale: Circuit City Stores Inc., once the nation’s second-largest electronics retailer, is selling the furniture, fixtures and equipment from its headquarters and distribution and service centers to help pay down its debt.

Circuit City, which received approval last week to auction or break leases for 567 U.S. stores, its headquarters and various distribution centers, announced in January that it would liquidate its stores and cut more than 34,000 jobs after it failed to find a buyer or secure refinancing.

Going-out-of- business sales should last through March, after which the stores will close.

Associated Press


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